“I told her, ‘Honey, don’t bring me no shirts. I got a stack of shirts,’” Williams said, speaking of his granddaughter.
“I told her, ‘Don’t bring nothing but the good food. I don’t need nothing. I’ve got everything that I need.’”
Williams, who lives across the street from the Lawrence Street Recreation Center near City Hall, was born Dec. 25, 1913, in Wilkes County near Augusta. His father rented a cotton farm.
“If he made five bales, he had to give one for rent. A bale of cotton for rent,” Williams said. “We raised turnips, collards, cabbage. My daddy raised hogs. We had our own stuff … didn’t have to go to market or nothing.”
His childhood home was lit with lanterns and lamps while food was cooled in an ice box.
“The ice man would come around and put the ice in the ice box and stuff didn’t spoil,” he said. “I call them old days, the good old days. Everybody was together, mostly loved one another. At Christmas time we would go around house to house and they would cook the big dinner, have all them cakes, custards, hams — ain’t like the hams now — the people done raised their own hogs, your own food. It wasn’t like this stuff you get out the market. They’d have all that on the table, and then we’d march around to the next house, and they would have good food and have a blessed day. They would have beer, I didn’t see much whiskey then, but they had that beer, and they would make the wine out of the cherries, and then they’d go around and sing songs.”
Of course, life wasn’t perfect. Williams recalled having to tip his hat and call a white man ‘mister,’ even if that man was just a boy.
“That’s just the way it was back then,” he said.
Williams said he worked in The Civilian Conservation Corps, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, before going to work grading lumber at the WP Stevens Lumber Company in Marietta, while his wife, Odene Williams, worked at the Bell Bomber Plant.
He’s lived long enough to see the Chattahoochee River dry up twice, he said. By that time, Williams was working in a machine shop for Georgia Power.
“The river went down low and we couldn’t hardly get enough water to keep the plant going,” Williams said. “That’s the plant that furnished all the lights. That river went so low we had to get sandbags to back up the river to get enough water to run the plant. So we put them sandbags across that river to hold enough water to keep the plant going.”
His granddaughter, Lisa Castleberry of Smyrna, had to write down the number of grandchildren Williams has. Castleberry said Williams had two children, 16 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren, 21 great-great grandchildren and 1 great-great-great grandchild.
A deacon at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Marietta, Williams said the secret to long life is God.
“I just give God the praise,” he said. “He seen something in me was good and lengthened out my days and kept me moving on.”
Williams said he knew he would live long enough to see a black man become president.
“By the Scripture, I believed that there was going to be a turnaround, going to be a change,” Williams said. “We wasn’t going to stay down always. I think that’s one of God’s plan. (Barack Obama) never would have made it, never could have made it, whatever folks said or what they done, but God, he know what to do, when to do, he placed him in there. So I hope you all believe in God and trust God. You’ll live longer. The Lord, he’ll lengthen out your days. He lengthened out my days from a little boy up to this present moment.”