Guide to the William J. and Leslie Sands Williams Papers, 1930s-1990s
Dr. William J. Williams and his wife, Irene Leslie Sands Williams, a nurse, were Southern Baptist medical missionaries stationed at Ogbomosho Baptist Hospital, Nigeria from 1944 through 1984. The couple also worked in Gaza and Kurdistan, and were active in several Baptist churches in the United States. This collection contains their diaries, photographs, correspondence, and other items documenting their work and family life as Christians, medical personnel, and educators.
- Collection Number
- William J. and Leslie Sands Williams Papers
- Williams, William Jackson, Dr., 1914-2008
- 10 Linear Feet
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Materials in English
The collection consists of personal diaries, correspondence, and photographs largely dating from the couple's service in Nigeria from the 1940s-1980s.
The Diaries series contains diaries from both Bill and Leslie; each reflects their personal style of journaling. The William J. Williams subseries contains small datebooks, usually featuring regular entries about his and Leslie's daily movements or activities. Leslie Williams' subseries contains diaries that vary in length and size; for a period of time in the 1940s and 1950s, she used her diary as a sort of scrapbook, which meant volumes arrived with all kinds of letters, clippings, and ephemera tucked in the pages. Because these presented preservation challenges to the volume, and likely difficulty for use in the reading room, archivists separately foldered the inlaid items but attempted to record where in the volume they originated. Thus researchers looking to reconstruct Leslie's correspondence should also check the Diaries series, which includes letters along with other items that she saved in her diaries.
The Correspondence series arrangement largely reflects how the materials were transferred to Rubenstein. The bulk of the letters are from Leslie to friends and family, including Jereen Rugis (her college roommate), May Bernhart, and other stateside friends and family. There are also pockets of correspondence from Bill to Leslie, both dating from the 1930s while each was in school, and from 1976, during a furlough. Other correspondence is more formal, including administrative letters from the Foreign Missions Board regarding their appointments and salaries.
The Photographs series contains albums, slides, prints, and negatives, some captioned but largely uncaptioned. Images date from the 1940s through the 1980s. The bulk of the iamges are from Nigeria, including photographs of Bill, Leslie, and their children; medical care for patients in Ogbomosho, Eku, and various villages and leper colonies; education of student nurses and church services in Nigeria; and photographs of plants and other Nigeria street scenes. Other photographs document their travels to Gaza, El Salvador, Honduras, Gaza, and Kurdistan, as well as their visits to the United States (including images in Texas, Oklahoma, and Detroit).
The Medical Missionary series contains assorted items from Bill and Leslie's theological and medical education in the United States, as well as materials from their appointment as missionaries in Nigeria. The series contains assorted newsletters and administrative materials from the Baptist Mission and other churches that supported their work; travel documents such as passports and shipping logs; their personal banking and cash accounts from the operation of the hospital; two Bibles used by Bill and Leslie; and other ephemeral materials from their missionary careers.
This collection is organized into series: Diaries, Photographs, Correspondence and Personal, and Medical Missionary Training and Service.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research; access requires at least 24 hours advance notice.
Use & Permissions
How to Cite
[Identification of item], William J. and Leslie Sands Williams Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Includes family genealogy; notes about departures and arrivals in the U.S.; floorplan of Nigerian house
From studies at University of Alabama
Baylor University programs, certificates; Norwood Hospital School of Nursing newsletters
Collected catalogs, handouts, and a newspaper from Nigerian Independence Day (1976)
Collected pamphlets, programs, newsletters, and meeting minutes from the Williams' work in Eku, Ogbomosho, Benin, and other Nigerian locations
Sermon transcripts, programs, newsletters, and other magazines
Packing lists and cargo inventories for family's travel to and from Nigeria
Reunion class photograph; 1931 commencement program
Largely Bill to Leslie while he was attending medical school at University of Alabama
Form letters and personal letters (largely written to Jereen Rugis) originally saved by Leslie in a binder
Sent to the Williams' from other missionaries or church contacts
Sent to the Williams' following their retirement
Undated photograph album with captions documenting an event at the Nigerian Baptist Mission sending off the Williams', either on sabbatical or for retirement, approximately 1970s or 1980s.
Undated photograph album with assorted prints of the Williams, Nigerian missionary friends and students, other missionaries, and some travel photographs. Captions included, as well as inlaid loose pages at the back of the album, dating from 1970s.
Sleeved by topic or location, as assigned by the family. Includes Nigeria, leper colonies, family photographs, England vacation, and others.
Nigeria, including leper colony; plant life; Eku; Ogbomosho
Includes Nigeria, mission work, Middle East, other travels
Includes Nigeria, medical mission, churches and family life, friends, travels; snapshots and posed portraits
Mounted with caption: "With Remembrance of our Kind-Hearted Mother: the Matron of Ogbomosho Nursing School-Ogbomosho, from Ukueku and Broodrick - Student Nurses"
Irene Leslie Sands Williams (Dec. 12, 1913-Dec. 19, 2004) was born near Shawnee, Oklahoma, attended Shawnee High School, and then graduated from Oklahomoa Baptist University in 1935. William J. Williams (Apr. 24, 1914-Feb. 16, 2008) was born in Columbus, Georgia, and attended high school in Birmingham, Alabama, and then graduated from Howard College (now Samford University). The couple met while studying at Southwestern Baptist University in Ft. Worth, Texas; Leslie earned an MRE and Bill earned a degree in theology. They then went to Waco, Texas to attend Baylor University (he graduated from medical school and she graduated as an RN). Leslie and Bill married on Aug. 13, 1940.
The couple worked at Southern Baptist Hospital (New Orleans) and at Norwood Hospital (Birmingham, AL) before being appointed missionaries by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1944. Although they initially hoped to be placed in China, the ongoing World War II and the urgent need in Nigeria led to them being appointed as medical missionaries to Ogbomosho Baptist Hospital. Leslie led the student nursing program while Bill ran the hospital; both traveled and treated patients throughout Nigeria, including frequent circuits to leper colonies and to villages in the north. Their missionary appointments consisted of three years onsite, followed by one year of furlough; they did this for over 25 years before formal retirement. They also served as medical personnel in Gaza for several months, returned to Nigeria in 1983, and Bill traveled in Kurdistan and Khazakstan as a field doctor in the late 1980s. Eventually the couple returned to Oklahoma.
The couple had two sons, William Carey Williams (called Bill Carey in the papers) and Gary Lynn Williams.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso
- Southern Baptist Convention. Foreign Mission Board
- Williams, Irene Leslie Sands, 1913-2004
- Children of missionaries -- Africa
- Missions -- Nigeria -- History
- Medical care -- Nigeria
- Missionaries -- Correspondence
- Nursing -- Study and teaching -- Nigeria
The William J. and Leslie Sands Williams Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2018.
Processed by Meghan Lyon, Aug. 2018. Accessions described in this collection guide: 2018-0092.