Albert Simms Williams

"If you can be patient and be kind, even a bull dog will stop barking and listen to you. If you take the time with it, you’ll back it down."

- Albert Simms Williams

Albert Simms Williams

Albert Simms Williams - On his life, family, community, and faith

Albert Simms Williams - On his life, family, community, and faith

Rev. Albert Williams is the minister at Staunton Memorial CME Church in Pittsboro. He is a lifetime resident of the area and was the first African American firefighter in Chapel Hill. This interview was conducted as part of the Jackson Center’s local life history series. Topics include: childhood in Chapel Hill; family history; St. Joseph CME Church; African American community of Chapel Hill/Carrboro; original neighborhood names; Northside Elementary School; changes in community and family life; experience working for lumber-yard; lessons from childhood teachers; call to ministry through near death experience; first sermon at St. Joseph CME; firefighting experience; awards received; time serving in army; affordable housing; promotions and race relations in fire service; sit-ins and integration; struggle and scars of legacy of Civil Rights; importance of education and responsibility; greatest rewards in life.
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Rev. Albert Williams - On teachers at Northside Elementary (clip)

Rev. Albert Williams - On teachers at Northside Elementary (clip)

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Albert Williams - On No Black People in Cary (clip)

Albert Williams - On No Black People in Cary (clip)

Rob Stephens: --people?

Albert Williams: Yeah, we met them.

RS: Is that the family that said they moved out here because there weren't any Black people in Cary?

AW: Yeah.

Eloise Williams: It’s not a family, it’s just a lady.

AW: A lady. She had a grandson, her grandson came down.

EW: He was visiting, I think the lady lived by herself. She was so happy that day, she came over here and said oh my god, some Black people moved in. She sat down and we talked, it was very nice. She was very interesting. She came back, was it last week? Missing a dog, it ran over here.

AW: It ran over here. She was just calling him.

EW: She was like oh, these are the people who know you guys.

AW: The dog ran. Dog’s not hurting nothing. Yes sir.

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Albert Williams – Rebbish Carrboro (clip)

Albert Williams – Rebbish Carrboro (clip)

Albert Williams: Things were segregated. That’s why I’m saying the people in Carrboro don’t know what was going on. When you cross that railroad track at night, that was the white side of town. You didn’t have no business in Carrboro.

Rob Stephens: I’ve heard that.

AW: Unless you lived out there. The police department was like that. Just… rebbish.

RS: What’d you call them, rebbish?

AW: I call them rebbish. That was the word. “Rebbish.”

RS: Rebbish, what does that mean? Rebels?

AW: Rebels, but they used the term “rebbish.” That was back then, you see.

RS: So you would cross into that section of town?

AW: Yeah, we went to Carrboro. Wasn’t no big thing. We shopped along that strip, all along in there. Then you had some Blacks that lived in the Carrboro area. Everybody knew everybody, walking or riding. When it worked… everybody knew everybody, it was kind of a community, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

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Albert Williams – He Could Have Called Angels, But He Didn't (clip)

Albert Williams – He Could Have Called Angels, But He Didn't (clip)

Albert Williams: You know, there's failure in us, but like everybody else, we’ll strive, and even though we should have a higher standard [pause], you know, and really strive to live according to that standard.

Rob Stephens: Yes.

Albert Williams: But many of us fail in so many ways. We are human, just like you. God works through humans to get to humans.

Rob Stephens: That’s right.

Albert Williams: [laughter] He could have called angels, but he didn’t.

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Albert Williams – We Need the Human Touch (clip)

Albert Williams – We Need the Human Touch (clip)

Rob Stephens: What’d you think would be most needed in, for the neighborhood – we talked about this a lot, especially in the sessions with you and Brother Revels and Pastor Harrison – but, for the community around Saint Joseph, to really, you know in the midst of all the changes that are going on, and the development and university interactions and all the student, the growing student community. What would be really, what do you think are the things that are really needed to, kind of continue some of that vibrancy that y’all have been talking about, about the neighborhood from the time that you really lived there.

Albert Williams: I think we need the human touch. We don’t know each other, we don’t talk to each other anymore.

RS: Yep. Mm-hm.

AW: We talk at each other. We don’t feel each other’s care. This is gone. This is, you know, even the children. For instance, it’s sad, I don’t even know some of my nieces and nephews. They go to church right there. That’s how much it has changed, you know. Because it used to, we would get together and you knew your cousins, you knew your brothers’ [and] your sisters’ children. My sister’s got a grandson that works at Mama Dip’s, and this kid was grown before I even knew him. [Ha, ha, ha, ha]. That’s how much it has changed. You know. They don’t seem to care. For instance, I got two girls. Two granddaughters, one finished college. I have more association with her children than I do my own. You know, so I always say – I’m a kind of hard guy I guess – if you can’t get me my flowers now, when I’m dead what’s the use of coming?

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