Transcript of the Homegoing Celebration
Robert Franklin Williams
Reading of the Obituary, Poem and Correspondences by Patricia Coffey
Song of the Exile: Poem by Robert F. Williams
Testimonies and Remarks
Robert was born to Emma (Carter) Williams and John L. Williams of Monroe, NC., on February 26, 1925.
At an early age, Robert affiliated with his family church, Elizabeth Baptist Church of Monroe. In later years, Robert fellowshipped with the Unitarians of Monroe, NC and Big Rapids, MI.
As a youth, Robert began his life long fight for civil and human rights. His quest for justice began in Monroe, NC.
His passion for justice and work as a community leader, during the 1950s and 1960s, led him and his young family into exile in Cuba and the Peoples Republic in China. As an international traveler, during his years in exile, Robert continued to advocate and speak on behalf of the African-American struggle.
After his return home to the United States, Robert continued his work in many worthy causes. He served on several boards of directors, including the peoples Association for Human Rights and FiveCAP, Inc.., a human services agency in lake County, MI.
Robert made lasting and loyal friends around the world. He died of Hodgkin's Disease, after several years of physical challenges.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert & Emma; son, Robert F. Williams, Jr.; sisters, Lorraine Garlington and Jessie Link.
Surviving are his wife, Mabel R. (Robinson) Williams of Baldwin, MI; sons, John C. and Franklin H. of Detroit, MI; brothers, John H. and Edward S. of Detroit, MI; grandsons Robert F. III, Benjamin P. and daughter-in-law, Melaine Williams of Lansing, MI.
A host of nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives and friends will miss Robert's love and wisdom and continue to carry on this work.
Song of the Exile
Sad is the distant voice calling
From my native land where Autumn are falling
My heart has a ceaseless yearning
For fellowship where kinsmen sit with home fires burning.
Oh how I wish I were again a child
That I might hear my mother sing and see here blithely smile
Oh how I long to see the old home place
More beautiful now with a touch of Autumn in her face.
Oh to hear the hills and valleys serenaded by the wind
Would be bit like heaven, if I were home again.
To hear the call of the wild geese winging overhead
A melancholy farewell to the little boy in bed.
Each night in dreams I stand at father's door
A prodigal son who is home once more
Each breath is a year, a heartbeat a mile
To the soul that sings of exile.
by Robert F. Williams October 11, 1996, Beijing
The John Brown Society of New York City
Robert F. Williams was the first recipient of the Gold Medal of the John Brown Society. He saw this award not just as a tribute to himself, but as a tribute to the brave people of Monroe, NC as well. His courage and sacrifices helped inspire the student radicals and civil rights workers of the 1960s. He stood beside the poor people of Cuba and Vietnam when they were directly under the guns of U.S. imperialism. He was an internationalist to the core of his being. We of the John Brown Society salute his memory and mourn his passing. As it was once said of Zola (French novelist), nearly a century ago, so it can be said of Robert F. Williams, "he was a moment in the conscience of man and solidarity." Larry Lawrence, Chairman. The John Brown Society
Yuriko Nakishima, Japan
Dear Mabel and John Williams and the bereaved, we, representing more than 13,000 Japanese people, who sent their signatures for the sake of Robert F. Williams for his fair trial in 1970 and '72, express our deepest condolescences and sorrow on his death. It's in our vivid memories, that he proposed that we join in solidarity to fight for world peace in 1977, when he and Mabel visited Japan. He was a man of intelligence and powerful action, with which he protected the life and civil rights of local blacks. We believe that his contribution towards social justice and racial equality will be recorded in human history and his great love for the discriminated against people will live on in the hearts of those people forever. With our warmest encouragement and love to the bereaved family, from Yuriko Nakishima, Shashima Nakioshi, June Ekwa, Kinriko Shibon, and Ekal Yakachima. P.S. Three large newspapers in Japan reported his death. Yuriko Nakishima, who sent this correspondence, was a Japanese student that was here during the 60s and rendered her assistance in the integration of the swimming pool here in Monroe.
The Winchester Alumni Association in Monroe, NC
To the family, please accept our heart felt sympathy in your time of sorrow. Rob was friend to all of us, but that was only part of his personality. We will remember him for his generosity, the giving of himself. He was a pioneer in many worth while causes, at the risk of the lives of he and his family. Monroe, this country, and many other places in the world, is richer for his having lived. The history and legacy of Robert Williams shall be passed on to the generations of people to come, that they may be prepared and encouraged to speak out against the injustices of their time and take action.
Minister Louis Farrakan, National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammed is his messenger. As Salaam Alekum, (peace be unto you). To the family of brother Robert Williams, words are inadequate to express my shock and pain at hearing of the loss of your father and our brother, Robert Williams. It is written in our Koran, "No soul dies, but by the permission of Allah, God. The term is fixed." In the Bible it written, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." In the long association and deep respect shared by brother Robert Williams, the Nation of Islam, and the Honorable Elijah Muhammed, is a matter of record. History will record the courage, commitment, devotion, sincerity, and love of Robert Williams for his people. His struggles and sufferings has contributed to much to our growth as a people, in particularly to the growth of his family. May Allah, God, comfort you and us in the loss of such as great soul, and may you, his son, dedicate your life to the cause of the upliftment of our people as did your father. I am sorry that I cannot be there in person, just to be a witness or to be a pall bearer, for it would be an honor of great magnitude just to carry his casket to its final resting place. May Allah, God, grant all who loved him, who have been touched by him, with divine peace and comfort in this hour of our bereavement. A Salaam Alekum. I am your brother and servant. Signed, Louis Farrakan, Server to the Lost and Found, Nation of Islam in the West.
Patricia Coffey concludes the reading of correspondences--
"I needed the quiet, no prison my bed, but a beautiful valley of blessings instead. A place to grow richer in Jesus, to hide. I needed the quiet, so he drew me aside."
Testimonies and Remarks
Mrs. Rosa Parks Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute of Self-Development Detroit, MI
To the bereaved family, you have my love and my sympathy. And I can remember back in the times when Robert Williams was having his struggle and problems in Monroe, NC, we were in a struggle in Alabama, trying to do away with legalizing forced racial segregation. And I admired him so very much for his courage and for his commitment to freedom. And I also, in later years, when I met him in person, him and his family, Mabel and the sons and the other members of the family, my admiration grew as we visited each other and as we worked together, and I was very, very glad that the time came when I could meet him and his family in person. So as I want to say to all of us here, that we have lost a great man, a wonderful leader, and a dedicated person. And as we continue to think in terms of the sacrifices he made, and what he did, should go down in history and never be forgotten.
Elanie Steele Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute of Self-Development Detroit, MI
Mabel, John, you have our sympathy. And it has been so wonderful, and we feel blessed that we have been allowed to see one of our leaders, one of our great leaders, have a natural homegoing. So many of our leaders that preceded him, that were taken in violence, although their life was peace. But He allowed us to have one of the great ones that had a natural homegoing, that helped prepare us for this... and to leave the great legacy that we have, and the friends and family. He's there now with Medgar, and Martin, he's there with Malcolm, you know, so many others that were taken in violence. But we have had this great time, and I can't help but know that he's smiling, you know, saying, "Who's that you all talking about? Lordy Lord." I know he is saying that. So we have had some great times in Idlewild. We even had an opportunity to come down and share here in Monroe with the family, and a great family reunion, and we appreciate all of those wonderful memories. And I had the pleasure to talk to him just a few weeks ago, and he was still concerned about his country. We talked about the election , the upcoming presidential election, and we were also talking about the tribute that will still be held for him on November 1st in Detroit, MI, and we'll be there. But, we had such a wonderful life, but as I used to tell him all the time and now I'll say again, the best thing he did was to marry Mabel Robinson.
Mr. W. Pete Cunningham North Carolina House Representative, District 59 Monroe, NC
Good afternoon. To the clergy, to Mabel and John, and other members of the Williams family, I feel very honored to stand here before you today to make some remarks concerning my friend, Robert Williams. I'm especially honored to see Mrs. Parks. It's been awhile and it's always nice seeing you and you looking great. And I appreciated your remark Ms. Steele. I had mixed feelings about what I wanted to say, and all, but, this past Sunday, I rode down here. The program says I'm from Monroe. I live in Charlotte, as most of you know and I represent District 59, which is in Charlotte. But I sometimes ride down to Monroe, and most of you all from Union County know Red Spring Camp Meeting and all that. And I do that mainly to remember growing up in Monroe back in the 40s. And I like to stay in touch with the past only to try to help shape the future. And I mention this past Sunday because I was very elated. There was a elderly white lady I met at the restaurant here on Highway 74, and two or three other ladies were sitting there and this, I guess early 30s black female. And I'm sitting there, and she just ran right past me, and saw this elderly lady and just embraced her, hugged her, so gracefully, and said, "You have been on my mind. I've been worrying about you. How have you been?" And she kinda caught the lady by surprise I think, because she was elderly and maybe didn't catch her face initially. But it finally clicked with both of them and that embrace was ,"Oh, I'm doing fine. How are you? How are your children?" The pleasant exchange that took place in Monroe in 1996. What that says to me is that we are growing... we have not arrived. I'm not saying that and I think that anybody who knows me knows I got enough sense to know that. We still got people we have to deal with and some problems we have to deal with. I'm aware of that but, in 1946 that could not have happened in Monroe. That was Rob's era and my era. And Rob understood the system, and he was accused of being a rebel riser because he wanted the same thing for himself and his children and my friends, and all that are Black, that the White folk wanted. That was the problem. The system. He understood the incident about the swimming pool. You all from Monroe know about that if you're old enough. What basically (and quickly), what happened Rob felt, along with many of us, that it was not only immoral, it should have been illegal. But it was legal that we had to deal with. It was legal to have a swimming pool down in Union county where we used to caddie, a lot of us, but it was for Whites only. But it was built with tax payers money. Everybody paid for the swimming pool, but only the chosen few could use it. That was legally right, but morally wrong, and Rob understood that. It was legally right for the Ku Klux Klan that march... where all this kidnapping stuff was blown out of proportion. In my journey, it was legally right, and still can, that the Ku Klux Klan could ride through the black community, but it was morally wrong to do that; scaring women and children and other folk. It's the system. The system works to protect a certain group, but it alienated everyone else. That's what Rob understood. That' s what many of us understood, and that caused a lot of friction. What caused me to think on that (and I'll be very brief), in Wednesday, October 16, 1996 paper, there's an article some of you may have seen in the Charlotte Observer. And I'll just quote a small except from it: "Many credit Williams with helping to topple institutionalized racism. Others say, though, he was a coward." What is a coward? I looked it up because I thought I knew what a coward was, but it explained a couple of things that I wasn't aware of. It says, "coward- one who lacks courage," okay I understand that. "One who is unable to control fears and shrink from fear or danger." That's not the Robert Williams I know. I'm going to stop there but I just want to say, we had, we had two famous people from Monroe. One lays here with us today, the person who we honor. Who fought, gave his life for desegregation, and I' m not talking about integration so much. I have a little problem with that word sometimes. But desegregation, and the other is our former police chief who... Ms. Parks, let me just say this. You thought Bull Connor was bad in Alabama, Jesse Helms Sr. was worst in Monroe, NC in my opinion. He had no respect for any Black person I've seen, and he showed it. And I think quite honestly and truthfully, if Rob and Mabel, if you all had not left in the middle of night, you would have been killed. And nobody would gain. Monroe has grown, Union County has grown, the South has grown, but we still have work to do. God bless you. Thank you.
Father Joseph Fix St. Ann's Catholic Church Baldwin, MI
I first met Robert almost nine years ago. I was invited to a party for the priest who had preceded me at St. Ann's. Father Ray was saying good-bye to his people. I'll never forget he singled out Robert and he looked at Robert and he said, "Robert, thank you for being the conscience of Lake County." I never forgot that. It was only last week that Father Ray came by, and he was going to help a celebration and he said, "Robert is the first prophet that I have ever met." The first prophet. I wanted to add, in my book, he was the first martyr that I ever met, because Robert had a sinceretable appetite for news and he would watch all of Rush Limbaugh. Anybody who listens more than two seconds to Rush is definitely a martyr. I remember walking Downtown Baldwin. It's not very big, and I seen this character on the main street. And he had this funny helmet on, with this red light bulb on top. It was flashing, and he had four-sided sandwich board, not two sided. And I walked up and it was Robert. He was protesting the local rag because it refused to print his letter to the editor. Guess what? The letter was printed the next week. I remember going to one of my first meetings involved with a new superintendent, and Robert was there, voicing his displeasure with the counselors of the high school because they were not reaching the needs of our youth in that county. I remember going to courthouse and sometimes supporting people I knew that were on trial, and Robert was there. He was there much more often than I was, and much more vocal... standing up for victims of an unjust system To me, Robert truly was Prophet. When I was a child, I always thought of Prophet as someone who foretold the future. Robert did that. But the main job of a prophet, as I'm growing up, is to speak out against injustice; whether it was Isiah or Jeremiah called by God to speak to the Jewish people. And he mentioned they were killed, but that was their job. Whether it was Ghandi who answered the call in India, or Nelson Mandela in South Africa. But it was Robert Williams who answered the call in Monroe, NC. He answered the call to speak out against the unjust system and people that would not let children swim in a pool because they happened to be a different color. He spoke out against the injustice that would allow a man to protect his wife, his children, his property. And even though he was exiled, he spoke, from Cuba, and as far away as China, against the injustice of the system that would not allow someone to be free. I believe that God gave us the gift of Robert Williams to challenge us to be Prophet, and if not to be Prophet, to support prophets. I really believe that. I believe that we need to answer the call to continue to speak out against racism and sexism... and maybe when we do, people of different cultures and races can get together and share food and laugh together, cry together, but especially learn to dream together. We need to speak out against the injustice of violence and war. An exorbitant amount of our tax money is spent to create the largest military operation in the whole world. And maybe when we speak out against the injustice, there will be money to teach our children to take care of our elderly and to protect our land. We need to speak out against the injustice of greed. There's a greater cosm now between the rich and the poor.. we're losing our middle class. And maybe when we continue to reach out and speak against the injustice, all of God's children will be able to enjoy the gifts from God. We come here today to say thank you for the gift of Robert who answered the call to be Prophet. I will never forget (and I really believe that Mabel is Prophetess, right along with Robert), I will never forget on the day that Robert died. Mabel and I were praying over him, and afterwards, she said these marvelous words, "He really did make a difference."
Attorney Melissa Zakiya El Detroit, MI
Good afternoon. To the Williams and the Robinson family, it is with great joy that I stand before you, asking God to give me the strength to say a few words for my gratitude for having met Robert and Mabel Williams about 10 years ago. At that time in my life I was a young girl, struggling to be an aspiring attorney in Detroit, and Robert called me at my office one day and asked if I would come to Baldwin and assist him in trying to get justice for the community. I did not know of Robert, although I thought I was pretty well read in our history. He did not puff himself up with his own conceit on the phone and give me a litany of his accomplishments to tell me who he was. He merely asked that I come and help. And I thank God that I had the presence of mind to answer his request. That began a very glorious journey to assist the Williams in Baldwin. To not only stand up to the injustices of that small community, but to give our people hope. When we would work on cases and build our strategy and find ourselves before the bar, and I say "we" because it was certainly a joint effort, the people of Idlewild and Baldwin would come out in droves because they had hope by seeing a young attorney from Detroit stand up to the powers in that community. It gave them a reason to say, "Yes, things will be different, things will change." And I am so very glad that I had that chance. And as I think about the impact that this man had on my life as a woman, I must tell you that it was far more than just an activist influencing a young person because as an African-American female who grew up without a father, he was indeed a father friend to me. He let me know that it was important to stand up and tell the truth, whether you find yourselves at the legislature, whether you find yourselves in court, whether you find yourselves in a hospital, at your jobs, in your homes, to stand up and tell the truth. And if you believe in something, Robert would say, have the guts to stand in a man's face, a woman's face and tell them you believe it. But most importantly, he wants us all to always find a place in our lives to help somebody else. Mr. Williams could have been a rich man, had he chose to. He could have exploited his notoriety as so many people have done, as so many people demonstrate today in life. But he chose relative obscurity in contrast, because it was more important to give himself to his people... and that is the message I will always carry in my life. I will always know that this man who was at once a warrior, and a man of letters, a man of great humanity, a man who could turn a phrase with a poem, and speak to you from his heart in a way that a protest never could. We are truly blessed to have been able to receive and experience one of God's true human beings, because in that combination of humanity and artistic ability, we have seen the true human potential. And when we are grieved at his lost, we must always remember that he would want us to lose ourselves in the service to others.
Timothy Tyson, Historian University of Wisconsin
I'm very pleased to be here... Mabel and John and the Williams family and all of you. My family and I visited Robert and his family recently over Labor Day weekend, and we had a lovely time. It was one of those golden days of early autumn and we had shrimp and crab cakes and collard greens and chicken and dumplings and cornbread. You'd have never known we were a thousand miles north of here judging by the menu or the weather. And we laughed, and laughed, and laughed. And one of the things we laughed about the hardest was the recent, was a book that I took up to Robert and Mabel. A history of Union County, a history of Monroe and Union County, which is published by the head of a local historical society. The author is a woman who once said of Robert, "had he never been here, I don't think it would have mattered." And in her book , she reveals the astonishing secret that, "the good white folks of Monroe were just getting ready to take down all those "White's Only" signs just any minute," right there in the late 1950s... all by themselves. And that, "the real racial problem here in Union county during the Civil Rights Era was not segregation, or Ku Klux Klan violence, or the bitter legacy of slavery, but all those pointless and fruitless, and unnecessary Civil Rights protests. In fact, the whole African-American freedom struggle," she indicates, "was just a needless misunderstanding." Like I said, we just laughed and laughed. I told Robert, I said, "You need to worry about her because pretty soon, the city of Monroe is going to build the Robert Williams Monument and she's the head of the historical society." And I said, "she's going to be right there in front elbowing up to cut the ribbon." But Robert didn't think there was likely to be a monument. He explained how monuments work this way. He said a woman is driving her little boy around town and they go past the Medgar Evars Junior High School, and he says, "mama, who's Medgar Evars?" and she says, "well son, he's a black man that stood up for justice. Then they killed him." So they go a little further down the road and they take a left on Martin Luther King Dr. and he says, "mama, who's Martin Luther King?" And she says, "Well son, he's a black man who stood up for justice and they killed him." And Robert says, "you know pretty soon he starts to get the idea..." And Robert says, "that's why there's not going to be any Robert Williams monument," he said, "cause I plan on going in a lovely cottage in the countryside surrounded by my family. You build a monument to me, see, that little boy's going to get the wrong idea." There's already a Robert Williams monument in Union County, and in fact, I'm going to ride out there this afternoon. And I'm going to sit down and smoke a cigar. And I'm going to think about Robert and see if I can't get the wrong idea. You may have not seen the monument. It's out there on 601 South. It's an abandoned swimming pool. It's got a rusty fence around it, some sort of weeds growing up, and not so long ago, the white children of Monroe enjoyed tax supported swimming lessons in that pool and the children of the black tax payers of Monroe drowned at times, in isolated farm ponds, in Richtown's Creek and other places. And the white political leaders of Monroe poured that pool full of cement rather than let all of God's children swim in it. So it's a big hunk of concrete. And you may think of it as a monument to meanness, and it is. And you may think of it as a monument of stupidity, and it is. But it is also a monument to the rock solid courage of Robert F. Williams. Of course Robert built far more important monuments for us than we can build for him. His whole life stands as a towering monument of courage, and of freedom, and to African-American achievement, and to family love. Let us never forget in these days of the 50% divorce rate, that Robert and Mabel lived and loved in a partnership that weathered storms that might easily have broken the strongest marriage. And for half a century, they never gave up on each other, and they never gave up on the fight for freedom. When I remember Robert I will always think of Edwin Marken's lines about Abraham Lincoln, "he held his place, he held his purpose like a growing tree. He held on through blame, and faltered not in praise, and when he fell in a whirlwind, he went down as when a Lordly cedar goes down with a shout against the hills and leaves a lonely place against the sky." And we are here together because there's a lonely place in the sky of our lives, but Robert is not in a lonely place. Robert is home. He's a son of this soil and we're proud to receive him home. God bless you Robert.
Jonathan Blount, Relative & Friend Orlando, Florida
May God give me the wisdom to speak His thought. I know there are many of you out here today wondering, who is this Jonathan Blount. Because before I became Jonathan Sebastian Blount, I was taking blunt. And, to only a very special few of you, I'm also "Johnny Boy". And of all the names that I've ever been called, Johnny Boy is the most special to me, personally. And the reason for that is, is because Johnny Boy is named after the father of Robert Williams. And many of you know that I was adopted at birth, and the first most formative years of my life were spent in the arms and in the cradle of Robert's mother and his sisters and his family. My first two or three years of my life, they were my family. And there came a point when my adopted mother, Mama Carrie, came to pick me up one day, and I wouldn't go to her. I didn't know who she was. And she took me away that day. And as the story goes, Robert's mother and I both cried and grieved so much that shortly after that, she died of a broken heart. Throughout my travels in the world as Jonathan, I became known somewhat... have met and dined with presidents and kings and people of great power as a co-founder and owner of "Essence." And I'll tell people that would ask me where I was from, I'd say "Monroe... Monroe, NC. Population 10, 000, including livestock." And they'd say, "where's that?" And I'd say, "Monroe. That's the home of Robert Williams." And for those of my generation and the generations behind us, they knew who Robert Williams was. For those who did not know, let me tell you, I gleefully and gladly told them. And I'm still telling them. Because Robert Williams is the only person from Monroe, NC that has ever given it any prominence in the world. Robert Williams had an international perspective. Robert Williams had an international convention. Robert Williams had a commitment and a courage that no one from this place has had before or since. I just want to tell you a minute, what the crucible of development with Robert Williams meant to me personally. There's an African proverb that says, "Men live. Men die. The land increases." Which means that basically no matter what you do in this life, it all turns to dust. So what do you really give in this life and what do you really do in this life that really matters? What you do in this life and what you give in this life is what you do and give to others. And Robert gave us something critically important, he gave us a legacy. There are words that come to mind when I think about that legacy, the first is "courage". As a child, the first image of an African-American man standing up and being strong, was Robert Williams. Some of you hear these references to the swimming pool, but the swimming pool was only part of the story. The whole story was that we marched around the courthouse down there for weeks on end. The whole story is that we marched in front of the 5 and 10 cents store down there for weeks on end, where we couldn't sit down and have a cup of coffee or go into the movie theater. That's the real story. And it came a point when we said, "well wait a minute, we also can't swim in the swimming pool." And then one faithful day as we were marching around that swimming pool, many, many days... (and we had become a spectacle, we had become the show... it was like the circus coming to town. All the white folks were coming to watch us march), and we said, "well, this isn't getting us anywhere." And Robert said, "okay, they having sit-ins, we're gonna have a wade-in. Today, white folks, we coming in." Well, in his book, and there's a book that covers the biography of my life, "Horatio Alger Alive and Well and Living in America." And that talks basically about millionaires under 30 and the things that I did, but what it tells more importantly, is the story of Robert Williams. How Robert Williams, on that faithful Sunday where we went a motorcade of, oh it must have been thirty or forty cars, and the police were protecting us, we hit hill top up here and all of the sudden all the police disappeared. And the next thing we know we come up on the top of the hill and there were 3,000 white people surrounding us, and you know some of the epithets that they were yelling at us. They had ropes in their hands, and they threw a boa constrictor on the car, and they rammed the car, and we were going to die that day. But what they didn't know, is that Robert had a commitment to life, and to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness, and most importantly to self-defense. Robert said, "Johnny Boy, hand me that (carbeen out back and under that seat.) Soon as he said that, I reached out and grabbed it and he didn't know I threw one in the chamber. And I handed him the... this man jumped out of the car, three thousand people of mob surrounding us, and this man stood up with that carbeen in his hand and he shut that chamber, boy, and this bullet jumped up in the air! And all of sudden, they yelled and screamed like stuck pigs, "Oh my God, the niggers' got guns!" So needless to say, after about 10 minutes of a stand off, the police suddenly reappeared and guided us to safety. And we are alive today because of that courage. Well, there's another thought that comes to mind and it's called sacrifice. And Robert sacrificed in his life. Robert was a brilliant man. Robert could've done anything, been any thing, had anything he wanted in this world, but Robert had a passion for justice. He had a commitment to service above self. He could not stand and sit and see evil injustice pervade without trying to do something about it. So instead of becoming rich, and enriching himself personally, he gave to us the most important thing that he could ever have given us. Another word that comes to mind is called brotherhood, cause many of you know that when Robert and Mabel left in the middle of the night, under the threat of a call that came from the sheriff... "you'll be hanging in this courthouse square in a half an hour"... they left here with nothing. They left here without knowing where to go, where to turn, what to do. If you think it was all black people that helped them, think again. Let me tell you something, Robert stood for humanity. He stood for freedom and justice for all. And let me tell you, there were many white brothers and sisters that are responsible for saving their lives, and sustaining them. There's one other word that comes to mind that's very prominent, and that's family. Let me tell you something, Robert and Mabel did not wage that struggle alone. There are brothers sitting in this audience, and sisters who've gone for them, and many family members that struggled right along with them... whose lives were threatened, who were intimidated, whose whole lives were turned upside down, who were outcast and ostracized. And what did they do? They stood tall and they stood strong and they came to the aid of their brother and their family and their friends. In the face of it all. But then finally, the most important word that comes to mind when I think of Robert, is the word love. Let me tell you something, in all my lifetime, and I've watched this from the very beginning, I have never in my life seen any love story, read any book about one, that eclipses the love story of Robert and Mabel. Nowhere close! Nowhere close! There was a love story, that was a true bond... wherever Robert lead, Mabel followed. And can you imagine, for a moment, going to Cuba, China, where you don't know anybody, know anything, have nothing, know nothing? I mean, can you imagine the kind of commitment that it took for them to take their little boys and their little children and to go do that? And not only to survive that, but to triumph that. Robert gave me one other thing, and that was a very, very personal support. People often asked me after I got my first million dollars and went off and started to buy sandcastles in the sky and toys and tricklets and everything else you could name, and I said my whole dream in life was to retire at 45 and not do anything else. And then the next thing I found out, I found myself protesting and leading demonstrations. You know in the black community in Orlando we call it the whole in the economic doughnut. The whole city and all the prosperous grew up around it and left them behind. And the next thing I know I find myself leading demonstrations to benefit those people. And the next thing I know, they got me in jail, I can't get out, I can't get to court, I can't get nothing! They had me in a vice! I reached out and called Robert, and what did Robert do? Robert assisted me in getting the most preeminent, the most prominent attorney in the country to come to my assistance, William Cutsler. And the last motion William Cutsler did in his life, he did a motion for me, and ultimately all charges were dropped. And the last thing Robert said to me, he wrote me a letter and he said, "Congratulations on your homegoing. It's so good for you to be finally home. But let me tell you something, there are an awful lot of dumb clucks in power than there are people of intelligence. These people down there hate to lose, and they don't intend to. And if you think that they're not going to come after you again, you're sadly mistaken. Jim Crow may be dead, but Jim Crow Junior is very much alive."
Rev. Haywood Redfern, Associate Pastor & Relative Mt. Olive A.M.E. Zion Church, Monroe, NC
Good evening. I'm here to speak in behalf of Robert F. Williams, who is a relative... whom I at times called Uncle. To some that don't know him, or did not get or have the opportunity to meet him, I personally feel you've missed a chance of a lifetime. Here lies man created by God, just as you and I. The Bible tells us that many are called but few are chosen. My point is, even though we are equal, God appointed a few good men that are above average. God chose men such as Noah, and He said, "Go and tell the people that it's gonna rain." God chose Moses and said, "Go and tell Pharaoh to let my people go." God chose Robert Williams and said, "Give me liberty or give me death. Give me freedom or give me death. Give me equality, for until you do, I will not rest." Robert, my hero, for all the mountains you have climbed. Robert, for all the valleys you have filled. Robert, for all the crooked places you have made straight, I want you to know this one thing, dear Uncle, I never got a chance to tell you, but you have always been my hero. May God be with you until we meet again.
Dr. Ronal King, Minister of the Gospel Rock Hill, SC
There's one thing I must do. Mother Parks, I wanna give you a hug. I just want to say one thing. Thank you for not moving to the back of the bus! Let the church say amen. Greetings from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Peace, grace and love to you my brothers and my sisters. To the honorable brotheren sufferers of the corps, to Central United Methodist Church, God bless your heart, you're doing what God would have you to do. To the Pastor, Reverend Leatherwood and to Reverend Miller who will break the bread of Heaven. We have tried His patience, but we come to celebrate the homegoing of a soldier. And I don't mean to be... we as preachers know that we have what we call "pulpit decorum". We tend not to wear our robes when the Pastor is coming before you. But we do wear in times of a fallen soldier, or fallen brother. So please don't let this outward array frighten you, you've got a job to do here. I am Dr. Ronal A. King, former Civil Rights activist. I was one of the ones who believed not so much in the march of peace, but the force of the gun. By the grace of God, today I stand before you. But I had, along with fellow students at Columbia University in New York City, we had taken over the administration building, and you knew what happened then. But several years later, 1971, I received my Ph.D. from Columbia University in forensic medicine. I can remember Robert Williams saying to me, "It is not what happens to me, but what happens in me." We've heard the orators come and share with you what another brother has done. We all are Rosa Parks. We all are Martin King. We all are Robert Williams. But remember, it wasn't Robert who did that. It was the grace and the mercy of the power of God within Robert that allowed him to do that. We do nothing of our own. The job that's set before me is not the job that's set before you, but all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord, and who are called according to His purpose. Let us not focus our eyes on the man, let us focus our eyes on the message. You heard and you're hearing, that the works I've done, speak for me. What would speak for you? From the book of Revelations, Chapter 14, Verse 13, (John on the Isle of Papmas) is now saying, "I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me saying (rise), blessed are the dead which died in the Lord. Hence forth yea, sayeth the spirit, that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them." I come as God's servant and I come as your brother. Now some of you are saying, "I don't even know you, how can you be my brother?" Well God is love and love has no color, but it doesn't have a measuring stick either. How much do you give? You give until it helps. And I know some of y'all know you didn't know you has such a good-looking brother. And that's not conceit. Everything God made, He said it was good. That includes me. I will tell this story that's been heard, and you're hearing, and read a short poem... and sit down. I ask that you pray for the man of God who will come. It is very hard to sit in this type of seat with we, the clergy, those who are here... the deacons, members, and friends of all churches involved... and know now He must come behind all of this. So we ask that you give him you're prayers, and open up your heart and hear what does sayeth the Lord. There was a young lady who wanted to write a poem on, lets say on grace. And she went to her mother and asked her mother, she said, "Mother, I need to write about grace. Can you tell me something about grace? I have an assignment and they told me I can pick whatever subject I choose, and I've chosen grace. What would you say to me mother?" She said, "Child, amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found. I was blind but now, I see. But child, I don't know everything about grace. Go and ask your father." So she went on to ask her father. She said, "Dad, I need to know something about grace. Mother has told me what she knows. Can you tell me something about grace?" He said, "'Twas grace," help me Lord. Now some of us know her as Big Mama, amen. Some of us know her as Nana. Some of us know her as Granny. But she went and she hollered out, "Granny, what can you tell me about grace? Mother has told me this and Father has told me that. What is that you would tell me?" She said, "Through many mangles, toils, and snares, I have already come. 'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." God told us all to endure the hardships as a good soldier. Robert had fought his fight and he has kept his cause and now he's going home to God. Robert is not here, he is not here, he is not here. Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. He has paid the price that God has given him. Now there's nothing we can do to get into God's glory. Jesus stretched his arms and paid that price. But we all have a responsibility right now, to know Jesus for yourself. Robert did. And if you don't know him as your personal Savior, with all of these men and women of God, ask somebody before it's everlasting too late. Death is on the battle field and it's marching all the day long. We know not the day nor the hour when He'll come, but we got to be ever so ready. A poem that I first heard, a song that's now being sung, but I first heard it at Columbia. And it sounds like what Robert would say. It's titled, I Won't Complain: "I've had some good days, I've had some hills to climb. I've had some weary days, and some lonely nights. But when I look around and I think things over, all of my good days, outweigh my bad days, and I won't complain. Sometimes the clouds hang low. I can hardly see the road. I ask the question, Lord, "Lord why so much pain?" But God knows what's best for me, although my weary eyes, they cannot see. So I'll just say thank you Lord, I won't complain. God has been good to me. God has been so good to me. He's been better than my eyes could ever see. Better than the whole world could be to me. He dries all my tears away. He turned my midnights into day. So I'll just say, thank you, Lord. I won't complain." To the bereaved family, I bring you love from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and ask you to continue to look to hills from which cometh your help. Know that I am truly your brother. If there's anything that I, and I know that my brothers suffereth, can do, for your heart. But now's the time for you to bind yourselves in God's love, amen. Pray that He will dip you down in His deep well of wisdom, and draw you up on the eternal rope of hope. Bind in His love that you will be His children, hear His voice, and do His will. God bless you today as your day and your time of bereavement, truly it is, but tomorrow may be mine. May God bless you.
John C. Williams
Good afternoon. It certainly is a pleasure for me to be able to come before you this day, with this celebration of homegoing for my father, Robert F. Williams. This is indeed the day that the Lord has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it. I give honor to Jesus Christ, who's the head of my life. To my father, who is presently with the Lord. Because scripture says, "To be absent from the body, is to be present with God. Those who die in Christ, will reign in Christ." So I look forward to the day, when I, with my father, and with many other brothers and sisters who have committed their lives to the cause of our people, when we will be able to be together with the King of Kings, Lord of Lords. I know Jesus as a big brother, and I hope you know Him as a big brother as well. He is truly a kinsmen. And so often when I'm in Detroit and I do ministry to men, broken men in inner city, I remind them that we are not to lose our inheritance, our spiritual inheritance. That nothing that happens to us in the world should cause us to lose our spiritual inheritance. We didn't get the 40 acres and the mules, but that's okay. The most important thing that we have, Lord Jesus Himself has given to us, and we should let no one rob us of that. He is our kinsmen redeemer. So I acknowledge the ministers who are here today, my mother, my brother, my nephews, my sister-in-law, my uncles, cousins. I'm just thankful for each and everyone one of you, because my dad, as it was indicated on several occasions, always took pride in his family. He took pride in this town, in Monroe. He took pride in the accomplishments of the people of Monroe. He understood, and I understand, that the things he was able to accomplish, he was only able to accomplish them because the Lord empowered him to accomplish those things. And the Lord placed people around him; family members, strong men like J.W. McDow who is not here today, who's an honorary pall bearer, because of his own struggles of physical challenges (and we will pray for him as well, amen?), but because of many men, both young and old, who rallied around him, who understood the need for us as a people to stand up and be counted. Many times when people refer to my father, they talk about him as being the one who spearheaded the Self-Defense Movement. And I'm here to say that though, yes, that was an important piece that happened here locally, it's far greater than many of you understand now. But you will see it, weeks and months and years to come. You will come to understand not only did the self-defense that he put forth, did it affect people locally, but it has affected our people throughout this nation. Because of the deterrent, the deterrent that has been created... that was created as a result of him standing up and other men throughout the nation standing behind him. Men who were willing to put their all and all on the line to insure that we as African-American people, would be able to live and survive. So I'm just thankful again for having the opportunity to be the son of my father. I'm very mindful of the fact that my father also understood that the struggle that we as a people have is for survival and that that struggle continues. It has been a struggle for civil rights, as well as human rights, but most of all, Dad was always mindful that it was a struggle between good and evil. He was very mindful of that. And what comes to mind to me is a scripture out of Ephesians 6: 10-12. And it reads as follows, it says: "Be strong in the Lord. And in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the Devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm." My dad understood that the battle was between good and evil. Spiritual truths. There are many, and he taught my brothers, and my family members, many of those spiritual truths. And the thing that I loved about my dad was often times when he was teaching you these spiritual truths, he never knew that they were spiritual truths. But that spiritual truths such as, "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthened me. No weapon formed against me shall prosper. I am a conqueror through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me," those are the kinds of things that he imparted to our young people. And I say to you today it is critical that we just not leave here having heard all that we've heard, because our people are in trouble, especially our young men in this country. They're in trouble. And I say to you today, no one who has been here this day, that has heard what has come forth from here, can go out of this room and not assume some responsibility for some young brother, some young sister, who has a need. Amen? Apostle James wrote, "What good is a brother if the man claims to have faith but has no deeds. Faith without action or works is dead. Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do." My father understood that. That was what he believed in. He wasn't big on ceremonies and religion, but he had a personal relationship with the Lord, and he understood that religion is just talked about. Sunday religion that doesn't translate into action is of no value. I'd like to conclude with a reading from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. Chairman Mao, back in 1963, issued a historical statement in support of the struggle of the African-American people against racial discrimination and oppression. But this particular reading comes out of a selection entitled "Serve the People," and it was out of his volume, his third volume of selected works. And it reads as followed, "All men must die. But death can vary in it's significance. The ancient Chinese writer Su Ma Chin said, "though death befall all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Thai or lighter than a feather. To die for the people is weightier than Mount Thai, but to work for the fascist, and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather." I am here to say that my father died and he dedicated his life to serving his people. And I, like my father, and I'm sure he has already heard this, this is what I look forward to hearing, my good and loyal servant, job well done. God bless you.