Naomi Brown-Williams, the retired assistant nursing director of Provident Hospital, died Sunday of pneumonia at Levindale Geriatric Center, where she lived for three years. She was 81 and previously resided in Woodlawn.
For many years she supervised the late-night shift at the Division Street hospital, which later moved to Liberty Heights Avenue. Her nursing colleagues warmly referred to her as "Sergeant Brown," a reference to the orderliness and professionalism they observed.
"She was efficient, an excellent supervisor," said Lauretta Winfrey, a retired Provident Hospital nurse. "Patient care was her primary concern. She was a compassionate person. She had healing hands she used to console the patients."
"She was an authoritative person," said Lorena Branch, a retired nurse who worked with her at Provident. "She took the families of the dying under her wing. They knew that when Sarge was on duty everything was all right.
"She was a firm believer of being on time - and then working hours after the stopping time. In her career she overcame the obstacles that black nurses faced in Baltimore City," Ms. Branch said.
Born Naomi Sprueil in Kenly, N.C., she graduated from schools in Fremont, N.C. She moved to Baltimore in 1940 and received her diploma from Provident Hospital School of Nursing in 1944.
As a registered nurse, she worked first at the Baltimore City Health Department's Druid Health Center. Family members said she was one of the first African-Americans to become a member of the Instructional Visiting Nurses Association, where she was employed for five years.
Because African-Americans at that time were barred from graduate education in Maryland, she continued her education at Columbia University in New York, where she studied two years while working at Bellevue Hospital.
In 1960, she returned to Provident Hospital as a charge nurse as its old Division Street building. Family members said she moved up through its ranks, accepted additional responsibilities and became its assistant director of nursing.
Throughout her life she enjoyed dressing in well-tailored suits. She had milliners create hats to match her ensembles.
In 1950, she married Earl Merece Brown, who died 1981. She wed Willie R. Williams in 1986. He died in 1991.
Services were held Thursday at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Hanlon Park, where she was an active member, taught Sunday school, and served on its trustee and deaconess boards.
She is survived by two daughters, Clarissa B. Evans of Columbia and Constance Gordon of Hampton, Va.; two brothers, John William Sprueil of Greensboro, N.C. and J.T. Spruiel of Summerville, N.C.; a sister, Catherine Bryant of Sarasota, Fla.; and four grandchildren.