The Savannah Tribune Salutes Black History Month

Hosea Williams
Hosea Williams

Hosea Lorenzo Williams was a United States civil rights leader, ordained minister, and later a politician. His famous motto was “Unbought and Unbossed”.

Williams was born in Attapulgus, Georgia on January 5, 1926. After a stellar military career, he earned a high school diploma at age 23, then a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree (both in chemistry) from Atlanta’s Morris Brown College and Atlanta University (present day Clark Atlanta University).

Williams was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. In the early 1950s Williams married Juanita Terry and worked for the United States Department of Agriculture. Williams had four sons: Hosea L. Williams II, Andre Williams, Torrey Williams, and Hyron Williams and four daughters: Barbara Emerson, Elizabeth Omilami, Yolanda Favors, and Jaunita Collier. Williams was preceded in death by his wife and son Hosea II. He ended up in a hospital for over a month after being seriously beaten for using a drinking fountain marked “whites only”. He was arrested for other protests more than 300 times. He first joined the NAACP, but later became a leader in the SCLC along with Martin Luther King, Jr., James Bevel, Joseph Lowery, and Andrew Young among many others. While organizing during the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement he also lead the first attempt at a 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, and was tear gassed and beaten severely. The Selma demonstrations and this “Bloody Sunday” attempt led to the other great legislative accomplishment of the movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

After leaving SCLC, Williams played an active role in supporting strikes in the Atlanta area by black workers who had first been hired because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In politics, he served on the Atlanta City Council and in the Georgia General Assembly. In 1972 Williams was a candidate in the primaries for U.S. Senator from Georgia.

He founded Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless, a non-profit foundation widely known in Atlanta for providing hot meals, haircuts, clothing, and other free services for the needy on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Easter Sunday each year. Williams died November 16, 2000 at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, after a three-year battle with cancer.

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