The women’s council was absorbed into the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association with the charismatic 26-year-old King as its leader. The women continued to play a key supporting role by mimeographing thousands of fliers to spread word of the planned boycott triggered by the Parks arrest. Mrs. Glass recruited her students to help pass out the pamphlets.
Initially intended to last a day, the boycott continued for nearly 13 months and roiled the city’s leaders by its display of sustained sacrifice.
Mrs. Glass and her husband, a biology professor at Alabama State, helped to form carpools, which the city tried to ban by saying they were unlicensed taxis. They allowed their own car to be used for public transport, braving Ku Klux Klan attempts to vandalize the vehicle with acid.
“When I looked at that bus as it passed my house and nobody was on it, it was a feeling of joy that will be with me forever,” Mrs. Glass told the Montgomery Advertiser in 2004, reflecting on the first day of the boycott. “I had the idea that maybe we were finally going to be successful in getting everybody to cooperate.”
In June 1956, the federal district court in Montgomery ruled that racially segregated bus seating was unconstitutional. That November, the U.S. Supreme court upheld the lower court opinion in Browder v. Gayle, and the boycott ended the following month.
Thelma Lucile McWilliams was born May 16, 1916, in Mobile, Ala., where her father was a cook. She graduated from Alabama State in 1941 and received a master’s degree in geography from Columbia University in 1947.
She became a geography professor at what became Alabama State University and retired in 1981. Her husband, Arthur O. Glass, whom she married in 1942, died in 1983. They had no children, and Mrs. Glass had no immediate survivors.
She remained active in black fraternal and social organizations and often reflected on her earlier years as an activist.
“Being that kind of teacher in 1950s Montgomery was a dangerous proposition,” she told the university publication ASU Today in 2011. “I didn’t even tell my own mother I was involved in the work of the WPC because I didn’t want her to worry. Once I started challenging the system, I got too busy to think about it, and the fear disappeared.”