Charles V. Williams is a longtime advocate for the Black Deaf community at both the local, state, and national levels. In this second of two interviews, he discusses his advocacy in the Black Deaf community from the 1970s to the present, including volunteering at the Cleveland Society for the Blind, his efforts for greater inclusivity in the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, getting closed captioning added for the 1980 Democratic National Convention, creating an interpreter training program at Cleveland State University, serving on state and national boards, including as a founding member of Black Deaf Advocates and on the board of Gallaudet University, teaching ASL at Baldwin-Wallace College and CSU, and involvement in Deaf outreach in the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.
Williams, Charles V. (interviewee); Feher, Paula (interpreter); Cangelosi-Williams, Pat (participant)
Souther, Mark (interviewer)
Mark Souther [00:00:02] Today is February 8, 2020. My name is Mark Souther. I'm from Cleveland State University representing the Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. I'm here today in Cleveland Heights with Mr. Charles V. Williams, also known as Chuck, and we're here for a second interview that follows up on our interview one week ago. Last time we looked at his life from really from birth through the 1960s. And today we want to get into his advocacy activities from the 1970s to the present. So glad to be back and thank you again.
Charles Williams [00:00:49] Me too. Very excited that you came again.
Mark Souther [00:00:54] Thanks. I'd like to start by asking you about your experience volunteering at the Cleveland Society for the Blind, which is now the Sight Center.
Charles Williams [00:01:08] It all started with Paula. We met her at Kent State University with Dr. [Alex] Boros. Dr. Boros. I spelled his name... pronounced his name right. He was involved with Alcoholics [Anonymous]. That time he tried to explain to the Deaf community that if you drink one glass of beer in the morning, that you are automatically an alcoholic. Which a lot of Deaf people were upset to hear that. He put out ten empty bottles of beer and I asked him how many they drank and the time of it. And most of them, who felt they had their first drink in the morning before they come in to work, he tried to explain to them. They were very upset. Even some Deaf people from Akron came and heard that and tried to shoo him out, but he took it like a man. And I really appreciate it because I know a few Deaf people drink beer before they go to work. So he continued with his program. He had it at the YMCA downtown off of Payne Avenue. And unfortunately one Deaf person from New York who happened to fall off, I don't know how high, maybe sixth floor, seventh floor, I can't remember, but he had a note in his pocket. He just wrote, "Nobody helped me." So that was kept out of the Plain Dealer newspaper or anything like that. Not many people were aware of that. Harbor Light, down at Harbor Light, that's right. So I stayed there for a few weeks teaching the staff sign language briefly. That was later when Deaf blind people were at the Sight Center from community college also because they set up a program there.
Mark Souther [00:03:44] Now you mentioned that you met Paula Feher there through Dr. Boros...
Charles Williams [00:03:53] I met Paula there, yeah. She was working on her M.A. and I had to write a letter to get her hired there, and I was surprised she got hred with my letter [because] I wasn't a good writer. So from there, she came up with the idea that the workers should learn Sign Language because she set up a Blind and Deaf program there. So I volunteered. That's how I met my wife.
Mark Souther [00:04:25] Is this the backdrop for what we now call the Sight Center?
Charles Williams [00:04:29] Right, Cleveland Sight Center, which is located on 101[st] and Chester Avenue. It's still there.
Mark Souther [00:04:44] Mhm. We're pausing for just a moment. [The pause allows for interpreter Paula Feher to begin assisting. Pat Cangelosi-Williams, the interviewee's spouse, interpreted for the first few minutes.] I didn't mention that Paula Feher is going to be the interpreter today, so thank you for joining us and helping make this interview possible. So continuing, is there anything else about the, you know, your volunteer work at the Cleveland Society for the Blind that I haven't asked you about that we should cover before I move on.
Charles Williams [00:05:27] Well, Paula invited me to the Sight Center for a half hour to teach staff there because of the program they had there, which happened to be Deaf and Blind and I was taken by surprise. It was under the Helen Keller program. I was taken by surprise how many Deaf and Blind people here in Greater Cleveland. I didn't realize it was [inaudible]. So that's how I met Bob... I can't pronounce his last name.
Paula Feher [00:05:57] Smithdas.
Charles Williams [00:05:58] And Bob.
Paula Feher [00:05:59] Prause.
Charles Williams [00:05:59] Right. But they had a camp there. Highbrook, Highbrook Lodge. A few of us volunteered to pick up Deaf and Blind out at the airport. I had my car, I had a convertible. I happened to pick up Bob. He had a long cane, coming out of the airport and he had his name on there. So I bumped into him. I was not good signing [inaudible] I didn't have those skills. I went slow. So I walked him to my car, and he put his hand on the car and went over it. He told me what kind of car it was because they had practiced with [inaudible].
Mark Souther [00:07:04] Let me quickly, just for clarification, when you mentioned Bob, is it Bob Smithdas?
Charles Williams [00:07:13] Yes, that's right. He is the only person that puts his thumb on your lip while you're talking straight without stopping. And he was great. He did that too, he was on televsion with Barbara Walters. And I don't know, she didn't move her face, but she permitted him to put his thumb on her lip and that wouldn't be in the interview at that time, yeah.
Mark Souther [00:07:43] Can you explain that technique? Tadoma?
Charles Williams [00:07:48] Well, you put your thumb on your lip. "Hello, how are you," and all that. "It's nice to meet you. What's your name again?" And he felt it.
Mark Souther [00:08:01] You feel the vibration.
Charles Williams [00:08:04] He's very skillful for that. He and one other person are very skillful at that. And I was taken by surprise and I didn't think anybody else could do that now today.
Mark Souther [00:08:17] Can you tell me more about Tadoma? You know, how long ago that was developed, as far as you know and how long it's been used as a technique?
Charles Williams [00:08:24] I don't know about that. I don't know anything. I don't think anybody else could do that. I don't know how long, no, but I know Bob, he had his own Ph.D. He's a very smart man. Very smart, tall and Blind and Deaf. And he knew how to make jokes and was a very happy person. But that was eye popper for me that he can talk. He's born Blind and Deaf. He can talk and he can have fun and all though, but when he did that, I was shocked when I bumped into him at the airport, took him to my car. So that's how we communicated back and forth. But out of all those Blind and Deaf people at the camp, Bob was the only one. The others couldn't do that.
Paula Feher [00:09:20] Dowdy? They would talk together? [Note: Leroy Dowdy and his wife, who were Deaf-blind, were also at the camp.]
Charles Williams [00:09:22] Oh, he passed away, too, yeah. He passed away. And the swimming pool out there, oh my God! Everybody would dive in the swimming pool without getting hurt and I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it. They didn't bump heads, nothing. And then we went to hay riding. Hay riding was alright. But there was a lot of volunteers slipping in there. [Laughs] There was a lot of kissing going on. Oh, boy, did I have fun! Oh, you weren't on the hayride! So that night I had to go to the lodge and put them up, pick up Bob and walk him to the campfire. One of the biggest campfires I ever saw in my life has been a Boy Scout during my time, so the campfire was so big! And then Bob found me and I realized I saw a rope from one tree to the next tree. So they put the hand on the rope and they keep walking, walking, walking until they found the heat. When they found the heat they'd turn around know this is the place, so they set downon logs in the woods that time. And a person tells the stories and all that, and volunteers were interpreting in sign language. Ooh, they way off, and blind deaf people were very angry, very upset because they didn't get the full story. What was going on? When it was over with, I walked them back to their pad where they sleep overnight. They had breakfast, lunch, and dinner, dancing, playing piano and all, just like they were normal. So Bob asked me. He wants to go to the bar. I took him and three other guys to the bar in my car. We rode up a country road. There was a bar there. It was about noontime. We went in. There was nobody in there except us, so we ordered a big beer that comes in the jug. Well, they all were holding hands talking and all that, and the owner of the bar came and was looking, and then we ordered again, and he was surprised that we just kept drinking and all that. So we left to go back for lunch. He called out and said, "Hey!" I happened to hear him. "Bring 'em back again!" [Laughs] He had fun. We were drinking beer and we ordered all the time. So I took them back to the camp. We really enjoyed that camp though. And I was teaching sign language. I advised my students to volunteer to do that. It was very good. They were learning about Blind and Deaf.
Mark Souther [00:12:43] Where was Highbrook Lodge where the camp was?
Charles Williams [00:12:48] It was on the East Side in Chardon. Big, big, beautiful place out there.
Mark Souther [00:13:00] Can you tell me, I know you were involved in a lot of other things. This was in the mid-1970s. Can you tell me also about the work that you do with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?
Charles Williams [00:13:18] 504, yes. What happened with 504, it was a donation given by the government to the Deaf community to be trained to know more about 504. So what really happened was there was a workshop going on in Washington, D.C., and I volunteered and I happened to be the only Black person there. It was at the fire station in D.C. or outside they had it. So the workshop was trying to educate the Deaf community about this 504 and make sure that the Deaf community be aware of it. And I looked around and found out there's no other people of color there, and so I was the only one. After I came home, I called the government and explained to them that no Deaf person of color could be involved. And they had workshops all around in the USA and mostly to white Deaf people. So the government was taken by surprise. And there was one workshop left. So they called the National Association of the Deaf and told them that's it time to turn it over to Charles. We have to let him run the workshop for people of color, so I was taken by surprise, and I had to line up all the Black Deaf leaders and invite them to the workshop.
Mark Souther [00:15:14] Can you tell me more about what 504 was?
Charles Williams [00:15:20] It's the TTY and 7-1-1 for selling to Deaf people to use it in the hospital. Improved health care and all the services. And [inaudible], using [inaudible] How to use it. But unfortunately, I had all the people to come. They questioned me first. They think I didn't know anything about 504. They asked me a lot of questions, and I responded back. They were taken by surprise and then took me outside and gave me the key to the car. It was the National Association's car, said NAD1 on the license plate. But I drove that car around for three days, and I think the Deaf people were upset that I had a car to ride around with. It was very, very interesting for me. [Interpreter whispers inaudibly to interviewer] 7-1-1. That's something for the Deaf person for information. That's 7-1-1. I don't think many Deaf people are aware of that though but that's for information. When they push that button...
Paula Feher [00:16:41] 7 -1-1.
Charles Williams [00:16:42] 7 -1 -1.
Mark Souther [00:16:49] Is that like an emergency number?
Paula Feher [00:16:50] And also how to use a TTY to call 9-1-1, oh, 7-1-1.
Charles Williams [00:16:57] 7-1-1, and a lot of Deaf people are unaware about that number.
Mark Souther [00:17:05] And you were on various boards and committees during this time at the local and state level.? Can you tell me more about your work with some of those? In the 1970s.
Charles Williams [00:17:22] I worked with the community, the Cuyahoga County government community on employment. It's all about advising the community on services that Deaf people should be aware of. And I was on that board. I was the only one. And they had a national conference in Washington, D.C., so I found out that they didn't pick anybody who was of color at that time. So I asked the person who was in charge. I said, how come you didn't happen to pick anybody in this community who happened to be of color? So they picked me and paid for my expense. It's called the Rehab Service Commission Advisory Board.
Mark Souther [00:18:27] This was a state-level, [crosstalk] or was it state-level representation nationally?
Charles Williams [00:18:35] No, no, it represents Greater Cleveland. Cleveland, Ohio. And when I got there, I found out that the hotel for me was at the black hotel. I could not be put in the white hotel. I was taken by surprise...
Mark Souther [00:19:05] And this was in the 1970s.
Charles Williams [00:19:05] ... at that time. Yeah, in Washington, D.C., yeah. Washington, D.C. And they drive me this way [Laughs] and I was already taken by... because the conference was held in the basement of the hotel. [Interpreter interjects inaudibly] Yeah, me. The conference was in the basement of the hotel, and I was taken by surprise. So so many people around there, Deaf people from all over the United States and maybe some, maybe, but only or two Black people there. That's where I met Linwood Smith. [Responds to whispered questions from interpreter] I'm not talking about NBDA. I met him there at the... yeah.
Mark Souther [00:20:09] And we'll come back to the NBDA in a few minutes.
Charles Williams [00:20:15] [I was a] member of the grant writing committee to improve healthcare for the Deaf at Metro, Metro Hospital. 1977 to 1980. That's where we had the Deaf Expo. [Responding to inaudible comment] I said that, right, that's where we had the Deaf Expo the same year.
Mark Souther [00:20:36] Let me get back for a moment. Back to 1975. I understand that you were involved in Cuyahoga Community College, or Tri-C, Mental Health and English classes? Can you tell me...
Charles Williams [00:20:49] Oh, okay. That's very interesting. You're talking about 1975. Community Mental Health and English class to train Deaf people, professionals. Mike Bailis was director with another co-worker. I don't have his name though. But Mike, I gave him a lot of credit because he set up the program for classes for Deaf people to attend. [inaudible question] And, yeah, separately and it happened to be Shirley. What was Shirley's last name? [inaudible response] Yeah, Shirley Prok. So I think there was around ten of us. So we learned and it was a short semester, but we got an associate degree. And it's very good. They had Jay Croft, who was the Deaf pastor for our church to have him teach English and all that, but favorite was poems. The people never had a taste of it. It was hard to get through without hearing it and all that. So that was really a temporary program, which was set up by the community college in what to me was downtown. It was a great experience. We got our associate degree there. Jay is completely Deaf.
Mark Souther [00:22:42] Now, can you tell me a little bit about the work at MetroHealth Hospital in the late '70s?
Charles Williams [00:22:50] Well, Metro, we met Peggy Lee, Janet Pray [inaudible], and Pat Taylor. [Laughs] That's her name before we got married. [Laughs] And we met Paula Marshall [Feher]. We met these people and we got together, and we discussed about MetroHealth Hospital, about the community of the Deaf people in Greater Cleveland and talked about interpreting. Yeah, for the hospital staff. And the only thing that came out was how could MetroHealth Hospital fund this program. So I think it was temporary but it did not get out to the Deaf community. That was not their favorite hospital, so, but we tried to stand up with the law, 504, but the hospital was unaware of that law which was the 504. But then it faded away. But a lot of Deaf people never liked Metro Hospital. They had the Lutheran Hospital and all these others, and University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic at that time.
Mark Souther [00:24:56] So they were unaware of Section 504 or they were...
Charles Williams [00:25:02] Oh, no...
Mark Souther [00:25:02] ... just noncompliant?
Charles Williams [00:25:08] You have to remember the Deaf community realized during those years... They only go to Deaf clubs and Deaf churches and all that. And there were no Deaf leaders at that time. They're all involved, every day, every day, in Deaf clubs and nothing was spoken about the programs that're offered to us. These programs... We tried to educate but there's no Deaf leaders at that time. So it was very difficult, so I and a few others tried to get Deaf people to tend to those hospitals. And attempted to help them vote during the election. Not many Deaf people voted at that time. They're unaware because they said they don'tt help me, and [inaudible] said you don't help me by not voting for me, so it's on both sides. And it's very difficult.
Mark Souther [00:26:09] Yeah. I'm really starting to get a better sense of this. So, there's a large community and yet it doesn't really come together as a bloc, doesn't know its rights, doesn't know how to advocate for rights, that's where you needed leadership.
Charles Williams [00:26:28] Well, the problem was, when you tried to pass the American Sign Language Bill [inaudible] language in the college and high schools at that time, we went to Washington, I mean to Columbus, the capital down here, we got support from the Deaf community around the state and some hearing [inaudible] who volunteered. We went to Columbus that time. The weather was real nice and we all were outside. We blocked up High Street and Main Street in downtown. We blocked that up, and a representative came out and said, Sorry, we can't help you because there's not enough of you all to vote for us. We got hit hard right there. And then we went back home and then next year another group went. And that group was mostly hearing and would give us support. And finally, they broke through. So now we have [inaudible] language in high school and college and university. But few Deaf people were involved with that, which I have forgotten the number. I had it in my notebook.
Mark Souther [00:27:50] Can you tell me about the Deaf Expo?
Charles Williams [00:27:55] Oh, that was real great. Deaf Expo was at Terminal Tower, way up on the top there, and there was a cafeteria up there, too. It was interesting that... What year was that? Nineteen...
Mark Souther [00:28:18] Looks like late '70s.
Charles Williams [00:28:20] What year was that? [Interpreter interjects] Around 1975. And Councilman Louis Stokes, we invited him to represent 'cause I know him and we [inaudible] Deaf people who have different skills, like art, train, airplane, pictures, and cooking, whatever, and they did a great job. We had the whole floor. We had Deaf people coming from up north, Michigan and all that. I think that we paid no rent. I think they gave it to us up there in the Terminal Tower, way up at the top. So it was a good Expo program. And Louis Stokes did a good job and introduced himself and the crowd, and all that, give it to him. You will never see that again.
Mark Souther [00:29:25] These are photos in the Deaf Expo photo album. This is Louis Stokes, and you, I see. Yeah. Yeah, I recognize you, of course. And I see what Carla was saying about the 1970s clothes. Carla was commenting on the 1970s clothing. So this was in the Terminal Tower, and who was the main audience for this? Who was the main audience for the Deaf Expo?
Charles Williams [00:30:05] That was the Deaf community [crosstalk] with the help of Dr. Boros and Dolly, what's Dolly's last name? [Interpreter responds] Dolly Boyd. She's hearing.
Mark Souther [00:30:21] Was it more to connect people who had different skills with job opportunities that employed those skills? Is that the primary purpose or...
Charles Williams [00:30:37] Well, it was very funny because [inaudible] was exposed to a lot of hearing people. We tried to be separate from the Deaf organization to have our own mental health program. We had an offer on Lorain Avenue where... on the corner where there used to be a bar. They went out of business, so they offered it to us free of rent at that time. It was a real old building, Dr. Boros explained to us... Dolly Boyd explained to us, You go out and check on the furniture and get some feedback, how much it costs. You go out and check up on typewriters and things. Get some feedback. Go out there for the office to use. But the building and stuff was so old that they gave it to us. The floor was crack, crack. If we shut that business now, we would be all over the newspapers. We tried to take it away from BVR. Tell him BVR.
Paula Feher [00:31:50] Bureau of Vocational Rehab.
Charles Williams [00:31:50] Yeah, from the site. We felt that we try to be excited because there are other sites like that. They had that in Indianapolis, Massachusetts, and Detroit, Michigan. They separated that and let it [be] run by Deaf people. Let Deaf people do their thing. And we tried to do it but some hearing people whispered to the governors and we couldn't get through with that. So, I'll never forget we got stabbed in the back with that program. We could never get our own thing because the governor had control over that. The government had control over that. I was so upset.
Mark Souther [00:32:39] That you could never have a Deaf center.
Charles Williams [00:32:44] Not a Deaf center. I wouldn't call it a center. There's a lot of Deaf try to call it a Deaf program, like [where] you go for service and programs and go for help. Go find a place where you get lawyers and doctors and all that, be educated in who was who.
Mark Souther [00:33:13] I see. Let's talk about the two mock trials that you were involved with at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Charles Williams [00:33:27] We had, uh... Case Western Reserve. No, the mock trial was at Case Western Reserve. We had that at Case Western Reserve. We had what we call a mock trial. We had Deaf people acting as juries and trained them. It was very interesting. And we had four... I think we had four lawyers, young lawyers involved with that. We had a person be on trial for something, and try to educate that person while they're on trial. We had a Deaf jury, see how they would come out with it, with interpreters to explain that. That was really fun, and then we had Deaf people sitting in the back to oversee this program. I'm sorry that there was no videotape at that time. I wish I had that; I'm real sorry about that. But we got that from Louisiana. Louisiana had the mock trial, the other state that had that. So we had one here. And my father was involved. My father was the judge. The people who came in, my father told them to take their hat off... [Laughs] I never will forget that... take their hat off. No talking with your hands. Wow! I didn't tell him anything. He sees it. No talking with your hands. It was good experience with legal words and terms. A lot of 'em didn't understand that. It was hosted one day at Case Western Reserve, though, I know that for sure.
Mark Souther [00:35:13] Another thing around that same time, it seems, was on your work picketing at Channel 8 to provide closed captioning? Can you tell a little bit about that and what it led to?
Charles Williams [00:35:28] Oh, we protested at Channel 8 at Lakeside... [inaudible]
Mark Souther [00:35:29] Lakeside Avenue?
Charles Williams [00:35:29] Marginal. The Howard Johnson Restaurant was there. And we protested. Nothing came out of it, but it was fun. We had a lot of Deaf people. We had people who had babies in a car and brought them over to and we had Deaf people who worked... We had... [inaudible] We had Deaf people who worked at Howard Johnson Hotel with that. It's gone now. But Channel 8... We couldn't bust through. We wanted closed captioning. It was all about money.
Mark Souther [00:36:29] I'm going to jump out of sequence a little bit because I'd like to ask just a little bit more about what happened from there in terms of pursuing closed captioning. Where did you go there, and where...
Charles Williams [00:36:45] Well, we tried to file a lawsuit. We were at Washington, D.C., at that time. I hired Jeffrey Friedman and his agency, and Jeffrey, the one you see on the bus and rapid transit, and the man in a wheelchair, I hired him at that time. I told him I had no money or anything like that. He was willing to volunteer, and I was taken by surprise. So we went to Washington, D.C. He went in his van, and I went with my friend. We drove to Washington, D.C., and my wife came later. We would use Model [Secondary] School for the Deaf at Gallaudet because we had a woman who was secretary who knew how to write legal in court system. And she typed so fast. I forgot her name. Carroll... I can't say her last name.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [00:38:25] Carl Kirschner from DAWN helped you too.
Charles Williams [00:38:25] Carl, Carl, yeah, Carl, right. I can't say or pronounce his last name.
Mark Souther [00:38:30] That's OK.
Charles Williams [00:38:35] Yes, from DAWN. So we went in the court and paid for the fee. But before that, Jeffrey Friedman, he had something. He looked at the paper. Throw it on the floor. He looked at the paper thrown on the floor and said, Was that Webber who did all this typewriting? Well I feel sorry for her because she kept guard as she didn't give up. And she didn't cry or anything. And then she was under a lot of pressure. We were in a hurry to go to the courthouse. But we went to courthouse, and I paid for the fees. I think I was around a hundred dollars, maybe fifty dollars, paid for the fee. And we went to one judge to the other judge. They all turned it down because they had interest, see, in the election. They had an interest in stock in the TV station.
Mark Souther [00:39:31] They had an interest in the stock of a TV station?
Charles Williams [00:39:36] Will you let me finish, please? So finally, one judge showed up and took the case. He happened to be a Black man. [Laughs] I said, Oh, my God! I was cheering myself. The court was up, and the bench was up higher. And the lawyers came in from the train, airport, and all. I got nervous. Had the whole team up there, had lawyers from... oh, my God. Then my wife and her friend came here. Then the National Associates of the Deaf came in. NAD, yeah. They wanted to see the papers. I refused. Show them. I said, You couldn't help us. I refused. But anyway, they stepped down because they were getting grant money from the government so they couldn't get involved. So, I had another organization, it's not there now today, that they did all the counting for us, let me know how many Deaf people in the United States and programs and all... They did a very good job to give me the feedback. So the job was ready. Jeffrey Friedman in his wheelchair rolled up. He had to look up. [Laughs] The judge was sitting up there. He said, Y'all go back home. There's nothing here. You have to go to FCC, the television people there. The case is not in this court. We had nothing to do. It was so upsetting. All those lawyers came, flew in from Boston and all that. So Jeffrey Friedman said okay. He got in his car and he drove us to the bar. He hadn't. He had the nerve to tell the bartender to turn to Channel 3, something like that. We looked up there and we saw the Deaf man who works as a Deaf reporter for that TV station and he was signing. In fact, we had a little bit of a victory. [Interpreter and interviewer converse and pass a note] I'm going to say that next. [Laughs] And then Ted Kennedy... Before we left, Ted Kennedy's lawyer came up to me, gave me a roll of papers, what he said on television. He would see that interpreters would be shown. But he got in trouble over the bridge. You know that story? [Laughs] And that was it. They blamed the television people. They are the ones forced him over [inaudible passage]... Ted Kennedy was an important person. So that's what the story was about. And the Super Bowl did the same thing. They had a Chinese woman signing, and you'd get an actual sign. She was signing so brief I was having to switch it back to the real singer. How many Deaf people were... I think we all were very upset that no one would do anything to file against the Basketball Association. But if I had the money, I would do it. I think you have to be fair, let's be fair. How many Spanish people don't understand English? How many people from Europe don't understand English so I was really depressed. This is 2020 and there has been no change on television people there, so I was hurt. Oh, they show all the [inaudible] dancing and all that. Forget about that.
Mark Souther [00:44:25] So will you explain a little bit more about how this was a partial victory that they ... at the national convention, they're on a platform, so my understanding is that the people there are getting the benefit, but just no one out in the TV audience gets to follow along. Is that correct?
Charles Williams [00:44:50] I think you're wrong. Deaf people are up there and Chinese people are way down on the mid field and they can't see them signing.
Mark Souther [00:44:58] No, I mean at the Democratic National Convention.
Charles Williams [00:45:04] Oh.
Mark Souther [00:45:05] So the people who were present at the convention would have the benefit of the interpreter, but the people watching TV would not see that person.
Charles Williams [00:45:16] No, they made some change after that. Right now, Deaf people who go to convention have a special side, on the left or right side, for sitting and they have an interpreter for them. But away from the speaker. There's a spot here for disability people over here, okay? And that I think, but I'm not sure, I think Jesse Jackson came up with that idea from Chicago. So, it's opened up now, which means Deaf people, Blind people. It looked great. I'm glad it did that.
Charles Williams [00:46:14] [In response to whispered and signed comment from Pat] Oh, at that time, that was before 1980. That's when I filed a lawsuit against Carter and Mondale and Ted Kennedy. There was no interpreter at that time. When I made a file there. That's what you saw there. I'm sorry about that.
Mark Souther [00:46:33] So this is the Carter and Mondale, you know the Democrats. This is 1980.
Charles Williams [00:46:42] Yes. That was in New York City, New York, at that time. I filed [inaudible] that for the Deaf community. [Responding to whispered and signed comment from Pat] That's right. That's what I tried to tell you, but he went to the bar.
Mark Souther [00:47:04] I see.
Charles Williams [00:47:05] Yeah, at that time.
Mark Souther [00:47:15] I want to jump back a little and pick up a couple of other things. You were a delegate to the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals in 1977. White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals. [Long pause]
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [00:48:04] You went to the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals. Talk about that.
Charles Williams [00:48:09] That was for the senior citizens at that time when I was a delegate. Senior citizens. No? [Long pause] 1977. [inaudible] 1977, that's way back before my time. [Laughs] I can't go back that far. That's when they had the Conference on Disabilities... Deaf people there. And I happened to be picked here in Cleveland. You know, I went there. So it was about getting people being elected. You vote for a Republican or Democrat and I'm proud of it. It was well taught, but I can't remember most of that thing. That's back in 1977, and few people.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [00:49:24] Jesse.
Charles Williams [00:49:24] And this man right here, Jesse Anderson, who's in the wheelchair. He went too. He was on the board of RTA here in Greater Cleveland. He passed away.
Mark Souther [00:49:43] So he was a delegate.
Charles Williams [00:49:56] [Laughs] Let me see. That was her. That was a good time though. You have to remember that a lot of things back in 1977, 1971 and... disability people weren't allowed, given a chance to be fair with the hearing people at that time. We had to fight for our things, it sounds like it was more to able-bodied people. But here you see Jeffrey is in a wheelchair. People are Blind who came, King and all. People came with their doctors. Does that open up in 1970s? That was a great time to because they came from all over.
Mark Souther [00:50:55] Can you tell me more about... This is late 1970s... the grant to the Cleveland Foundation to establish an interpretive training or interpreter training program at Cleveland State University?
Charles Williams [00:51:11] Well, that was Patricia, and Peggy Lee, and me, Janet Pray. We went to Cleveland Foundation, and Cleveland Foundation is two different parts. One is the Cleveland Foundation. The other is Cleveland Foundation for the Blind. I can't think of his name, he's Blind. His brother... I can't think of his name. Yeah. John, that's right. Brothers. And we had to explain to them that we wanted to have a program for interpreters to be working and train them to be certified and worked in the Deaf community. So we got $25,000 from Cleveland Foundation, and we were so excited. So we put out the advertising and we interviewed the people, and some came from Boston, Massachusetts, and some local people here also. So we interviewed them and we wound up picking a person from Massachusetts because she was working for the Deaf school there, American School for the Deaf at that time. So that program was only focused on training interpreters, for training them. I think there was no more than seven people or eight people, right? [Responding to whispered and signed comment from Pat] That was Dr. Metz from the Hearing and Speech Department, and I don't think he did much to help us because after the grant ran out, we couldn't get a second grant to follow up at that time and there was no money. And Cleveland Foundation and the other organizations felt this wasn't worthwhile. Then finally they opened up [inaudible] language and American Sign Language and that's how the program got going. So we were very fortunate to get that $25,000 grant. And we had a person from Massachusetts, and I'm very happy about that. So now I'm so happy that all the colleges and universities and private schools and public schools have American Sign Language as a [inaudible] language now. So we finally opened up the door.
Mark Souther [00:54:03] Let's talk some about the background to the founding of the National Black Advocates, or NBDA, if you could start, maybe take me back to the beginning of that, even before the beginning, the need for it....
Charles Williams [00:54:23] Right. It all started back in 1980 in Washington, D.C., the NAD, National Association of the Deaf, was hosting their 100 years... and it was a parade on the main street. And the reason that I was there, I went with my wife because her conference, it was first the R.I.D., was hosting at the same time. R.I.D.
Paula Feher [00:54:45] Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
Charles Williams [00:54:58] I was outside and a few Black people were out there, and we saw the parade on the main street marching down from Illinois, from Michigan... We saw them all from every state. I couldn't believe that it was so big. And finally, it's about twelve, maybe less than 25 black people were there. So we got together. We felt that we were not part of this, and we had a meeting at Howard University, which was nearby without paying rent to use their room or anything like that. So those smart Deaf people, Black Deaf people were there. We got together because we didn't know each other. So we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. We didn't get [any] help. And we tried to say let's have our own, and how would we be able to set it up, so we had a hearing person and we had Ed Easley. He's hearing. He's from the University of Chicago. And Ed didn't know sign language, but he educated us from the top of his head, he had no books, no papers, no nothing. And I got very upset because that the Deaf people, the white people who didn't like him were talking about him, and I told them that I'm leaving because I was only Black in that group. And I left. I ran into Ed Easley and told him. And he took it like a man. So when he spoke in the classroom off the top his head. He had no book, no pencil, everything woud come off the top is here. But he had on overalls [inaudible] People thought he was a janitor sweeping the floor and all that, but they were surprised it was him that's doing all the talking. He fooled us, but he educated us all and I appreciate him for what he got done for us because each one learned a lot from him. So when they go back home, they'd be able to do everything. So I was invited to Chicago. I was invited there to their homes and all that. I was still the lone single Black Deaf people, and everyone got to know me. And I came back home and I went to Columbus, Ohio, and I wanted to get Ohio to represent the school district to open up Adult Education Program for Greater Cleveland here and get the money. And finally we got the money. We used St. John's Catholic Church down on 9th Street. [Responding to inaudible comment] Okay, let me finish my story. And so that way we got the people... We got them all signed up. And I hired my sister and I hired my best friend. I hired another one to teach English straight and teach what the vocabulary was and all that. But at the same time, I look back, we had to go back to Howard University to organize a Deaf organization, and how the name came out, we threw so many names out and we finally came out with Black Deaf Advocates. So Washington, D.C., became Chapter 1. And we became Chapter 2 at that time.
Mark Souther [00:59:15] In Cleveland.
Charles Williams [00:59:16] Yes, in Cleveland. And that was not easy because we had to pay 501(c)(3) to become organized and that cost money. So we got that money from that law firm to help poor people. I've forgotten the name, what's the name of that fellow? No, no. To become organized. Herbie Lee, no, not Herbie Lee. It's another private organization that paid them to hire all the lawyers who help poor people all the time. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Legal Aid, that's right. Legal Aid. And they helped us. We got our staff and everything. We only paid maybe $50 that time, that was very cheap. So we were very happy. So right now, our Chapter 2's still strong after more than 40 years. But our membership's gone down to about 30, 35 members we have now. So now we have more than 40 chapters, which means two or three of them dropped out because it's hard to get new members or they didn't file or renew their license fee, didn't pay for the taxes or anything like that. Every two years... We host a regional... a national conference every two years. Then we host a regional conference. Baxk in Ohio we would host a conference for the regional district. Then the next following year it's the national conference, so it all comes together. But we have to continue to reach in front. How we do that? Here in Cleveland, I got money from Cleveland Clinic. I got money from Cleveland Foundation. I got money for a match from Utah because I have a friend from... His name was Ben. What's Ben's last name?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:01:54] Ben Soukoup.
Charles Williams [01:01:54] He's a businessman and he's very smart. He runs a lot of social service agencies around the country. He's really a big man. He did good for me. He was on the board of trustees with me, and he invited me to his house, but I never went there. Things are a growing. But right now, I look back at my life, and I think we did a little bit better. We opened up the door. We did it. We opened up the door. We did this. We opened up the door, now that the time's coming and I feel disappointed that the Super Bowl... When I saw that Chinese woman signing just two seconds, then camera and focused on the person singing and I know that Deaf people who are way up there couldn't see her hands or anything like that. How many Deaf people who go to clubs and are not watching on television missing seeing... It's not about the sign language. It's about the signing with hands, the beauty of the thing. Many hearing people don't see that. The interpreters interpreted word for word. Okay. The beauty of the hand signs... Deaf people feel thrilled and relate to that. It's the same thing to hear people with their voice and they do all the dancing, so that was part of it.
Mark Souther [01:03:22] Were the chapters all organized by city or were they statewide organizations that just happened to be based in one or another city?
Charles Williams [01:03:38] Well this is called Cleveland. We have a chapter. There's one in Columbus. That chapter's probably [number] 27 [or] 28 because they founded theirs later. Chicago has one chapter. Rochester has one. Boston has one California has one, well, has two, I think. Texas has one. Everything except Utah and North Carolina. And we all come together, but we have to host it the next year. The NAD hosts theirs in 2020. We have to host ours in 2021 because some of the Black people go the NAD conference. So, that's how the system works.
Mark Souther [01:04:34] With regard to the relationship, if any, between... direct relationship between the National Black Deaf Advocates and NAD, can you talk some about how that is now. I understand that initially NAD was not providing first for Black Deaf people at all. So how has it changed, if you can comment on that? Or has it changed?
Charles Williams [01:05:04] NAD is the oldest and it's supposed to represent the Deaf community all over, okay? NAD is really run by mostly Jewish Deaf people. By Jewish Deaf people. They got a government grant at that time because they had a Senator from Illinois whose brother was Deaf, so he tapped all the other Senators to support this program. That's how Gallaudet College got their money from the government, and also Howard University gets their money from them, and one more up in Wisconsin but that college closed. So they have to be careful. They can't anything against them or they'll get no money. I was told by NAD to start getting money so they had to get their own now. But NAD has their own building now and they expanded. So we hadn't gotten that far yet. I have no office, so whoever hosts the conference will have to raise money. Now, the National Association of the Deaf got scared because they saw that our chapter was growing. So their representives came in and watched, and they're welcome. And then they came to me. They wanted to see our bylaws. I said, No way. No way. Because they think we'd get better than them. They worried about it. Right now, we're doing very good. We bring in the government. We bring in the [inaudible passage] she is free, and we bring in hearing people from around the country, and we pay them to come. Now, this year it's in San Francisco house. They're hosting it. So Deaf people save their money and the hotel had to be aware of the American Disabilities Act, which means they had to put the flasher on the doors. Now all the hotels may not have that, but some hotels have that and train their staff. Some of the staff are being trained... Coffee, water... And the meeting room, how they set up for interpreters, the back screen had to be black because...
Mark Souther [01:08:12] What has to be black?
Paula Feher [01:08:12] The background has to be dark.
Charles Williams [01:08:18] Gray. Gray because the interpreters in white sign with their hands. If it's black they put up white. So, we pay them. They come from everywhere in the United States to our conference for one week, and we pay for the room and board and all that. And we did very good. We did very good.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:08:48] I think what he's also asking is, is the NAD serving the Black Deaf community now? What's the relationship?
Charles Williams [01:09:02] NAD saw what happened. They opened. When I visit [their office] I see Black secretaries working there who know sign language, I'll see that, but they're not doing enough. It's open though. They have a relationship. Like I'm a member of NBDA and I'm also a member of NAD, so that's how the system works. But they can't be a member of NBDA. [Laughs] [Responds to clarification] They can't vote, that's right.
Mark Souther [01:09:30] Let's take a break and resume in just a few minutes. [Break] We're resuming. It's still February 8th. Tell me about your family, your children, when they were born, and so on.
Charles Williams [01:10:07] I have two wonderful daughters. My oldest daughter Carla was born in 1982. My baby daughter Jessa was born in 1985, and both of them are hearing. Both of them graduated from Cleveland Heights High School, and my oldest daughter graduated from... She went to UD [University of Dayton] first, that's right. Four years there and then registered at Ohio State for her master's degree... MBA degree. Jessa, I don't know where she was. She went to too many schools. I know she graduated from Colorado State, but she went to KSU, then she went to Colorado State, then she went to ... Wright State. One year here, one year there, and then wound up in Colorado and got her degree, and now she's in California. But her son, Marcello, who happened to be nine years old. So that is my family, and my wife to whom I have been married for 38 years.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:12:21] Thirty-nine.
Charles Williams [01:12:23] And she is my helper all the time. Going on 39 years.
Mark Souther [01:12:32] How did you meet? Can you tell that story. How did you and Pat meet?
Charles Williams [01:12:40] I met with the young lady who's sitting next to you, Carla. She had gotten...
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:13:01] Paula!
Charles Williams [01:13:01] [Laughs] I'm getting beat up over here! Paula. Paula Marshall, at that time, she was working on her degree with Dr. Boros and we met at the workshop. And then before she graduated she was looking for a job, so she asked me to write a letter to the Cleveland Sight Center. I wrote a letter to... what's his name?
Paula Feher [01:13:38] Walter Boninger.
Charles Williams [01:13:46] I wrote a letter to him [crosstalk] and I was surprised. I was surprised they hired Carla off the bat. It took me by surprise. I mean Paula! I'm sorry! It's been long time. I've messed up with the speaking all day! [Laughs] So Paula wanted her people to learn sign language. Back in what year that?
Paula Feher [01:14:29] '75.
Charles Williams [01:14:32] 1975 at that time and I was still working for the Cuyahoga County Engineer. Then I volunteered to go to the Sight Center. Then I saw this lady come by. I didn't know who she was though.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:14:51] I came to the class.
Charles Williams [01:14:51] Yeah, she came to class. She had a hard time learning sign language. She had a hard time learning. [Laughs] [crosstalk] That's what Jay told me. Chuck, how are you bringing her? [Laughs]
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:15:10] I was your best student, Charles!
Charles Williams [01:15:16] You were. So, there were three other people in your time in the sign language class. So that's all the beginning. I'm very proud, because they have a program for Blind and Deaf people there once a month at that time. So the Cleveland Sight Center did a great job.
Mark Souther [01:15:40] Let's move into the story about the jury duty and how you served as a juror, and I'm not going to put too many words in your mouth. Please tell me about that.
Charles Williams [01:15:51] Well, what happened was my father made sure that me and my brothers and my three sisters voted for elections all the time. And I always voted and I'd never forget. I'd always vote. And I received a letter to report to the Board of Elections to register to be on the jury. When I went, and I they found out I was Deaf, I got turned down. They didn't know who I was because my father was already a judge there. So we had a conversation with another judge, and he told me, Is there any Deaf serving on a jury in this country? I said there's one serving in Philadelphia. He said, go get that information for me. Let me know and we'll see what happens. So I had to use my TTY phone and made a connection to Philadelphia. I got all that information. I was not going to mail it to him. I wanted to hand it to him. I gave him the letter. I wanted him to read it while I was there. And he said, Okay, you can serve on the jury. Then I reported the next day, and they hired Lori Morgan, was she married at that time? Morgan. Lori Morgan. She was an interpreter for me in court. I said no. Oh, yes, you can do it. So I said, she's proud. If I get some help. They put their hand up and wrote on the board, like a blackboard. So they rode down, knocked on the door. The bailiff came out and handed a note to the judge. The whole damn City Hall was rocking. "Chuck Williams! He's Deaf! He can't hear!" My father who was up there on the fourth floor was taken by surprise. "My son's the jury foreman?" He couldn't believe it. So I ran it pretty good, and she wrote pretty good. We found out that the kid was not guilty. So we went out and pushed the button. Ready. We went out and sat in our chairs. The man said, Mr. So-and-so, would you stand up? He stood up with his lawyer. The judge read the note. He said we found he's not guilty. The judge said, You're not guilty. Boy, he ran right out! [Laughs] Before we hired Lori Morgan, I was set back because Lori's name was involved, and the judge asked me, Do [you] know her? I said yes. He said, You date her? I said, No, I don't want to date her. She is a good friend of my wife. So while we were in the jury, they told one of the jurors, make sure that Chuck and her don't talk to each other because they think she would talk to me about something. Let the judge know about it. So she had to be really tight. I couldn't talk to her at all. They are watching. So there was a nice breakthrough. Two weeks, I stayed here. I had to get the check to my boss, the county engineer, because they kept me on the payroll. So that was the story. Well, I think I was the only Black Deaf juror but not the first. I think the person in Philadelphia, but in the state of Ohio, I don't know, I think I may be second. I'm not sure. It doesn't bother me though, but I'm happy that I served in Ohio. I wish I could do that again, but I was taken by surprise that I happened to be the foreman. [Responds to inaudible question from Pat, who inquires if it was Judge Burt Griffin.] He wanted to turn me down but he's the one that asked for the letter. That was him. He asked for the letter. You're right about Griffin.
Mark Souther [01:21:53] Tell me about the CloseUp Foundation. The CloseUp Foundation with Congressman Louis Stokes? When you were the senior intern for Louis Stokes. Is that right?
Charles Williams [01:22:26] CloseUp. What's that?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:22:26] The name of the foundation when you went to D.C. with Lou Stokes.
Charles Williams [01:22:31] Oh, for this... Yes. Yes. They called it CloseUp? I didn't know that. Lou Stokes picked me to represent the CloseUp Foundation. It was in Washington, D.C. And I really learned something there. I was taken by surprise because we went in that room where Trump and all those people were in there. And I was so sad. I looked around, and I saw this beautiful room and that was Close Up, and we people who were invited were talking to each other and we learned from questions and answers. They had an interpreter for me. And then we went down below the main floor, and I couldn't believe that it was something like a subway. You could get in there and it goes under the street and takes you to the cafeteria. The cafeteria under the White House. I couldn't believe what I saw. We went in there. We ate lunch in that big cafeteria. And that taught us a lot. While we were in the cafeteria eating, Loui Stokes and I talked about our time in the projects, when we were living in the projects. Then I looked over there behind him. There was another Congressman back there that I wanted to go up and shake hands to him because I liked him. That was a Congressman, well he was Vice President [of] the United States... Biden. I met him. He was eating alone. He was well-known. Stokes and I talked about the old days and growing up, and what I'm doing for a living. I thanked him for inviting me here. I learned a lot that was under the White House. I couldn't believe that. Boy, I went around and I mean I enjoyed everything I learned growing up, but when you step outside and look at the White House, you can't believe tha.t you see detectives up on top of the roof with their [inaudible] glasses. And you see the trees with [inaudible] around, and you see the fences. But I stayed there for one week and then I went up to the Senators' office. I was on the floor. I said something, but I forgot what I said, but I said something. But Stokes said, I heard a lot of good things about what you said. And I said, Well, I'm always outspoken anyway, so that was it. The reason was I was like my father. My father taught me how to speak up. If you have something to say, say it. Because I grew up as a hearing person, and I knew the answer, but my teacher or professor looked the other way. And I happened to be the only Black kid in the classroom. I put my hand up and I put my hand up. I keep putting my hand up. I told dad about it. My dad said, Hey, speak up! I so say, Hey, I will over here. He said, Oh, I didn't see you. And I gave the answer and then he turned around and said, Charles, please stand up. I stood up and took the book and read in front of the classroom. I got caught because I could not pronounce those words when I read the book. So he got back at me. [Laughs] I'd like to throw the book and hit him on the head! I stood up and when I came to those long vocabulary words, I had to go around them, so he said Charles, what's the other word? He didn't know, but I enjoyed him. Then I lost my hearing and Ihad to go all over again because I didn't know sign language. I had to go to another school and therefore now I look back on my life, I'd rather be Deaf instead of be hearing. It's a beauty because I went through that. I look back at how my friends treated me and how the police came to my house and said I'd shot somebody. And my father said no. My son never goes on the west side. So I found out my friend blamed me for something. That was it. No more hearing friends. The only hearing friends I've got is my two daughters and my wife. [Laughs] I didn't have my breath, Paula, give me time! [Laughs] Paula and her husband, Bruce, and my preacher. But above all, my grandsons included too.
Mark Souther [01:28:16] Let me ask you your opinion on cochlear implants... that are now available. Let me frame the question more. As someone who has spent most of your life in the Deaf community, how do you feel about this use of technology and what are the implications of it for the future of people to have the experience of being in a Deaf community? Is that too...
Paula Feher [01:28:56] So are you still talking about the cochlear implants or general technology?
Mark Souther [01:29:00] Yeah, well, that specific technology or any others that may come along that may enable hearing. What are the implications of this for the Deaf community?
Charles Williams [01:29:20] Well, I will be honest with you. This is the biggest racket going on. For me, when I have a hearing aid on, it busts my ears and builds up wax. And there are so many tones I hadn't related to. And I don't know how my tone is to a woman's tone. Mine could be high and yours could be low, but the style would be different. It would sound like a man or woman. And you develop a what? Well, people have other sickness, a hearing aid is not good for them. It's not good for them. It drives them crazy. But the people who sell them don't know that. Okay? When the implant came out, I'm old, why should I have that? You have to go through so many channels. So, I have questioned a lot of my friends who have that. They have other disabilities. One who has cancer. Cancer in the [inaudible]. I learned that once they put wiring in there and look for different channels for you. You had to be balanced so that you have a hard time going on the plane. You have a hard time going anywhere. You have to show them a special business card type to get in. But [with] this hearing [aid], you had to put the wire down in the ear. If you're normal that's fine. But once that wire goes down in there, you take it off.
Paula Feher [01:31:16] Surgery.
Charles Williams [01:31:19] So for older people... It's not good for me. Now, for the older people now that who've been in the war, who get older and they were having a little bit of hearing loss, now, that's very common. For example, my father's hearing, he had no problem. He'd been a judge all his life. No, noise, no, nothing. Okay? Normal. Then my sister says, Dad's hard of hearing. I said, What? The music's too loud. I said, What? He didn't work around where all that noise is. He worked in the courthouse, so I went and turned the volume down. He gave me hell. He said, What did you turn it down for? I said, Dad, you can't hear. He said, Oh, I can hear, I can hear. Why don't you get a hearing test done? He said I hear everything. So now you go anywhere. Restaurant, bar, anywhere. You look back, you see a lot of older people have new things in the back of their ear. That's a hearing aid. Six thousand dollars spent on it. You're supposed to have one, but they convince to wear two for balance. You wear one, you're off balance. That would happen to a lot of my Deaf friends. Policemen were ticketing them for not driving the car, right. I said, What? They said the policemen... No, my hearing aid...
Mark Souther [01:33:02] Throws off their balance.
Charles Williams [01:33:03] It's not easy for a Deaf person. I mean, it's good for people who are born now--for the baby--because the language is not there for them, and they're picking it up. But for older people like me, if I am sick, if I have [inaudible] or if I have cancer or something, I'm not going to want to got through that. That's for the people who are... The question is, if you listen to music, you listen to all the noise, and I can't explain that to you because I told you, if I go to Starbucks, if I go to a restaurant, or I go anywhere, baseball, there are more people over the age of 55 who are wearing those small, little things in their ear. Like Paula has one. Paula, let me see yours. How long does the battery last?
Paula Feher [01:34:09] When it needs charged, I stick it in the charger at night.
Charles Williams [01:34:10] Oh, really?
Paula Feher [01:34:11] And it charges.
Charles Williams [01:34:12] You see that? Look at that.
Paula Feher [01:34:13] So it'll continue for maybe one year before I need a new battery.
Charles Williams [01:34:18] Oh, really?
Paula Feher [01:34:21] I don't use the charger, like when I travel, I bring regular batteries and they last about one week.
Charles Williams [01:34:30] How did you happen to lose your hearing then?
Paula Feher [01:34:31] It's just... My grandmother, my dad, just...
Charles Williams [01:34:37] See that? That's how they go. But the problem is so... [Laughs at inaudible comment] I'll be honest with you. I've been teaching 25 years, teaching sign language, and you won't believe how many students come to me after class and say, I'm wearing a hearing aid. You can't see it. Like Paula's, you can't see it. I couldn't believe it. I mean, it's just general, that's all.
Mark Souther [01:35:13] Okay. I'd like to ask next about the story about how you got your diploma from OSD, Ohio School for the Deaf.
Charles Williams [01:35:29] Well, I got that...
Mark Souther [01:35:31] That was belated.
Charles Williams [01:35:32] That's later because I was the only Black kid at my school of two hundred something. And that's high school, so I went there late because I was at Benedictine School here at that time. So I transferred to Columbus, which they felt that I should have come there earlier. I only went there for a couple of years. And in high school, I happened to be the only Black there. And it was hard for me to get along with everybody at that time, but I didn't know sign language. So, I was in twelfth grade. I went eleventh from twelfth [and] then I played football and basketball, and finally we were permitted to go off campus, to go across the street or go downtown. We were on High Street... We were four... five blocks from downtown. The old school. The new school moved way out off of 71. And it's really old. It's from K up to 12. Everything is woods. You even had a swimming pool there. It was Town Street, thank you. Town and High Street. I just happened to go out walking in the alley. My superintendent's car was in the garage. And the kids from the eighth grade and eleventh grade hated him. So they opened up the garage door and damaged his tire and cut the engine belt off, and I was standing there. [Laughs] I was standing there when he was coming out. He was coming out to go to his car. And he saw me. Everybody ran away. So I walked back to my dorm and the kid was telling me, Don't tell my name! Don't tell my name! My mother will get angry. So he sent his housekeeper to come to take them to the office. I walked in the office. He signed. He's hearing but he can sign. He said, "Who damaged the car?" [I said,] "I don't know. I don't even know who." [He said,] "You won't tell me? Then we'll send you home." [I said,] "I did nothing wrong." [He said,] "Well, you tell me who damaged the car." I said, "I don't know. I don't know." I was protecting them because I didn't want them to get in trouble with [their parents], so that was my big mistake. He said, "You got home now." I packed my clothes, drove to the Greyhound bus sation, paid for it... Opened the door, and my father was shocked. [He said,] "What are you doing home?" I got blamed for something I didn't do. So he drove back to Columbus [and] talked to the superintendent. My father gave him language words. He couldn't understand a damn thing that my father said. So, I couldn't come back. I couldn't go to college because of my skin. And that was the story. And that kid who told me don't give his name, but he's the one that had a part in cutting the fan belt off. After years I'd bump into him, and he'd say, "Thanks." I'd say, "Thanks for what? I didn't get my graduation degree [because of] you." And he'd tell me thank you. He was living in Florida at that time. He bought a boat. He became a fisherman. Two years later he died. I said, that's his punishment. So, I don't know. I got a call from the superintendent. Not this one. Another superintendent who replaced him? His name's Ed Corbett. Is that right? Ed Corbett called me on VP [voice phone] and asked me to come and give a keynote speech to the graduation. So, my wife and I drove down to Columbus. He gave me some papers to read and that set me up. I gave my presentation to the college kids who were graduating. And I was so happy. Then all of a sudden I saw Paula. That woman over there is not Paula! [Laughs] I said your name right this time! You should be happy. [Laughs] I saw Paula, and I said, Look! And then saw my daughters sitting there. I almost cried. Tearing were coming down. And my wife never told me because she came down with me. So after graduating, Ed gave me my gown and cap and I looked back and said I'm very happy from the school that I didn't have the opportunity to graduate with them and go out and party with them. So that was the beginning of the next step to getting into college. I got turned down because I was not white enough. So I have gone through a lot of [successful] things in life. I thank my father, who educated me to do it. Don't let them stop you because I wrote letters explaining that I had done what they requested. But they accepted me because of the letter that I wrote to them. I got away with all that and I thought was the best way to get turned around. Write a letter, see what they say. Not what you read or hear. Let them know what you really want. So that's what happened. If I write a letter to Patricia, she'd fire me! [Laughs] Oh, boy!
Mark Souther [01:43:17] [Responding to note suggesting another question to ask] That's where I was going next. Just making sure I wasn't missing anything. Tell me about Gallaudet University.
Charles Williams [01:43:34] What happened, there was a man named Andrew Foster, who came from Alabama. He became a preacher. He went to Gallaudet, but I wrote a letter. And I got turned down with the letter I wrote to graduate from Ohio School for the Deaf. So Andrew Foster came here every week as a preacher. And he was living in Chicago, Illinois. He was a Baptist preacher, and he tried to educate us to be involved with the church. He served a very, very [inaudible] person. And he got into Gallaudet College and they told him that he'd be acceptable if he learned how to read lips.
Mark Souther [01:44:42] He would be what?
Paula Feher [01:44:48] Acceptable.
Mark Souther [01:44:48] Acceptable? Okay.
Charles Williams [01:44:49] I couldn't believe that. I couldn't believe that was happening and they said something different to me. So he went back to Flint, Michigan, to Michigan School for the Deaf. Twenty-two years old with all the young kids there. Learn how to read lips. That was the excuse for him. So I moved on. For some reason he went back and got into the University. He went through three years while the others went through four or five years, but during his time there he seemed like he was the only Black Deaf [person] there. When he came back, he saw rats in his bed. He saw many things that they tried to [do to] get back at him. That didn't bother him. He moved on. He graduated in three years while the others graduated in five years. Then he went to a university in Michigan. I forgot the name of that school. He graduated from there. Then he went to Africa. He set up almost thirty schools for the Deaf in Africa. He got a grant from the government there. Some of them turned him down. So now most African kids went to Gallaudet. Smart! They got their Ph.D. I dropped my jaw. I said, you want to have a Black Deaf... He said, "Chuck. I'm not Black, I'm African!" [Laughs] "I'm African, I'm not Black." I couldn't believe I heard that word. They had their own organization. I'm African, and I don't care what you say, I'm African. That's news to me, but they all graduated. I haven't seen [inaudible]. It's very nice to hear that. These are things I'm learning. I'm learning, I'm picking them up. I wrote a letter to invite King to come to Cleveland to give a presentation. Then the Hearing and Speech Center interrrupted and used him for the morning. I was angry with that. So King came. I picked him up. I rented a Lincoln and drove it to the hotel. He gave his presentation, spoke, and I had a very big poster written up for money he donated to the university. But that said $10,000, but he was supposed to be getting $100,000 from the Society for the Deaf. They give that every year until it's paid off. King was at a hotel downtown on 9th Street. And he runs all the time, he jogs. He jogged all the way down to 55th Street from 9th Street. I could believe! Boy, he runs all the time. So he went back. But then I know I got a letter asking me if I would be on the Board of Trustees.
Mark Souther [01:48:44] This is [I.] King Jordan. Can you explain more about [I.] King Jordan, who he was?
Charles Williams [01:48:56] He is a hearing person. He was in the Navy. He was a Messenger. Driving mail back and forth from the headquarters. He'd go past the university. Look at it. He'd drive past with his motorcycle driving things back and forth. Then he got in an accident. He lost part of his hearing, so he wound up going to Gallaudet. So he would teach there. But nobody wanted to run for president at Gallaudet at that time. They put so many names up. The woman was hearing. Wealthy. She had money. But they want her out. They want the Big D. King was not the Big D because could talk. He had a little bit of hearing loss at that time. Well, they couldn't find the Big D so the gates were locked up. When King went through the interview, they finally picked him to be president after that. For some reason, when he came to Cleveland, he saw me. He saw how I was performing the program here. He looked at me. He went back and told the board that there's a Black man in Cleveland, Ohio. Well, let's put him on the board of trustees because the board didn't have enough who were Black. There was only one. And they had one hearing woman. So they came back and met at the hotel by the airport, ate lunch. He had a stack of papers. He was going to read it to me. I said forget it, I don't want to be bothered with those papers. If you want me, I'll go, but I have to ask my wife first. She approved it. If she didn't... [Laughs] I would anyway! So I went, and I was on the airplane there. They picked me up, brought me to the hotel, gave me my room, and all that. I was like, wow, first class, everything. I was treated great. And I couldn't get into school here. But I had power then. I controlled everything, but I did it my way. They two or three people who were wealthy who donated money, and I didn't give any money. And they told those who couldn't afford it should give $25 or $100 just to put their name on [inaudible]. That wasn't a problem with me. We brought up in groups, so I was involved in a project. And then I saw where the professionals didn't like King, but they had their own group. And King was alone. And they wanted a Big D to be president. It was too late. He already got nominated. I saw the battle. I got up and told them, loud and clear, "If you can't support King, the door's right there." He got elected, you have to work together. King looked at me [and] almost wet his pants. He couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe that I'd stand up and support him. I went back to my room, and he came banging on the door and gave me a hug and held me tight. Because I spoke up. I mean, they couldn't find the Big D. He got the job. All right. He made a lot of changes. I served on the board for 13 years and I ran a board meeting one time through Chairperson Glen Anderson, who was Chairperson. He was Black. He had a Ph.D. He couldn't come to that meeting and turned it over to me, so I ran for one day. I had power sitting there and running it. So I enjoyed myself. I saw a kid doing drugs. Oh, I saw that kid doing drugs, and they got punished. I got upset because they didn't punish the white kids, they punished Black kids. [Gestures audibly in suggestion of the punishment] I learned, because of my father. If it weren't for my father, I wouldn't be there. My father taught me well. I'd been in the courts. Saw this and saw that. I'm very happy that I didn't graduate from Gallaudet but I'm still a part of it. Look over there. [Points to photo of himself with President Bill Clinton]
Mark Souther [01:54:45] Tell me about your... [crosstalk].
Charles Williams [01:54:47] I talked to Clinton. See Clinton up there. I talked to him, I went up to him and told him... He didn't know sign language... and told him to give them an "I love you" like that. I approached him in a hallway, two detectives had their robe, opened it up, put their gun on me. Secret Service agent. Like that. But he sat down, both of them sat down. They were in the hallway waiting for him to go up on stage. I went up to him, and I talked to him, and he was surprised. He went up and gave signs to her. It was good. So Carol, you don't know... she's Black. She's the one who gave the present to meup there in blue. I fell down on my knees. I couldn't believe that I got a Ph.D. And I cried. They gave me a bottle of water Boy, it made my day. How she knew so much about me, I don't know.
Mark Souther [01:55:58] This was 2008 and this is a Doctor of Humane Letters from Gallaudet University. Let's turn to some of your work teaching. I know you've taught at Baldwin-Wallace and also at Cleveland State. Have you taught in any other places besides those or were these the two?
Charles Williams [01:56:47] I taught at Akron University with my wife and Peggy Lee at night. And that's the beginning. Then I taught private... Pat's office was out in, where was your office?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:57:04] East 28th [and Euclid] in Cleveland.
Charles Williams [01:57:08] In Cleveland? I thought it was.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:57:11] At Euclid and then in Mayfield Heights.
Charles Williams [01:57:12] OK. Mayfield Heights. And then I taught at the...
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:57:23] Cleveland Heights Community Services. [Note: Many years before.]
Charles Williams [01:57:26] The YMCA, what do you call that building downtown? No. You just gave it to me a little while ago. I taught at that building where the YMCA where the man fell off and killed himself.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:57:48] Harbor Light?
Charles Williams [01:57:48] Yeah, Harbor Light. I taught the five staff people out there. I taught them. Then I taught at the Wiley Elementary School at night from...
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:58:02] Wiley.
Charles Williams [01:58:03] Right. I taught there at night. That was a program from the Cleveland Heights program. Then I taught private to an old lady in her home. An old lady. I saw the green car parked there. [Laughs]
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:58:43] She got hit in the head with a golf ball. Then she lost her hearing.
Charles Williams [01:58:50] I did a lot of teaching there. A lot. So now I replaced a person from Baldwin-Wallace. I've been out there for 24 1/2 years until now. They're downsizing, so I'm not teaching this semester. I'm teaching at Cleveland State now. I replaced you, didn't I, or Lori? Who did I replace? You? I replaced you. So I got this one step in, no applications. But the students... I'll be honest with you, so many students [wear a] hearing aid. They wear [it in their] hair, so you can't see it. But after they take their test they come up and say I'm sorry. And I say, It isn't over yet. If you have a disability, go to the office. Get your papers. Then you can take the test alone. Two minutes, but they don't want to be labeled that they have a hearing problem. They don't want to be labeled. And I mean, I see so many of them in my 24 years. I see some disabilities. I've seen students in a wheelchair who can't put up their hand, and the rich person who brings them in. He or she is getting a free lesson. Taking advantage of her, using her. I got mad with that. She couldn't put up her hand. There's a lot of cheating going on to get in. And I have senior citizens who go in line but don't get grades. It's free for that.
Mark Souther [02:00:36] Project 60.
Charles Williams [02:00:37] Right. Right. You're right about that. Then I taught the...
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:00:45] Muslims.
Charles Williams [02:00:49] They were not permitted to go visit when I'd send them to Deaf clubs or to the church. They were not permitted to go. This was against their religion, but she was right there, and she pulled it [her burka] up and put food in her mouth, pulled it down. But very good with the alphabet. When it was time to take the test, she brought her husband. Her husband was telling me that his wife was not permitted. I put my hand out and had to snap it down because you couldn't shake his hand. It was against his religion. And I'm glad I only had that just one time. Nobody else told me that. But the dominance from them has grown at Cleveland Heights. You should see that.
Mark Souther [02:01:36] Say that again? I missed...
Charles Williams [02:01:37] The dominance of Asian people at Cleveland Heights.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:01:42] Asian and Arab.
Charles Williams [02:01:45] A lot of them. Four or five in a pack. They talk and whisper. You never know what's going to happen. Cleveland State is doing a lot for them. They're coming from all over. And you see the women driving their car. They can't drive it in their home, their country. Now the door's open. But you have to learn how to deal with them. I'll be honest with you. I had a sign language class over there. One of the women who taught sign language, and there was an older man there, all the others were young. She told him to sign. He refused. They told him to leave classroom. He refused, so the girls got scared and walked out in the hallway and called the police. At the same time, one of them came into my classroom and said, "She wants to see you." So I walked over and I looked. And she's standing there telling me, "Will you please leave?" [inaudible] I said, Will you come in? He said, "Who in the hell are you?" So I backed off. And I turned around. Five policeman. Not from CSU. Five policemen came and explained to them, so he came out. I said, what happened after that? So the next day he came to my boss's office. "If I don't pass, you know what's next." She got so scared. She went told them, "Pass him, move on." So I learned something. If I do have somebody bad in my room, move on. It's not like the old days anymore. Move on. [inaudible passage]. You be careful.
Mark Souther [02:04:09] Let's talk about your involvement in, well, leading up to your involvement at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights going back to your earlier involvement in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese.
Charles Williams [02:04:31] Was I involved with what?
Mark Souther [02:04:34] Well, just your involvement over the years in the diocesan and national levels of the Episcopal Church.
Charles Williams [02:04:45] Well, I was involved... I go to all the meetings, I go to the National Conference. We sat up in front. We did very good. And one of the pastors was interested in hearing me sign "All Things Bright and Beautiful," the song. I sang that with my hands in front of three thousand delegates. Isn't that right? So that was interesting. We have an ECD, that's Deaf...
Paula Feher [02:05:28] Episcopal Conference of the Deaf.
Mark Souther [02:05:28] Episcopal Conference of the Deaf.
Charles Williams [02:05:32] That's for Deaf people. Yes. That's their own national... and it's mostly Deaf people from around the country. They have their conference in a different city and state. They came to Cleveland and they hosted it at Baldwin-Wallace, and I'm surprised. They hosted it at Baldwin-Wallace. They hosted it for one week. I'm so strong. I go to church every Sunday, never miss anything. [Pointing to a photo] Rev. Almo, the Deaf pastor, the man with the pipe. Rev. Almo. A-L-M-O. That's a long time ago. You've never met him? Oh, he's great. Deaf. Completely Deaf. He took me one Sunday to go downtown on the corner across the street from the May Company. At that time it was Clark's Restaurant. I was scared to go in because no Blacks were permitted to go in that restaurant. I went with him and sat down. I started sweating. There were all those people sitting around there. The waitress... because he ate there every Sunday... wrote what I wanted my food. And I kept looking and everybody had their eyes on me. And he had on his black coat and vest and that, the glasses. I talked to him in sign language. It didn't bother me. It was on Sunday. Boy, I got that kind of experience.
Mark Souther [02:07:17] That kind of what?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:07:18] Experience.
Charles Williams [02:07:27] And Jay Croft... Bishop Arthur Williams. Bishop Arthur Williams said, "Who's this here?".
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:07:27] We went to St. Agnes and then St. Philip and St. Andrews.
Charles Williams [02:07:42] Oh, yeah, St. Philip and St. Andrews. I said friends. Andrew was in the Army.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:07:51] Father Bob Andrews.
Charles Williams [02:07:55] He was in the military, wasn't he?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:07:59] He was in the church army. Captain.
Charles Williams [02:08:04] Was he Captain? [crosstalk]
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:08:15] We were the only full-time aided mission for Deaf people.
Mark Souther [02:08:20] St. Agnes was?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:08:21] St. Agnes. And we worshiped at St. Philip and Andrew.
Charles Williams [02:08:24] Yeah, there used to be over 100 members before everything went down.
Paula Feher [02:08:33] And when we got involved there through Chuck, that's how we met Jay, I think, right?
Charles Williams [02:08:36] Yeah, that's right.
Paula Feher [02:08:39] Jay Croft, who was the Deaf priest.
Mark Souther [02:08:42] So, so this... The size dwindled. And is that what led to St. Paul's becoming the place where you went?
Charles Williams [02:08:54] Right. You have to understand that the Deaf community has gone down. Everyone's passing. Right now the kids that are born now are...
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:09:02] Implanted.
Charles Williams [02:09:04] I'm hearing. So there are fewer Deaf kids now, and things are changing. There'll be more and more babies who are born and who are Deaf. Then they send a person in who educated them that it will be good for the parents. [Responding to a note from Pat] Oh, she wanted to make a point there. We got married at St. Paul's, Cleveland Heights.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:09:40] Because it was accessible. That's why we used St. Paul's. And then when our congregation dwindled, we moved to St. Paul's as a congregation.
Paula Feher [02:09:53] Well, because it closed.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:09:53] Because they closed the church.
Mark Souther [02:09:55] So St. Paul's already... How long had St. Paul's been accessible at that point? How did that happen?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:10:04] Well, the diocese had what was called Disabilities Outreach Network under Bishop Grew and, sorry, first with Bishop Moody.
Paula Feher [02:10:18] Right. And his wife.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:10:19] And then his wife Penny set that up because of her experience with disabilities and people with disabilities. And so at that time, then Bishop Williams got elected. Then we used St. Paul's because we had friends who were in wheelchairs and wanted them to come to our wedding ceremony. That was with Nick White at the time. So we got married in 1981.
Mark Souther [02:10:47] So when you said accessible, you mean in that sense rather than serving the Deaf community.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:10:52] Right. Just because they had an elevator and people in wheelchairs could get in and enjoy the ceremony with us.
Mark Souther [02:11:00] I see. When we did the program that currently exists now with interpreters--like the two of you are there--when did that start?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:11:11] As soon as we moved there.
Paula Feher [02:11:12] Yeah.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:11:13] So that was about... in 2003. Probably a good... 2000, the year 2000. 2000 is when we affiliated with St Paul's Church.
Charles Williams [02:11:26] We moved to St. Paul's. We had a conference at the hotel downtown, and we had no church to go [to] at that time. So I presented to all those delegates.
Paula Feher [02:11:47] Diocesan Convention.
Charles Williams [02:11:48] And I was crying because I heard we had no place to go. So I walked out in the lobby. A few of them came out. You're welcome to our church. But I prefer St. Paul's because we get married there. The reason we got married there is because there was, who is the Rector at that time when we got married? Who was it?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:12:13] Nick White. Nick White was the priest, the Rector.
Charles Williams [02:12:20] You remember that? He looked sharp, right?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:12:27] When our church closed, we went to a cluster concept on the West side with St. Luke's, St. John's, so on and so forth. Then most of us lived on the East Side and after we got married, we said, why don't we just stay on the East Side? So we asked St. Paul's if we could.
Paula Feher [02:12:47] Well, actually, I remember at that conference where we talked about that different churches were offering...
Charles Williams [02:12:53] Right. Right.
Paula Feher [02:12:54] And asking us if we wanted to come to their church. And we decided on St. Paul's.
Charles Williams [02:13:01] When we went to St. Paul's, we had to turn over our big lump of money that we collected on Sunday, and we had to take it downtown to the headquarters church and sign it over to them. That money is being printed away until in the future the Deaf community grows again and then they'll use that help pay for the interpreters.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:13:19] But St. Agnes had a 100-year history. And of course, if you know the history of the Episcopal Church with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and others, you know, we just had a presentation last week at the Adult Forum with Reverend Mann. Brian Wilbert, who's a historian and archivist gave a presentation about that. So the Episcopal Church was very instrumental in founding the religion and catering to Deaf people. So St. Agnes, it celebrated 100 years.
Charles Williams [02:13:56] That's right.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:13:58] So we've we've been a stronghold for many years, but we were no longer canonically viable so we asked to join St. Paul's.
Charles Williams [02:14:12] I'm happy I got a church.
Mark Souther [02:14:18] Is St. Agnes still within... It's completely gone?
Charles Williams [02:14:23] The name's gone.
Mark Souther [02:14:24] So when it went to St. Paul's, it became part of St. Paul's.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:14:27] We were under the aegis of Bishop Williams and he was in charge of congregational life. So we were the only full-time aided mission for Deaf people. And then we were incorporated into the life of St Paul's.
Paula Feher [02:14:47] When it closed, did both St Philip's and us close at the same time I think, right?
Mark Souther [02:14:56] What do you like most about St. Paul's?
Charles Williams [02:15:01] Everybody's friendly. They come up to you. Good morning! I appreciate it. The children smile and wave in your face. We have a special table where we sit around church service, sit around. [inaudible] go to the special meeting in Tucker Hall down below. We want to talk about different projects and programs [inaudible]. And then we a front seat for us to sit in front that they know, don't touch that, that's for Deaf each week. So we have to grow. But the problem is it's difficult to [inaudible] to let people know because... Of course, the other churches, the Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and all those people, so we have to them on their shoulders and say that we have service here. That's very hard, very difficult, but we do have Deaf who are members of our church who refuse to come. They live way out on the West Side and they had no car, no transportation. And that's very sad. So they'll say, I can't come anymore. I have a [inaudible]. Goodbye. So I think more publicity will help. But we can't get that. Same thing at West 14, the Catholic Church, same thing because [crosstalk] Lorain forced out the Hunger Center. You see, every year, you see Sister Corita, who's been doing a lot of work for the Hunger Center. Their preacher Father Joe, he's over 75 now, he has to leave. Who's going to replace him who knows sign language, so it's hard to find someone. And Deaf members are [saying], Where are you? I tried to tell the people times change. Everything changes in time. It's not like the old days anymore.
Mark Souther [02:17:30] Is there anything else you'd like to add or that we've missed that... I know we've missed something. And then we have a list of the many awards that you've won. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about some of those?
Charles Williams [02:17:53] If I can remember them.
Mark Souther [02:17:56] We have a list right here. It's actually... There's two. Well, you can look, refresh your memory. It starts at the bottom of...
Charles Williams [02:18:14] Awards. Community College Black Caucus Award. Salute to Black Cleveland. Greater Cleveland. Interchurch Council by Rev. Joan Campbell. You know Joan Campbell? She's in Washington now. I can't pronounce Jones' first name.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:18:45] Absalom Jones.
Charles Williams [02:18:47] He's real famous. He's world famous. Black and Deaf in America: Are We That Different? Linwood Smith Award. [crosstalk] Then there's the Deaf Senior Citizen Award. Bill Cosby. You Bet Your Life.
Mark Souther [02:19:13] Tell me about the book that... We went over it too quickly. Black and Death in America: Are We Really That Different?
Charles Williams [02:19:21] This book is by Linwood Smith. I don't know him. He came after me. We met at the conference in Washington, D.C. He heard about my name. We talked together. And, let me see if I can find his picture. I'll find it. He is totally Deaf. You wouldn't believe it. He invited me to Washington, D.C., and I stayed one night over at his apartment. I can't find it [the photo]. I stayed one night at his apartment. You see that wall right there? You see that wall over there? It's in this living room--an old book. Used book from Goodwill, all of them. [Looking at books and photos] That's me. Where's Linwood Smith? He is well known. He wrote poems, and he's completely Deaf. He got killed. His life was shortened by going to a Deaf club. He had to park his car on the street, and while he was walking, going to the Deaf club, he got hit by a car and flipped over and got killed. Yeah, that's him.
Paula Feher [02:21:27] Did he ever come to Cleveland?
Charles Williams [02:21:32] No, no, no, no, no, no. Boy, he really was smart. Had a short lifetime, but... His poems... He wrote everything.
Mark Souther [02:21:52] I noticed in Linwood Smith's bio here it mentions Cal State Northridge. And that reminded me we didn't talk about Project DAWN.
Charles Williams [02:22:14] Project DAWN was in California. He didn't make it. I made my Project DAWN. I wrote a letter, and my father thought I couldn't make. I was happy that I went. They taught me everything that I should do to help the Deaf community to get [a] GED and set up the program for them. When I came back from California, I went to the board of education and I discussed that with them, so they set up a mountain of the money [with] which I hired my sister and two Deaf men and used St. John's Church downtown on 9th Street. We used a room down there and signed up... I still have the big red book down in the basement, but all those people who signed up to class... 80 percent to 90 percent worked at the post office, so it was very successful. And I'm happy that the state school system would provide that money to us because I went one and one, know how to have a conversation with them down at the [inaudible] . That was really great. That was called Project DAWN. So many of the people do not [inaudible] but they put a limit on the numbers. I think I've been here and I've been picked up. I thank God for how he led me through life that way. It was strange. I look back but I'm happy because I had [inaudible] show model when I bought my first house, and they came to me. I [inaudible] it's mine, it's mine. They didn't understand. They thought they had to live in the apartment, so they bought a house, they bought a house, they bought a house--spread all out. My house is paid off. [Laughs] It's not about paying it off, but you got a good job at the post office. But I trained special people who couldn't pass the test. And I told the [inaudible] person, you promoted me. I made sure they passed. So he gave me two weeks. The mother and her husband, her husband, who was at the Plain Dealer. He was the artists for the sports for the Plain Dealer paper. He lived in Forest Hill off of East Cleveland. He thanked me.. Thank you, thank you, my daughter finally got a job working at the Post Office. And my ex-wife passed. And I passed four women who couldn't pass the first time. So they all worked at the Post Office, all had cars. Which means... I learned those skills. I learned how to get through that. So I was very proud of what I did. Now what else you want to write? [inaudible] Whose stepson retired? Whose stepson? Oh, my stepson [name inaudible], Where's the picture over there? My stepson that's from my first wife. She's Deaf. She's from Memphis, Tennessee. She has two boys, hearing, and both of them were born in Memphis, Tennessee, and the father is Deaf, but he wasn't really educated. So Ronnie grew up and he wanted to come to Cleveland to be with his mother, who's my first wife, so we sent him and he graduated from Shaw High School. The second boy Melvin didn't want to come. He wanted to be with his grandma. So the family's split up. So Ronnie joined the Army. He went to war. He got shot in the leg.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:27:07] Now that you're retired, what are you doing?
Charles Williams [02:27:14] Who? Me? I haven't retired yet.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:27:19] How do you spend your free time?
Charles Williams [02:27:23] How do I spend my free time? I go to Starbucks with my daughter and talk to my Deaf friends and go to my exercise at the Rec. It's free.
Mark Souther [02:27:36] Which Starbucks do you go to?
Charles Williams [02:27:40] On Cedar and Warrensville. At five o'clock. Come join me!
Mark Souther [02:27:41] At five o'clock in the morning? [crosstalk] Are you kidding?
Charles Williams [02:27:55] My friend...
Mark Souther [02:27:56] That's a kind invitation, but I'm afraid I'm not going to make it that early in the morning.
Charles Williams [02:27:58] My friend is Deaf. He's from Tennessee. Lives down on Mayfield, [inaudible] 101 years old. Big Ray. 91, I mean, 92, 92 years old. He can't turn his head. He walks with a long cane, but he drives great. He drives straight.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [02:28:35] [inaudible question]
Charles Williams [02:28:37] Bob Fleck? He's another one who's 92 years old. He lives in Euclid, Ohio. It's hard for him to get out though, but he stays with [inaudible].
Paula Feher [02:28:50] He comes often on Sunday. Not this much.
Charles Williams [02:28:56] Bob Fleck. He worked at TRW. He put his years in. He had three kids, two hearing boys and one hearing girl. They all live in Florida, except his older son lives here. Who, Bob Fleck taught him?
Paula Feher [02:29:21] We were sitting at a conference that my professor sent me to with Dolly, he's sitting right here and he's teaching me to sign meat and potatoes.
Charles Williams [02:29:30] Oh, he taught you? That's great, that's nice, that's good.
Paula Feher [02:29:37] Yes. We have a long history.
Charles Williams [02:29:40] He graduated from Ohio School for the Deaf, but never went to college. I don't know why.
Paula Feher [02:29:43] I'm really going to need to get going.
Mark Souther [02:29:52] Is there anything, any parting words, anything you'd like to say?
Charles Williams [02:29:57] I want to thank my wife for making notes. I want to thank Paula for filling in for [Lori] Morgan Harris. And I want to thank you for putting up with me for three weeks.
Mark Souther [02:30:13] I want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
Charles Williams [02:30:16] Okay, I hope we can combine everything and put it together because my wife will correct it on her iPad or iPhone later and make it a story. So, that's almost half a page in my book.
Mark Souther [02:30:35] Mhm. Thank you very much.
Charles Williams [02:30:35] Okay
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"Charles V. Williams interview, 08 February 2020" (2020). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 999161.