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Dear WTU member and friends of the WTU:
It is with the deepest sadness that I inform you of the passing of William "Bill" Simons, the first president of the modern Washington Teachers' Union. A giant of a man in so many ways, Bill dedicated his adult life to educating children and standing up for the rights of teachers and other workers.
Bill served as WTU president for 25 years. He led two teacher strikes--in 1972 and 1979--and was responsible for negotiating numerous contracts that improved the pay and working conditions of DC public school teachers, and set in motion reforms that improved the education of students throughout the District of Columbia.
Bill was a longtime vice president and executive council member of the WTU's national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers. He is also a founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, a national organization dedicated to empowering black workers and strengthening the black community.
I greatly admired Bill. He was a mentor and a friend. Christine Easterling includes this quote from me in her Bill Simons' biography entitled "A Giant for Justice."
"As the first modern president of the Washington Teachers' Union, Bill Simons was the voice of DC labor, an icon in black history and the center of DC politics. His measured voice nevertheless proved that power concedes nothing without a demand. Simons' demand for racial equality, even within his own national union, was a significant part of the civil rights struggle."
Bill was an unselfish human being and forward-thinker who truly cared about building his community and elevating opportunities for the students his members served. One of his major accomplishments was the establishment of the Washington Teachers' Union Scholarship Fund, which annually gives money to graduating DCPS seniors who commit to pursuing a degree in education and returning to the District to teach. The scholarship program will always be a significant part of Bill's legacy.
The work and example of William "Bill" Simons will continue to inspire the WTU, its leaders and its membership as we strive to live up to the high standard he set as an educator, labor leader and community activist.
Bill Simons will be dearly missed. He was 92 years old.
In lieu of flowers, celebrations or tributes, Bill asked that his memory be honored through contributions to any of the following organizations:
The WTU will commemorate the life and service of President Simons with a small balloon release prior to the Representative Assembly meeting on Tuesday, December 13th beginning at 4:30 pm at McKinley Tech High School.
Elizabeth "Liz" Davis