Jessie Mae “Big Mama” Williamson retires after 24 years as crossing guard

February 16, 2022

She’s not big and she’s not their mama, but to many former and current students at Oak Park Elementary, Jessie Mae Williamson will always be known as “Big Mama”.  “I don’t think none of them know my real name,” Williamson said, “I’m just Big Mama.”

Williamson has certainly earned the title. She is the mother of eight children and the grandmother or great-grandmother of over 100 others. In addition to having a big family, she also has a big heart. Williamson started her career as a crossing guard at Oak Park Elementary School in 1998 and noticed that several of the students she worked with needed extra coats, clothing, or school supplies. So, she worked to provide them with the essentials that she could find for them.

“She is a great, lovely mother,” her daughter Brenda Breland said. “And she still cooks everyday for all her kids and grandkids because she knows that somebody’s going to come by and eat!”

Williamson celebrated her 80th birthday on Friday, February 11th and celebrated her retirement on Monday, February 14th—a fitting day considering all of the love that she has shown to the children of Laurel over the years.

She led her last shift as a crossing guard at 3 p.m. on Monday while members of her family, her pastor, Ward 1 Councilman Jason Capers of Christ’s Church, and Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee gathered to show their support and appreciation for her many years of dedicated, loving service.

During a brief ceremony, Mayor Magee presented Williamson with a proclamation declaring the day in her honor. It read, in part, as follows:

WHEREAS, the City of Laurel marks the end of an era today with the retirement of Jessie Mae Williamson, “Big Ma”, as a school crossing guard for the Laurel City schools; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Williamson began her career with the Laurel Police Department as a crossing guard at Oak Park Elementary School in 1998; and

WHEREAS, after 24 years of service, Ms. Williamson has decided to retire at the age of 80 and,

WHEREAS, the lives of the children of the Laurel City Schools have been enriched by exposure to this extraordinary role model, and our entire community is better because of the commitment of Ms. Williamson to the welfare of our young people; and

WHEREAS, it is especially fitting that on Valentine’s Day, a day of expressing love, we honor and show our love and appreciation to Ms. Williamson for the love she has given to our community through her service as a school crossing guard

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Johnny Magee, Mayor of the City of Laurel, Mississippi, do hereby proclaim Monday, February 14th,  2022


in the City of Laurel and do hereby urge our citizens to join me in honoring

“Big Ma” and in expressing admiration and gratitude to her for the tremendous enduring contribution she has made.

“I feel so proud,” Williamson said of the honor.

The City of Laurel, established as a lumber town in 1882, is conveniently situated approximately two hours from larger destination cities such as Jackson, Biloxi, New Orleans, and Mobile. In recent years, the city has become a destination all its own thanks, in part, to its starring role in HGTV’s popular “Hometown” series. As Laurel, and interest in it, continues to grow, we are committed to providing the resources necessary to help all of our residents and businesses reach their full potential.
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