Kay Ruth M. Williamson was born in Hereford, Britain, on 26 January, 1935. She obtained a B.A. and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from St. Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1956 and 1960 respectively. She completed her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the Yale University in 1964. Her area of specialisation was Ijo linguistics.
She started her career as a teacher of linguistics at the Department of English, University College, Ibadan, in 1957. She was appointed Professor of Linguistics with the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Ibadan, in 1972. She moved over to the University of Port Harcourt in 1977, first as Director of Studies (Language), and later as Head of Department of Linguistics and African Languages 1982-84, 1987-89, 1993-1995. Between 1984-85, she served as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. She was appointed Dean, Graduate School, University of Port Harcourt between 1990-91. Her appointment as Dean of Graduate School was interrupted when she was invited as Visiting Scholar at the Wolfson College, Oxford, in 1991.
The Kay Williamson Centre for Language and Communications (KWCLC) was founded in 2013 through a chair endowed by the Bayelsa State Government, Nigeria. KWCLC is specially devoted to research in all aspects of linguistics (both core and secular), applied linguistics, first/second language research, language engineering, lexicography, language revitalisation and documentation, continuing professional development (English and Nigerian languages), professional and public discourse, collaborative translation, promotion of literacy through reading and writing, development of language teaching materials (especially for the most vulnerable languages of Africa).