Man reflects on his time in National Guard during Central High integration

RECTOR, AR (KAIT) - Johnny Williams was on his first Arkansas National Guard assignment when he was only a senior in high school.

Williams, a Rector resident, was assigned to protect the nine students integrating Central High School in Little Rock.

Sixty years later, Williams spent the anniversary reflecting on the day he began his assignment.

"Our first duty at school, I was shaky, I was scared, seeing everything that was going on, the crowds and everything," said Williams.

He was assigned to escort Minnie Jean Brown to school each day.

"We had never experienced anything like that before," he said.  "We didn't know what we were facing, or what they were facing even because they were in danger just showing up at school."

Williams said each day began with angry mobs yelling at the students and those protecting them.

"We were called everything in the world, but a human being," he said.  "There was stuff thrown it was just a horrible experience, you couldn't believe people could treat you that way."

Even though he escorted Minnie Jean Brown to school each day, the two never spoke because the guardsmen could not interact with the students.

Many years later, the two finally got the opportunity to speak for the first time.

"It was a thrilling experience," he said.  "Here was this lady that's well educated now, that opened her arms to me and we got to greet each other just like two natural human beings, there was no difference in us."

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