“My father abandoned my mom when, I assume, I used to be 2 or 3 years previous,” he mentioned in an interview in 2006. Walter and his sister, Catherine, have been raised by their mom in a public housing mission in North Philadelphia.
In his youth Mr. Williams was an detached pupil, however he was at all times desirous to earn cash. Amongst different jobs, he picked blueberries, shoveled snow, washed dishes and, at 10, shined sneakers. At 13, he discovered menial work for a ladies’s hat producer. There he taught himself to make use of the electrical stitching machines, solely to be fired when a seamstress complained to the authorities that his employment violated baby labor legal guidelines.
An after-school job at a small brokerage home led him, in his midteens, to purchase just a few shares of Pepsi-Cola inventory, whose value he adopted within the monetary pages of The Philadelphia Bulletin.
After graduating from highschool, Mr. Williams made a short sojourn together with his father to Los Angeles, the place he enrolled in Los Angeles Metropolis Faculty. However after a falling-out together with his father, he moved again to Philadelphia and drove a taxi to pay for evening lessons at Temple College. By way of one other driver, he met his future spouse, Conchetta Taylor, often called Connie.
Mr. Williams was later drafted into the Military. At Fort Stewart in Georgia, he later recalled, he found that President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 government order banning discrimination within the armed forces had carried out nothing to stop Black troopers from being assigned essentially the most menial jobs.
Mr. Williams proved a rebellious soldier. As soon as, when ordered to color a truck, he painted all of it, together with mirrors and tires, after which defined his motion to his superior officers in a mock-obseqious method, utilizing what he referred to as “my finest Stepin Fetchit routine.”
Mr. Williams was ultimately ordered to Korea, however earlier than he shipped out, he and Ms. Taylor married.
His spouse died in 2007. Along with their daughter, Mr. Williams is survived by a grandson.