October 26, 1923 ~ April 14, 2022

Born in: Cordele, Georgia
Resided in: Atlanta, Georgia

Jean Williams, renowned artist and longtime Atlanta resident died peacefully on April 14, 2022 at the age of 98. Born October 26, 1923 in Cordele, Georgia to Ada Roberts and Bertie Cecil Williams, she was the youngest of five girls. She earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Valdosta State University, and both master’s and education degrees from The University of Georgia. Jean was a John Hay Whitney Fellow at Harvard University and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Rome.

In early years, Jean taught elementary and high school art in Cordele, moved to Fulton County to teach high school art, and later spent 19 years supervising art education students for The University of Georgia. In 1977, the experience of UGA’s summer study program in Cortona, Italy led her to concentrate on – and seriously pursue – sculpture.

She was commissioned to create the special piece used for presentation of the Governor’s Award in the Arts and was herself a recipient of the Georgia Governor’s Award in 1983. Bodies of her work have been featured in juried and solo exhibitions of mandala paintings and bronze sculptures and three were awarded first place at the National Small Religious Sculpture Exhibition in Washington in 1984. Her commissions included an angel sculpture for St Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta and pieces for numerous private collectors in the U.S. and beyond. Her travels in Europe were inspirational and endowed her work with significant religious and spiritual undertones. Her art has been characterized as “simple, clear, and uncluttered spirituality” with noted influence from Italian Renaissance painter Fra Angelico. Upon her retirement in 1988, Jean was designated Professor Emerita at UGA.

Though she suffered from narcolepsy, a lifelong struggle to stay awake, Jean managed to become a motivating and treasured teacher, a prolific painter, sculptor, and voracious reader. She was genuinely loved by all who knew her.

Jean was predeceased by her parents, sisters Cecil Coker, Evelyn Kiker, Ada Barge and Maxwell Miller as well as nieces Frances Betcher, Laura Kiker, nephews John and Tom Barge, and great nephew J. P. Barge III. She is survived by nieces Anne Barge Clegg, Jean Kelly (Mark), John’s widow Susan Barge, great nephew Cameron Kelly (Dawn), great-great niece and nephew Lindsey and Milo Kelly, great niece Marilee Hufnagel, nephew Ed Kiker, step-nephews Wyn Miller (Linda) and Dutton Miller (Donna). The family graciously recognizes caregivers Dolores Powell, Stacey Watson Changey, Debbie Hill, Shavondria Wright, and Berthe Megie.

In accordance with her wishes, Emory University was recipient of an organ donation to further its medical research. A celebration of her life is being planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Emory Brain Health Center: Office of Gift Accounting, Emory University, 1762 Clifton Road NE, Suite 1400, MS: 0970-001-9AA, Atlanta, GA 30322-4001.

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  1. CandleImageJean was my stepfather’s (Gerald E. “Mac” McKinney) cousin from Cordele. He also lived in Atlanta, and Jean and my mother, Martha Ann, became very close friends. They taught ESL at Brookhaven Baptist Church together for a few years, and just loved spending time together. When I would come visit my mom, I always loved getting the chance to see Jean as well. She was such a kind and caring person, and was genuinely interested in me, my family, and my children. She will be missed. Love and prayers to the family at this time.

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