Family works to honor father's legacy - Williams Family believes people should remember the local heroes as well as those nationally recognized
Carey Williams, Equal Employment Opportunity specialist, examines a 1980 edition of the Southern Light Newspaper. The publication was created by his father Rev. James Earl Williams Sr., who used the paper as a conduit for improving the relationship between African Americans and Caucasians in Stuckey, S.C.

It's tempting to solely recognize and honor national figures during the installation's celebration of Black History Month. People such as Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks and George Washington Carver, who all help revolutionized society by their thoughts and actions. Their work is well documented and respected.

But 47-year-old Carey Williams, Equal Employment Opportunity specialist, encourages people to also honor the millions of African Americans who fostered change and help make society better at the state, local and personal levels.

People like his father, 86-year-old Rev. James Earl Williams Sr., whose main tools for fostering change were a pen, a Bible, and a reporter's notepad.

"I can't let his impact slip by in our generation while he's still alive," Carey said.

Carey and his 12 siblings were raised by James and Daisy Williams, deceased, in Stuckey, S.C.

The Family lived on a farm and spent their days raising corn, okra, tomatoes, livestock.

Food was rationed and living space was tight but Carey said the Family always found a way to enjoy life whether it was shooting marbles, jump roping or attending African Methodist Episcopal Churches.

Carey grew up in the post civil rights era but he still experienced racial division as a youth. His community was filled dominantly by African Americans and Caucasians.

Carey said there wasn't a high degree of tension but people typically socialized within their own race and attended different schools.

Carey graduated from a segregated high school in 1982.

"I missed out on what the white, Hispanic, and Asian cultures bring to the table and all these different ethnicities … their knowledge and their skills," said Carey reflecting on his childhood days.

"But if you were born in the segregated world, in a segregated community, in segregated schools and you were pretty much surrounded by people who look like you all the time then it becomes normal to you."

If the people of Stuckey had one common interest it was the local newspaper, the Southern Light, an eight page monthly publication featuring articles about church events, politics and entertainment.

James was the editor, who created the paper in 1962, and published it, in large part, by himself.

"We didn't have a black perspective at that date," said James who explained the paper's main audience was African Americans.

But he also placed ads for local white politicians and white owned businesses, which Carey said gave both races incentive to stay abreast to each other's needs and interest.

"They were able to work united even though there was a separation of class and of people," Carey said.

James, who also served as a pastor of several local churches, used sermons to keep African Americans abreast of the civil rights movement by publishing stories of marches and protest.

Carey said the sermons inspired blacks to stay positive even when the economic situation within the community was largely in favor of Caucasians.

"The way he looked at it is, 'If you want to have what the whites have then you have to work hard and you have to persevere,'" Carey said. "You're talking about a man who was a religious and a gospel figure in a community. You would not expect anything less. No, he's not Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but he carried on the same messages and so did the other African American ministers in all the communities."

Carey, like his sibilings, was heavily influenced by his father's work ethic and commitment to helping others.

Carey, a doctoral candidate in organizational leadership studies, applies the same lessons his father taught him to his Family and he also serves as a mentor for troubled youth.

The Williams' are extremely proud and thankful for their father and they have one goal to achieve before James passes away.

The Southern Light Newspaper was recognized for its service to the community by the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1980 but the Family however would love to see the Light and their father appreciated by a grander audience. Carey, who has written a letter to civil rights leader Jesses Jackson, is reaching out to make people aware of his father. He would love to see a political figure or celebrity acknowledge his significance to race relations in South Carolina.

It's people like James Williams Senior who Carey believes the installation would be wise to honor during Black History Month -- the people who aren't nationally applauded for their accolades whether they're a pastor, a writer, a counselor or a friend.

Their impact is just as important, according to Carey.

The garrison's observance of Black History Month is Tuesday. Call (703) 805-2288 for more information.

Page last updated Thu February 9th, 2012 at 00:00