BURGAW -- He grew up in Burgaw, moved away in the early '60s and then returned to Pender County about ten years ago. During that time away Samm-Art Williams made quite a name for himself in the world of theater and television. He could be living among fellow playwrights and writers in New York or LA but he says the big city is not home. Williams has quite a resume. With a Tony and two Emmy nominations under his belt this small-town boy made it big as a playwright and writer. But like every good story, we must start at the beginning. Williams's begins in Burgaw with his mom. "She always encouraged me to read stuff, which was hard to do for me because I was a terror, I mean, I was a terrible kid." Soon he discovered a pen put to paper could carry him far, both professionally and personally. "The first time I wrote a poem and got a date with a cheerleader as a result I said, hmmm, I think I've found my calling. That's really the kind of way it happened," Williams said. Not long after graduating from college Williams moved to New York to write for theater. His Broadway play "Home" received much praise, including a Tony nomination and several awards, including the NAACP Image Award. But don't expect Williams to brag about it. "I'm grateful that it happened but tomorrow's still another day, you've still got to breathe, you've still got to be human you can't wake up and say, oh, I won that award. Because the bottom line is: when the mortgage is due that award won't pay it. I don't care if you've got 15 awards. You going to say, 'Oh, I'm sorry, Bank of America, would you like to take these awards?' I don't think so." Williams later moved to Los Angeles to write for the small screen. His home is filled with his scripts from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Martin." But the bright lights of Hollywood were nothing like the starry skies of home. Which is why, after making a name for himself he returned to his roots. "When I got back to Burgaw I kissed the ground," Williams said. Even though Williams is far from New York and LA he hasn't left writing behind. He's currently working on two plays, one is about his father, who was a marine and an opera singer. In addition to writing Williams also teaches a theater course at NC Central University four days a week. Despite everything he's accomplished he says teaching youth makes him feel like he's truly making a difference.
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