Born in 1913 in Wilkes County, Ga., Williams moved to Marietta about 75 years ago, back when the roads were all dirt and the city was segregated.
He and his wife, Harriett Mayes married and raised two children in the city, a daughter, Effie, who died in 2009 and a son, Freddie, who is 77.
Harriett died in 2002, but Williams still lives in his house, visited at least twice a day by family, including his granddaughter, Freida Castleberry, 53, of Marietta. He takes only one pill a day, for his low blood pressure, and is able to cook and clean for himself, family said.
Williams sat in a plush chair in the living room of his home Wednesday as groups of people streamed through the front door to wish him Happy Birthday.
They brought food, presents and memories, and packed the small, three-bedroom house, built in 1949, swapping stories and slices of cake.
Williams has 16 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, 25 great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild who all live in Georgia. Their pictures line the walls in his home, where many have visited him over the years.
Hard worker, surrounded by family
Williams worked for over 60 years at Georgia Power, and retired in the late 1970s. He cultivated a garden in his backyard and raised chickens as well, his son Freddie, said.
On weekends, he would take his grandchildren and nieces to Six Flags and Stone Mountain, and often planned picnics for the family to go on too, said Linda Toines, 63, the oldest granddaughter. He used to send Toines’ family care packages of clothes, food and toys, and would drive to surprise them in Augusta once every few months.
“We used to all come to spend the night, and pile into that back bedroom and Auntie (Harriett) would make the greatest sausages and pancakes,” said Sharie Mayes, a niece who lives in Atlanta.
Williams has been a member of Mount Sinai Baptist Church, on Woods Drive in Marietta, for over 60 years, and still sits on the Board of Deacons for the church.
His son, Freddie, stood by the front door as family posed for pictures with his father, as the steady stream of visitors came in and out of the house.
Freddie doesn’t believe his father has lived so long following a strict diet or excessive exercise regimen, rather it’s because of the hard work his father did for so long. He himself has taken after his father’s work ethic, and at 77, still works as an expeditor at Lockheed Martin.
Williams’ favorite food is fried chicken, and Freddie remembers his mother making it at least once a week for the family. They did not have it at Wednesday’s celebration, Freddie said, because they had plenty of Christmas ham and turkey.
The Williams family lived in Marietta when the city was still segregated. Freddie graduated from Lemon Street High School in 1955, and remembers hauling buckets of hot water to the street to help wash his family’s clothes.
Willie Maelowe, 80, of Marietta, sat on a yellow couch in front of an enormous blue sheet cake that read, “Happy 100th Birthday Cogan.” She has known Williams for many years, as the family attended church at Mount Sinai together. Williams has always been a hard worker and a “Church-going man,” and Maelowe remembers him constantly surrounded by family.
Most of Williams’ extended family meets at the house on Lawrence Street once a month to eat dinner and celebrate the family, and they plan to do so for a long time to come, they said.