Charles V. Williams is a longtime advocate for the Black Deaf community at both the local, state, and national levels. In this first of two interviews, he discusses losing his hearing as a child, growing up on Cleveland's East Side, early efforts to help Black Deaf newcomers to the city, working at Thompson Products and in the Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office, and campaigning for Carl Stokes for mayor.
Williams, Charles V. (interviewee); Harris, Lori (interpreter); Cangelosi-Williams, Pat (participant)
Souther, Mark (interviewer)
Mark Souther [00:00:01] Today is February 1st, 2020. My name is Mark Souther. I'm from Cleveland State University, representing the Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection, and I am with Mr. Charles V. Williams, or Chuck Williams, at his home in Cleveland Heights. Thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed. This is actually our second interview because we had a technical difficulty with our first one for which I am very, very sorry. So we're back, and we're hoping for a better morning today. Thank you for allowing us to do it.
Charles Williams [00:00:41] Thank you very much this morning for being so honest.
Mark Souther [00:00:45] Sure. My pleasure. Would you state your full name for our recording?
Charles Williams [00:00:52] My full name is Charles Victor Williams. They got that name from the Bible.
Mark Souther [00:01:01] Please tell me the year of your birth and tell me again about your parents.
Charles Williams [00:01:08] I was born March 25th, 1931. My father's name is Theodore Martin Williams and my mother's name is Irene Bass Williams. My mother came from Marietta, Ohio, with eleven, five brothers and six sisters. They call that Snaketown because there are a lot of snakes down in Marietta, Ohio.
Mark Souther [00:01:45] Where did they live when they came to Cleveland?
Charles Williams [00:01:53] Well, when they came here, my father told me he used to live in Lakewood, which you'd call Cleveland at that time, and living with his grandfather. For some reason, I was told that Cleveland moved across the bridge. But you have a horse trotting going down in the lower level and come up the upper level. Then that would be Cleveland, which would run into Superior, Euclid Avenue at that time.
Mark Souther [00:02:29] Do you know what your grandfather did for a living when he was living there?
Charles Williams [00:02:34] My grandfather? My grandfather worked for the train [railroads]. At that time he was working on the train. That's where his income was coming from until he retired.
Mark Souther [00:02:45] And what did your mother do?
Charles Williams [00:02:54] Well, that's one thing that was never told. My father and his father, that's all I know. I know nothing about my father's mother or anything like that during my time. I grew up with my grandfather, and on my mother's side, I grew up with my grandmother but [was] never told about my grandfather's side.
Mark Souther [00:03:22] When did they come to live in the Outhwaite Homes? Your father and mother and you?
Charles Williams [00:03:38] I don't know, they were already in Ohio at that time, but all I know they grew up in Ohio. Maybe I never had a chance to ask about their family or my mother's family side, but I haven't met all my mother's family side. I met them. Some lived in Canada during World War II because they didn't want to join the service at that time. Came back home when the war was over. So my father's side, all I know is that my grandfather was living with my father... with his son at time.
Mark Souther [00:04:17] How old were you when they moved to the Outhwaite Homes, the public housing project?
Charles Williams [00:04:30] Well, that's interesting, because I never know how old I was, but I was able to say around maybe seven, eight years old at that time when we moved in the project, and I never knew it was the project at all, but I knew I had a bed and bathroom at that time. I was never told that we were living in a government apartment at that time.
Mark Souther [00:05:08] It was home.
Charles Williams [00:05:13] Well, it was home, yeah. It was nice, because there was a man named James Lewis. He was deaf. He stayed with us. And his spouse are buried with Ted, my older brother, down at the Alexander Graham Bell School. At that time, a lot of older Deaf had responsibility of taking younger kids to school, but they'd go through the house to pick them up so the parents don't have to take them there. Everyone was responsible for that. But during my time, no one picked me up. I mean things changed because I knew my way.
Mark Souther [00:05:50] You were in school at Alexander Graham Bell School.
Charles Williams [00:05:54] I went to public school first. I went to Case-Woodland School at East 40th and Woodland. That's where I noticed I lost my hearing.
Mark Souther [00:06:08] So you had hearing when you were at Bell and then lost it, started to lose it...
Charles Williams [00:06:14] Oh, I was hearing, I was hearing, yeah. I was a normal kid then, and I noticed that my brother was Deaf but home signing, so I went to hearing school and talked with all the people and kids and all that. And I had fun though.
Mark Souther [00:06:36] Can you tell me about what it was like as you were losing your hearing, at home, such as around the dining table, conversations with family? How did...
Charles Williams [00:06:51] It was a big change and it was hard for me as a young kid. Things I couldn't do. Because a lot of famous people who were singers and all that. Hazel Scott, Frank Sinatra, and all, and I wanted to be a singer myself, you know. Because of what I saw, I wanted to be part of that, and I just grew up and told Dad that I wanted to be involved with music because I loved music. All the time, I'd stick my head down in the tape recorder, listen to music over and over and over a thousand times, even I was down in the basement. But I grew up a little bit disappointed, and I didn't really know I lost my hearing until I got slapped in the face though. That really bothers me.
Mark Souther [00:07:46] Can you tell me about that incident?
Charles Williams [00:07:48] Well, I was in Case-Woodland School, and I went home for lunch and one of the famous people there was Don King who was from the boxing days. He went to school there with me. But he was a bad boy at that time. And I went home. My mother gave me my lunch and I walked back to school. Went upstairs, like I said, and I saw the teacher writing on the blackboard, and I looked at the book that we all had and looked at the page, I looked down the pages, and my teacher came up and I was the last person sitting in the row. It was over 40 students at that time. We had a big class. I was surprised when I looked down and saw two white legs down and I looked up and she said, "Charles, did you hear me call you?" I said, "No." Boy, she slapped the hell out of me. I'm sorry I'm saying that word though, but I got up and walked home because my mother had taught if anybody hit you or touch you, you come straight home. That's exactly what I did. So my mother wanted to know why I got slapped, so we went back to school at that time and talked to the teacher and banged her out. And they was in the hallway where I was just hanging around, looking around. Then my mother tapped me on the shoulder, and it was the first time she ever tapped me on the shoulder. They'd always call my name out. Then asked me if I wanted to go take a hearing test. That was strange. I said, "Fine." Then we went over three blocks to Alexander Graham Bell School. It was recess at that time, and I saw all those kids talking with their hands and all that. Then I saw my brother out there in the field. So we went in, and I took that test and I was surprised I was 10 percent south of normal, and they gave me a hearing aid and battery and microphone and all. It bugs me like crazy, I hate it though, but my father made sure I wear it every morning when I go to school. That's where the trouble started.
Mark Souther [00:10:14] Tell me about what happened when you would wear the hearing aid to school. The trouble that you mentioned.
Charles Williams [00:10:24] Well, I was bullied. I was very bullied. People, the kids never saw somebody wearing a hearing aid, something like that there, and kept picking on me and pulled the cord out. My ear swelled up. I kept it to myself. I didn't say anything to my dad until things got worse, and I told him I couldn't take it anymore. So the [inaudible] came out, and my dad said, does he wear glasses? At that time a lot of kids were wearing glasses, during my time growing up. If you dropped them, the glass cracked. [inaudible] So he said take 'em. So that's where I had the strength to do that. When there was a class changing over, he come down, "Hey Chuck, what's the score?" I said, "I don't know." We had no backpack at that time. We had books with... You had to carry your books. So I dropped my books and I put him up. I didn't know I had that much power, but I never told my dad that I fought back. But I kept it to myself, but the kid screamed like, "Don't mess with Chuck now! He's very mad now. Leave him alone!" So I had no problem until I went back to class and sat down. That's when the teacher told me, "Go in the office." I said, "For what?" "Go in the office." She said picked up the phone, called me, go in the office, so I walked in the office. That was at East Tech High School. So, they told me I couldn't come to class the next day or anything like that. They told my father and mother and never told me the reason why, but that was it. But before I went to East Tech, I went Benedictine School because my whole family, my mother's family, all went to Catholic school. But my brother couldn't go because he was hearing. So I went to Benedictine that time. I was so excited when I went to Benedictine. I had no problem because there were six to seven guys in the classroom. And I was enjoying going to Benedictine until I went home for lunch. When the streetcar come down the hill, I saw Father Roberts in the station wagon waving me back, and I had a choice: take the streetcar to go home or eat and go back. But since he waved me back, I went back to his office. He was there waiting for me to walk in. Handed me a piece of blank paper. I said, "Father Robert, what's the paper for? "You're finished." I said, "I can't hear. Nobody told me, that the microphone, whatever you call it. No leaving school property or anything for lunch, anything, I couldn't hear." Oh, well, I missed that school, I loved it, and I went back home and told my mother, and my mother called my father. My father got upset and made a lot of calls to the top people and all that. One strike, that was it. So I didn't know where to go until one of my deaf friends--he was going to Ohio School for the Deaf--he was showing me pictures of football, basketball, and all of that. His name is Morris, and he lived one block away from me. And I looked at the pictures and I told my mom and dad and said no, you couldn't go there. So I wrote a letter saying I wanted to go there and the superintendent came down to the house, knocked on the door and said, your son could go. So I was there for two years because I was older at that time. I fell in love with the school. I was probably the only Black [person] going that year at the high school. Not the middle school, but the high school. It's from elementary up to the high school. So I picked up everything and all the teachers were signing though, but I couldn't understand, had to learn how to pick it up. And while I'm there I learned a lot of bad things and how the students were cheating and all that. They went back at school at night and got a paper for taking the test and brought it to my house. Boy, I couldn't believe they did that with a flashlight and all that. I had a lot of fun. Our grades were up though. The teacher wanted to know how smart we were. We never told her that she offered [inaudible] papers ... Definitely put in correct, right, Third World the best [inaudible]. The people are really smart, taught me a lot. But we all had flashlights. We had flashlights. And then my football coach, he was deaf. And he was living at the YMCA. I couldn't believe he was living at the YMCA at that time. So it's football. I played football and all that. It's different now. We're playing offense and defense, and I happened to be the punter or left halfback on the defense and all, and I made, all the time, put in club paper every football game in that day. My name appeared. So my father... They played in Newcomerstown in Ohio. So it was at night, and I was surprised to see my father and mother there sitting on the bench at night with my brother all by themselves. I looked on the other side and saw all the people on that side, all the visitors on that side, showing my mother, my father, and brother. They came out all the way from Cleveland. It's about a 140 miles. Mom said, "You're gonna get hurt." She saw all those big guys. I said, "No way, mom." So we played. So, one guy really got hurt and when he tackled a boy, he flew up in the air without hitting him, and all the kids came to me from the other town and said, "Wow, you really know how to play football," and all that. So it was in the newspaper. So my father made the newspaper, Call and Post said I was going to Ohio State. They never told me about it. I was very upset. They had a great big picture of me in the Call and Post, that's the black paper, the Call and Post. I would look and stare at myself and say I was going to Ohio State at that time. Oh, well, I really had fun. But ended up for the community and me [inaudible] my coach was very upset because the American Association for the Deaf never gave me my medal or pin or anything because they discriminate.
Mark Souther [00:17:46] So you were you were voted to the Hall of Fame for your involvement there? Can you tell me about that? I'm looking at a picture. Just to add to the record before you do, I'm looking at a picture and a headline that says "Williams is Star in Ohio Deaf Win." And that you "played fullback, scored three touchdowns on runs of 64, 30, and 68 yards, and added ground that set up the other touchdowns to lead his team to victory." Can you tell me about the Hall of Fame honor that you got as a result of this?
Charles Williams [00:18:36] No, that was for all the Deaf schools. They picked them out, whoever's made good records or anything like that. So my name was nominated by my coach, so the Deaf American Association didn't pick me when they found out I was Black. So I didn't get my reward from them. I was very upset with that. That was not from my local school there but from the National...
Mark Souther [00:19:13] I want to go back a little bit to pick up a couple of things that we missed along the way. One question that occurred to me when you were mentioning about the hearing aid being pulled out repeatedly. Did your older brother, who was also Deaf, not wear a hearing aid to school?
Charles Williams [00:19:33] So my brother couldn't even wear his. He was completely Deaf. He was completely Deaf...
Mark Souther [00:19:41] I see, completely Deaf.
Charles Williams [00:19:41] Completely Deaf. Yes, we were forced to learn lip reading at that time at the Alexander Graham Bell. Everyone had to learn lip reading whether you were Deaf or hard of hearing. If the principal would catch you signing in the hallway changing class, you go in his office. He would take a hard copy book and hit your knuckle ten times and you'd bleed sometimes. There's nothing your mother and father can do because they're happy, they want you to learn lip reading because it's easy for them instead of for the parents to learn sign language. They think sign language was terrible at that time. It did not become law until later in life.
Mark Souther [00:20:27] I see. One other thing that I wanted to go back to that I have in my notes is unrelated to deafness, but it has to do with racial discrimination, and I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about incidents that you experienced when you were growing up in Cleveland, that had to do with segregation.
Charles Williams [00:20:54] I was never told by my mother or father though, but it's by seeing it. Things where you couldn't go. For example, my Deaf friend lived on the West Side. And I told told him in school that I was coming over to their house so we can go out together. But he didn't say anything to me about I couldn't come. And I took the streetcar and went over, over the bridge and to his house. Found out he was living in an apartment at that time. So I went up and knocked on his door. His mother came to the door and said, "Go away. Don't you come here no more." In school we were best friends, but he was a little bit embarrassed. He didn't open the door. I couldn't see him. So I went back home on the streetcar. I didn't realize what I was facing. Then I went to the Euclid Avenue. Then I found out I was going to the movies, and I was told by my Deaf friends, if you're going to a movie you have to go upstairs. You're not allowed to go in the lower level. So I began to learn how to protect myself, not to do anything [inaudible] or anything at that time. And I saw discrimination on Black people, Spanish people, and all that. But the worst thing was my mother... when we were living in the project, we went downtown on the streetcar and went into 5 and 10 cent store. When we went to the 5 and 10 cent store, and everybody was sitting in the stool. We had to stand in the back in there, and the waitress asked what you want and we had to order food standing up while the people were sitting down. So if there's a vacant seat there we weren't allowed to sit. That was at the 5 and 10 cent store. So I got used to it. And I went out to Shaker Square and a cop said, "What are you doing out in this neighborhood?" I said, "I came see my friend," who happened to be white. He says, "Go back where you come from. Don't let me catch you coming here again." But I never told my father or anything like that. I just picked it up and without it bothering me. I really didn't know what was going on though. But that was strange because they're chasing me away. I did nothing wrong. I didn't know what it was. My father and mother never told me anything about discrimination or anything like that.
Mark Souther [00:23:41] At the time, did you think it may have have something... at the time did you think maybe it was the cause of deafness as opposed to race? Or did you not?
Charles Williams [00:23:51] I don't think my deafness had anything to do with it. I think my color had something to do with it because when I was living in the project at that time, and I was playing, and I happened to be on the wrong side of the street, on Woodland, a cop arrested me, grabbed me. I tried to climb over the fence, get on the other side. My mother came out, and she told the policeman, "Will you let my son come over the fence again?" [He said] "I'll have you arrested." Cop didn't know who my mother was. My mother and my father was a prosecutor at that time. So, he released me. I had to climb back over the fence and get back on my mother's side again. And that was very strange because I got away with a lot of things because of my father and the other Black kids couldn't get by.
Mark Souther [00:24:53] When you mentioned you were on the wrong side of Woodland, is that what you mean? Was that a racial boundary? Is that what you're telling me?
Charles Williams [00:25:02] At that time, yeah, here in Greater Cleveland. I couldn't believe it.
Mark Souther [00:25:06] Where on Woodland? What? What numbered street would be near there?
Charles Williams [00:25:10] Down on 40th Street on Woodland. Case-Woodland School was right there and the markets are all in the back. The markets and all that. At East 55th there was big sign for Sohio gas station. They had a great big clock there. I used to step out of the house and walk up and look up and I could see the big clock and I'd know what it was. I didn't have to have a watch at that time.
Mark Souther [00:25:36] So was it customary then not to be able to go to the south side of the street if you were African American? Do I have that right?
Charles Williams [00:25:46] Depends if you worked there, but you can't go knock on your friend's door because their mother and father embarrassed because the neighbors say "Unnnh!" just like that.
Mark Souther [00:25:55] One other thing I wanted to ask about the Outhwaite Homes is that I understand you grew up with the Stokes brothers, and I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about your memories of them when they were teenagers and when you were a teenager.
Charles Williams [00:26:17] Well, I grew up at Outhwaite and I never knew who the Stokes brothers were. They lived near the tennis court and basketball court and recreation center and Kennard School, that's where Pat's mother graduated from. I can't think of the name of that junior high school. I grew up in that neighborhood, and I had a lot of fun. Everybody was there and what was so impressive about the neighborhood was that... It was World War II at that time, and my father was responsible when the air raid warden made the noise, he had to go around with his flashlight and tell the neighbor, "Turn the light off." Turn the light out because if there was an airplane would be dropping bombs at that time. I was walking with my father over there, and he's flashing his light and telling people to turn their lights out. It was so dark, I began to realize you couldn't see the airplane or anything like that. That was very interesting. And I was the newspaper boy at that time for the Plain Dealer. I didn't know how to count change. [Laughing] People gave me change and asked where I learned my math and all that. It was very interesting. So we had a laundry down in the project, a laundry room with certain things where you're supposed to... My mother taught me how to iron the bedsheets and all that. Chinese people lived there also. We did not get along. I was surprised. He happened to be the only person with light skin where we lived at. I never saw a rabbit. I never saw sheep. I never saw anything until I moved outside the project. See a dead rabbit. Saw those kind of animals though. But we had rules. If they catch me walk on grass, I had to pay 10 cents at that time. [inaudible] green grass and all that, swimming pools and all. So I had a lot of fun until my father bought a car. That's when we moved out.
Mark Souther [00:29:01] Can you tell me why that was?
Charles Williams [00:29:04] He didn't want me to know about the Stokes brothers. I knew who they were. They didn't know who we were because we never communicate with his mother. I always call the brother, her son come in the house. They were disappointed. I didn't know anything about the father, I'd never seen the father though, but the mother make them read their books and all that. But they'd see me and my brother talking with our hands. That's how they recognized us. We waved at each other. But I didn't realize that they became lawyers later in life. Then the Stokes brothers went in service and became, see when he became in service, I forget what you call that, he was in service and they came of service, and the Stokes brothers was in charge? [inaudible] liquor at that time, no more. Because in my time, a lot of people I had their party at their home at night. Open the door, sell whiskey right there. They had no bars where we can go to...
Mark Souther [00:30:11] They had no what?
Charles Williams [00:30:13] Bars.
Mark Souther [00:30:13] Bars. Okay.
Charles Williams [00:30:20] After hours, that's what they had was a lot of afterhours rye, a lot of whorehouses too. If you see a red light you know what that was and all that. And if you go into a bar or nightclub you have to turn in your knife, pocket knife, or anything like that. It was totally different, but you stay on Cedar Road you're alright. Cedar was always packed. And a factory was on 55th Street where they made tanks and all that. The building's still there. It's really vacant there. I can't believe they never tear down that building.
Mark Souther [00:31:05] Where on 55th are we talking about?
Charles Williams [00:31:09] 55th and Cedar and Carnegie.
Mark Souther [00:31:12] Oh, I know where you mean, up at Warner Swasey. Warner and Swasey.
Charles Williams [00:31:16] Right, yeah, right, right. They never tore it down. Boy, I don't know why they left it up there though, it's just really vacant there. Been a long time. That neighborhood was really packed. Around the corner they had big factories where these die things make all things with metal and all that, tanks and all that. But it used to be packed all the time, 24 hours round the clock there. The streetcar goes up and down the street there, and a lot of whores walked up and down the street.
Mark Souther [00:31:54] Is this on Euclid or on 55th that you're speaking of?
Charles Williams [00:31:56] No, no, no. On Chester and Cedar. That Scovill's way on the other side. On Chester and Cedar.
Mark Souther [00:32:12] Cedar and maybe Central?
Charles Williams [00:32:14] Oh, my God. Cedar and Chester. Cedar and Chester!
Mark Souther [00:32:23] Can you tell me about any memories of the Majestic Hotel down there at 55th and Central since we're talking about that area?
Charles Williams [00:32:34] That was a popular hotel for a lot of people, very popular, that was on East 55th Street and Scovill, I think, if I'm right.
Mark Souther [00:32:42] I think Central.
Charles Williams [00:32:54] Oh, Central, right, right, right. Because things began to change and then the business wasn't so good, so they fold up because a lot of famous people used that hotel and a lot of my Deaf friends used that place too because there was no other place where did they could come when they visited Cleveland and all that. That was very popular, right, on East 55th Street.
Mark Souther [00:33:19] One other story I wanted you to tell me was about your, your deaf friends when you were in high school. I have in my notes a mention of a Frank Lammarino. Can you tell me about him and about anything you'd like to share about him and your friendship?
Charles Williams [00:33:39] Frank Lammarino was really, he's Italian, and he's very open, and he lived on Euclid Avenue, in part of East Cleveland by Hough Bakery--it's not there no more. His mother and father and family was real good to me and my brother. Frank always wanted us to go places where he'd go. We couldn't go down to Little Italy. Couldn't go down that hill by himself. Cemetery's right around there. That's where he lived, one block away from the cemetery. We played baseball for the Catholic Church on the West Side. Yeah, the baseball team.
Charles Williams [00:34:45] No, the Catholic Church, what's the name of the church? Saint what? [Pat Cangelosi-Williams and Lori Harris quietly offer names.] No. No. No. Yeah. Yeah, that's right.
Lori Harris (interpreter) [00:35:04] St. Augustine.
Mark Souther [00:35:05] Would you go to his house? To Frank's house?
Charles Williams [00:35:12] Oh, yeah, spaghetti! His mother cooked a very big pot of spaghetti. Talked to my mother, the whole family and all. We had no problem until Frank took us to go to Akron to play baseball and we had to stay overnight. So we went in a hotel, booked a room. Frank got his room. I couldn't get mine. So I told the boy, said, can I borrow your phone? He gave me the phone. I called my dad. I said, "Would you talk to this man? He said I can't sleep here." My father talked to him. He said, "We have a room for you." So I didn't know how much power my dad had about that. He helped changing things, I think. Maybe I shouldn't know it, but I have to thank Frank for that. He was really close to me. He comes over to my house all the time. Knock on my door, it's three o'clock in the morning, ask for help... Because I'm very strong. I see. I learned a lot from my father. And he's in trouble. They know where to come.
Mark Souther [00:36:27] Mhm. With your friend Frank Lammarino, he was deaf as well, correct?
Charles Williams [00:36:31] Oh, yeah, completely deaf.
Mark Souther [00:36:34] Can you tell me about the experience about the deaf club, not being able to go to the deaf club?
Charles Williams [00:36:45] I couldn't believe it. All those friends I went to school with? I couldn't believe I couldn't join their club. And me and my brother couldn't join that club. And that line right there, they say, Ahh, because older deaf people told them and their bylaws said No Negroes at that time, written on there. No Negroes allowed to be members. So you went to West Side, to West 14th Street to the Catholic Church over there. They had a club over there. We joined with them. We joined with them later on. We decided our own baseball team for the Black Deaf Assoication. We had our own baseball team.
Mark Souther [00:37:31] What was it called?
Charles Williams [00:37:34] The Cleveland Silent Club.
Mark Souther [00:37:38] And what sports? It was baseball and anything else?
Charles Williams [00:37:42] Basketball and bowling.
Mark Souther [00:37:44] And since you had your own club, was there ever an issue of competing against other clubs that were white?
Charles Williams [00:37:53] No, no. Oh, yeah, definitely, if we go to Indianapolis we had problems, yeah, yeah, yeah. But we had to stay in black hotels separately at that time. Sure. But we played against the white teams, we had no problem with that until... After the game, they had with the party night. We couldn't go into the party. So [inaudible] around there. We had to go the black party and the white party, both in the same hotel. The manager set that up to separate us. That was in Indianapolis at that time. We felt bad. We want them all to come together because we all paid dues to the same organization, you know. So I'm just picking up and learning every day while we're still young and finally watched my dad. I'd been going down to the courthouse, sitting in the back and watch how he ran round the court and all, and I learned a lot. So I really wanted to become a lawyer at that time and there was no school to be able to take me because they didn't know to communicate with me though.
Mark Souther [00:39:17] I have one other thing I wanted to ask, since you were mentioning your father, can you talk a little bit more about about him? You mentioned that he got you out of a lot of issues that arose. And you you haven't really said a lot about him though as a judge, some of the things that he did. I wondered if you could say a little bit about that for a few minutes.
Charles Williams [00:39:42] Well, my dad, I don't know. Because he never talked to me. But he talked to my three sisters. But I know he cared about me and my brother. Oh, yeah. One eye on me and my brother all the time. Always made sure we'd come home all the time on time. If not, he sent the detectives to go look for us. Me and my brother were disappointed because we had to be home at 12 o'clock. I can't tell my two daughters that, what time to come home. We are thankful.... Well, my dad, he grew up and he went to law school. He light the street lights up with candles that time, light them up during this time, until electricity came in. Then he became a prosecutor, no ward councilman. He became a councilman and he wasn't a councilman and worked his way up and came to him. And now he about to go out and become a lawyer at John Marshall Law School at that time, and he ran for Judge. He did go to University of Michigan. I don't know when but he went for law school, he went to University of Michigan, but he went to Case too, yeah, I think, I don't know but he went to Michigan so he's really proud of Michigan like I'm proud of Ohio State. And when he became a judge, that's when I sat hanging around at the courthouse because all the policemen, the prosecutors, people knew me when I walked in. I was sitting in the back and I'd watch how people be getting fined and had to respect him. So from there me and my brother never did anything bad, but I ran up $400 worth of traffic tickets, and the word got out. And one of the people said you'd better take care because they're coming looking for you. I said what? So I ran and got in my car went down to my dad in the South and said, "Dad, help me. I got $400 worth of traffic tickets." He picked up the phone and [they] waived everything. I said, whew! I didn't have to pay a penny. But also I forgot to tell you about my driving license.
Mark Souther [00:43:00] I was just going to ask you about that.
Charles Williams [00:43:01] Deaf people who came from the South didn't know how to get driving license because the reading level was very low, and the schools in the South were separated. The Black people had to go out and [inaudible] while the white kids had books and all that. And I felt so sad that they get scratches all over their legs and all that and then bleed. Looked so sad. So I took their name and address, but the driver's license, there was no picture on it at that time. No picture. So I went out to Rocky River, you know Lakewood out there, to take the test for them. I never asked for a penny or anything. They didn't know how to respect me and anything like that, so I let it go. I did a lot for a lot of Deaf people, black and white. And I'll tell you for my first wife and this wife right here, you don't know how many people have knocked on my door and I can't... They keep knocking telling me to get out of bed at 3 o'clock in the morning, you know. I helped people who have been deaf and blind. My wife helped this person who happened be deaf and blind. How to use a TTY equipment for blind people. They cost almost $6,000 and all that. They helped with fundraising to help those people. I thank God for giving me that opportunity to pay back and help the people, but I think probably that's his working to choose me to do that. And I want to thank the lawyer who helped me get in Baldwin Wallace at that time. I didn't know who it was but she mentioned my name without telling me who it was because that woman kept calling me all the time. I kept turning her down because it was too far to go out there. So I got my 24 1/2 years out there. I'm very happy. I want to thank the lawyers and I want to thank them again for Cleveland State because I got in Cleveland State at that time, so, 24 1/2 years I'm still teaching at Cleveland State there but not at Baldwin Wallace because they downsized the classroom there. So I'm happy there [at CSU]. I've been teaching them American Sign Language a what it's like to be Deaf and blind and [inaudible] and all that because I looked at most of my friends that lose their eyesight. I feel guilty that hearing students should know that. Not only... Oh, you're Deaf, but not only Deaf can't see. They can't see that much, though, without knowing that they have that problem. They have health problems, diabetes that leads to eyesight when they come over 50 something. But they are not aware of it because the school never teach them that but which means they can't see out of each side of their eyes and all of that. And yeah, that's what it is.
Lori Harris (interpreter) [00:46:21] Usher's Syndrome. They got Usher's Syndrome where they have a visual field they can see in, but anything peripheral...
Mark Souther [00:46:32] Lack of peripheral vision.
Charles Williams [00:46:33] So I teach them that, they have mats, I buy mats and I teach them how to walk down the steps. They're all scared. Some of them back out. Oh, no, no, no! And I say I'm gonna drop your grade. Oh, oh, alright! The class was [inaudible]. I say [inaudible] you hear anything? But if you have your ears closed you can really be scared, you know, and all that. It still bothers me cause I never know when this light goes off. And I have to say, "Pat, Carla, where are you?" So it still bothers me.
Mark Souther [00:47:06] I want to take a break for a few minutes to give everyone a break and then we'll reconvene in a few minutes.
Charles Williams [00:47:15] Fine, I need it anyhow.
Mark Souther [00:47:15] OK. We're resuming.
Charles Williams [00:47:20] You sure it's working? [Laughs]
Mark Souther [00:47:21] That's all good. And now we're back. It's still February 1st, 2020. I'm still Mark Souther, and we're still here with Charles Williams. I also wanted to mention that, around the table, his wife, Pat Cangelosi-Williams, is here, and she has written a few notes here and there and signed to him on a couple of things. So I wanted to mention that she has participated. Also. Lori Harris, an interpreter, is here, and she is integral to our communication. And his daughter, Carla Williams, is video recording the interview as well. I just wanted to acknowledge that they're all here as well, so let's resume. I wanted to pick up a couple of threads that we missed in the first session and then move forward. I'd like to ask first about your sisters. Your hearing sisters.
Charles Williams [00:48:44] Okay, I'm glad you asked that question. Me and my brother had three hearing sisters. The first one is Ann. She's the oldest of the other two sisters. The second one is Jane, and the last was the baby, Florence. Florence passed away. How long ago did Florence pass away? Twenty years ago. She has a son and two daughters that are still living. And my oldest sister has one daughter who right now is a lawyer. Her husband passed away. And my second sister, Jane, she was a schoolteacher for many years, and she retired. She has a son and a daughter, and her husband Gerald is an electric engineer, I think, I'm not sure. So that is the part of my family though, but me and my brother are very upset because my three sisters cannot communicate. They can only finger spell and a little bit of sign language, but not... Closest to come to our house and associate and all that, only thing we get from them is birthday calls. Me and my brother gave them TTY and sign language, but they never want to learn anything. So when we're at the dinner or funeral or something, we are absolutely left out. We don't know who is who until they come and tell us, That's your uncle. That's your aunt. So all we get is a hand wave, hi, or hello. So my three sisters. So we don't feel we're that close to each other now. But that baby one passed away. So my second sister, Jane, she hopes... She took over with my mom and dad have, our annual Christmas gathering at her home now. So that's still going on. And my brother's wife, who was deaf, Jean, she right now lives in an independent living house, apartment, whatever, in Shaker. She has three sons. Three boys. They're all hearing, but right now every time we host a party, she's absolutely left out. We don't know what's going on. Sometimes she asks me or asks my wife what he or she are saying in the party, so she became real upset this year that she didn't want to come for our annual Christmas party. She's disappointed. Just sit there. The kids, her brothers and her son all know home signing and all that. Not really make her feel comfortable. Keep their mother's communication going there. Simple words: hello, mom, dad, brother, sister, food, take her shopping and all that. I had the same feeling myself because since I've been married so many years, I don't have them come to my door or anything. I get is cards, happy birthday, things like that. I don't blame them though because they can't communicate it, and we're not on the same level, so that's it.
Mark Souther [00:52:34] My understanding from our original interview a week ago is that its was that way even growing up, right? Sitting around the dinner table.
Charles Williams [00:52:49] No. That's not correct. Well, when we sit around the table, we always talk about who passed away, who has a baby here, who's married. That's about all we get from them. We don't talk about going on trips or anything like that or host a party. We're not invited to them unless it's a holiday party or anything like that.
Mark Souther [00:53:11] I mean when you were a child. I'm sorry. When you were growing up.
Charles Williams [00:53:20] Oh, that's my friend. That was my friend telling me. That's my friend because that's only me and my brother, that's my friend. I grew up as a hearing person but I lost my hearing at that time. When I lost my hearing, I was hanging around with my same friends who I grew up with,the same people in the neighborhood, but then they found out that I couldn't hear. We talked about going to movie. We talked about going to play baseball, something like that. We talk about what we're going to do the next day, and I was completely left out of the conversation. I'd ask Johnny what's going on. Oh, I will tell you later, and all that. So after we'd break up, something like that, then I sign, what's happening? He'd say, Oh, I forgot what I'm saying. I said, oh, so that's it. So I didn't say anything to them until I got involved with the Deaf Club with my brother and hanging around. And he told my brother, what did you bring him for? He didn't know sign language because I'm behind my brother and all that. I was in a Catch-22. I didn't know if I'm with the hearing or with the Deaf, and I'm in the middle of everything, and I didn't know how to sign at that time. Of course at the Deaf Club, everybody talking and having a good time. I said, what's going on? I need to know what's going on. And my brother never told me anything about that. So finally, when I growed insistent that I was part of the deaf community. They gave me a sign name. They can only give you a sign name unless you're involved in the deaf community. They give it to you. You can't come up with one. So they gave me the C, Chuck under the chin, that my sign name. It's a gift until [inaudible]. But after that I started hanging around them. And my hearing friends, because my mother and said, "Where's your son, where's Chuck?" "Oh, he's down the street. He's in the bar," or something like that. They come to me and say, "Chuck [inaudible]." I say "What?" "Come on, let's go play baseball. Let's go to the party." I said, "Johnny, you know what? When I ask you all the time about what you all were talking about, but you say you forgot? I would tell you same thing. I would give you my finger." That was it. That was it. I was never hanging around with my hearing friends. I stay away from then. And they know they hurt me so bad. When I see them in the party somewhere I just gave them the eye. They know I was very upset with that. I was so happy to be in Deaf community because I picked up the language. I fell in love with it, and I look back and say where I missed it because I was playing trumpet. And I love music. I loved jazz. And I wanted to be something. So when I'd sing a song, then they tell me I haven't got a good voice, I never had a good voice. [Laughing] I couldn't hear myself. I could only feel the vibration of my body though. But as of now I prefer to be deaf instead of being hearing. Because I enjoy the life I grew up with. Go back to be hearing, I'd probably be a lawyer. I probably wouldn't be sitting here, because this was the dream I had. I wanted to be something because of what I saw in all the Deaf people, I wanted to be part of helping them. And I had the experience, the skill, to do that. It was very hard, very hard to make that choice. Go back or stay. Very hard for me. I miss Cab Calloway, I miss Louis Armstrong, I miss all of the famous... I miss, what you call it, who played Bumblebee? Oh, I love that! Do you know how to play that Bumblebee? Oh, but you know about it? [crosstalk]
Mark Souther [00:57:37] I know it, but I don't play it! Flight of the Bumblebee.
Charles Williams [00:57:41] Harry James, that's his name. Harry James. Yeah, but I loved that. Boy! I think no one could match him though. Jones, well, he couldn't match him though, but he was a good trumpet player, though.
Mark Souther [00:58:01] Jonah Jones?
Lori Harris (interpreter) [00:58:05] His son was Deaf.
Charles Williams [00:58:05] His son. He had four. His other son Larry, Shirley his daughter, and one hearing boy, Sam.
Mark Souther [00:58:16] I wanted to also ask you about your work experience, starting with Thompson Products and then Bert Porter's office. Tell me about those years.
Charles Williams [00:58:29] Well, I was working there at Thompson Products. I don't know if my father gave me that job because I had no job when I came out of school. My friends said they were going to help me find a job in Indianapolis. So I took the Greyhound bus, went to Indianapolis, and applied for, where they make batteries, Eveready batteries, whatever they call them. And I went to fill out the application and all that. They told me there was no hiring. I said, oh no. I was upset. My friend told me they were hiring. So I stayed in his house. And I told him what happened, so he was disappointed they didn't hire me. So I wanted to go back home. I didn't want to stay, hang around, so I called my mother and said I wanted to come home. So she forwarded the money to Western Union out there. That was the old way, Western Union. Had to wait until that shipped through to get my money, and I stayed in the Greyhound bus station, and it was midnight, so I happened to fall asleep, and then there was a barrel of a gun poking my stomach. The policeman. And I woke up, he says, "How long you staying here?" And I said, "I'm waiting to take the bus and go home." He said, "I better not catch you right here next twenty-four hours." And I said, "Ohhh, okay." I was wondering why he poked me with that rifle and all that. So I never told my friend what happened. I never went back. But that was something that scared the heck out of me to have a gun when you wake up something like that as a young man. So I came home and then my father made a call to someone, and I went to Thompson Products and when I was in the office, and there were about 25 or 30 people sitting there, and the HR person came and called my name. I walked right through there, stopped filling in the application paper, I just walked right through there. They took me on the tour and said this is where you'll be working. That was valve polish. They taught me how to valve polish. They had me working midnight shift.
Mark Souther [01:01:06] How to valve...
Charles Williams [01:01:08] Valve for airplanes. [crosstalk] Valve polish to shine it and all that. I was just a young kid watching all these old people working there. So my friend kept bothering me, "Come on, Chuck, let's go out partying." And I'm in bed and then all of a sudden I got fed up. I walked out and I threw the key on the ground and told the security guard that I wasn't coming back. Went home. And Dad said, "What happened?" And I said I quit that job. My friends come to me to go out tonight and I couldn't even go out to party. I couldn't go nowhere. So I happened to wind up working for the Cuyahoga County Engineer Department. That's where my brother was working. He was working in the lab. So I had no skills or anything. So then they had an opening for lubricating cars and trucks. And they asked me and I said, "I'll take it." I didn't know how to raise the rack up or anything like that. And I didn't know how to grease. I didn't know [inaudible] the guy jumped me. He shoved me off and all that. I said wow, but I was scared to be under the rack because if it [inaudible] come down. I don't want to get killed with that. So I learned skills and all that. So my boss--he happened to be white--he was real nice to me. He said, "Chuck, let me tell you something. I like you. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut." My mouth shut, keep my eyes open. He says, "You will learn something." He was good. I'll never forget what he said. I saw everything. I saw the bad, I saw the tough, and I saw money being passed around... 2 percent. I didn't even know what it was though. All that was cash and all that. They asked me to pay. I refused to pay. My brother paid. I refused to pay. And they got mad with me. They wanted to ship me way out in Parma, something like that. But somehow they kept me around because they couldn't find nobody that knew how to grease the cars and truck. I saw a lot of bad things. I kept my eyes open. I could write a book about what's going on.
Mark Souther [01:03:32] This is Bert Porter you're talking about. Albert Porter?
Charles Williams [01:03:36] Richard Porter. Yeah. Porter, yeah.
Mark Souther [01:03:40] Can you explain this 2 percent situation?
Charles Williams [01:03:42] 2 percent of your pay. [crosstalk] Well, if you had $500, you had to take 2 percent of that $500 and put it in a white envelope and take it downtown to his office. And then all that money he'd put together and take it across the street and put it into Society Bank. I can't pronounce that. Yes. Society Bank in his name and then his son go to college and graduate from that money and all that.
Mark Souther [01:04:12] It was his personal fund, is what he was doing.
Charles Williams [01:04:18] It was all over--it was the county engineer, county prosecutor who's all over the county--until they stopped, was just all over until somebody blew the whistle, had IRS people come down, and this gets bad. The IRS person says, are you paying 2 percent, and he said yeah, and the boss would sit there look him in the eye and say yeah, no, no. He was complaining about it, you know, he had no choice because the boss was there, and if the boss [inaudible] everybody'll say something though. It's a small white envelope and you go to the bank now. Cash your money and pay 2 percent. If you make the painters, the engineers, the head of construction, you make more money in the envelope. Two percent of their pay? Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
Mark Souther [01:05:21] Lot of money.
Charles Williams [01:05:21] Oh, my God. That was going on for a long time, and I didn't realize it was all over the county and the city and the mayor. Everybody does that. I don't know if they still do it now. I don't know. But now they call you, even Cleveland State calls her every day. Every day. Keep calling for her, but she refused to give a dollar. If she'd give a dollar they would cut her off. Oh, they keep calling you all the time.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:05:51] I just donated last week.
Charles Williams [01:05:51] Oh, you finally stopped them making the calls. My God!
Mark Souther [01:05:57] This is a very different matter.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:06:01] It's the Foundation, of course.
Charles Williams [01:06:03] Oh, I know that's different. I know that's different, I'm just saying it. I know that's different. That's the foundation you're in. Boy, they keep picking on her... couldn't stop until she finally paid. [Laughs]
Mark Souther [01:06:18] So you were...
Charles Williams [01:06:18] They call you yet? They called you? What school? What college did you graduate from?
Mark Souther [01:06:26] So this is an aside.
Charles Williams [01:06:30] [Laughs]
Mark Souther [01:06:34] [Laughs] Let's get back to Porter. So you worked for the county engineer's office for thirty-five years.
Charles Williams [01:06:44] Right. Thirty-five years, but four years buyout.
Mark Souther [01:06:50] OK. And is there anything else about working for Porter that you wanted to add?
Charles Williams [01:06:59] Oh, when the time came that the people were very upset with Porter because not too many Black people had got promotions. Some members--foreman, and like I told you, that man told me to keep my eyes open. The time came where we wanted to make some change. When I say we I mean all the black employees. So the Republican who's running against Porter... Seven of us, all black, decided to file discrimination with the federal government for the Justice Department, not a local thing. The Justice Department came to Cleveland and called all seven of us to the hotel downtown and ordered dinner for us [inaudible]. We ate special stuff. I was surprised. Interviewed one at a time. My job was the payroll. What they were earning, what we were earning. What the two should be earning the same... Are you making more than he or she was making? I was temporarily... because the mail clerk with the county car had to go around and pick up the payroll sheet, you know, take them downtown. But they didn't know that I was doing something behind their back. I took the payroll sheet and I was down to 71st and Euclid Avenue. Went into one of the buildings. Asked if they could make copies of the payroll sheet. I was shaking. So, I got away with it. So Porter came in the garage, says, "If I ever find out who did this I'm firing him." Judge probably feeds the names of the seven black employees, and my brother refuse. So when the election came up, Porter got beat. And the reason why he got beaten. He got catch saying something. I don't know, Porter lied to them. It was on television, national news on TV, embarrassing him. And the Republic[an] won. What's his name? [crosstalk] Oh, thank you, Stackhouse. Stackhouse won. He lived down the street on the other side of Monticello. So Stackhouse came to me and said, "Thank you, and I want to see you in the office," so I came down to his office with my father because he had legal experience, so we sat down and Stackhouse said, "I'll offer you Yard Superintendent," but I wanted to be Superintendent, but he offered me Yard Superintendent. So I said, "Where?" At Miles. Miles Yard. Out at Miles Yard Superintendent. I said, "No, I'd rather go to Brook Park because I was there before. I was there before. He says, "Brook Park? He said, "Well the mechanics work over there." Well, I said, "I can work with the laborers who work out there and send them out." And he said, "Okay, then." He filled out the papers that I would be Yard Superintendent at Miles Yard, I mean Brook Park Yard. But the other boss didn't like it. Can't think of my boss's... I can't think of his name. No, no, no, no, no, no. Pepper. Pepper. Thank you. So Pepper was taken by surprise to see me come in. His Yard Superintendent had had my old office and everything, and the door locked and everything. So the first day, nobody wants to punch in. I've been knowing these guys for years! I said, "Hell, I smell. Punch out and go home." Punch in, everybody said punch in, that was it. We got along fine, we had no problems, we got along fine. So, I used the same lockers in the washroom room and all that. It had rats about that big, rats in there and everything, and I didn't want to make no a big deal out of it or anything like that. So we got along. I'd make my rounds and all. And then finally, one day, one Black man--I couldn't get along with him, he didn't get along with me. So he came over and pulled a switchblade up in my face. So I went downtown, filled out an application papers and all that, explained to them. They were surprised because they all liked him instead of me. But they know my father and said, "We can't fire you because of your dad." That's what they keep telling me. They had no choice. Came down, I went there, walk up to him, I said, "That's him." He says, "Did you the put the switchblade up, Mr. William?" He said no. I had two white guys who liked me. They were witnesses. They say yes. Told him to pack up, and marched him to his locker room, put everything in his locker room, march him in, tell him to get in the car, take off. Then my boss Pepper came back from vacation. He was very upset. He liked him and he came to me. I said, yes, he did. He didn't believe me, but they had two other people down in the other department, and they said, yes, he did put the switchblade into him. place. And Pepper got disgusted. So he had to learn how to get along with me. I've been up there to the buyout came. I was so happy. I put that there, it means that I have a good pension. I'm happy with my pention. I want to thank my father for getting me a job working there. It's better than Social Security because they can't mess with your pension. Social Security, they can.
Mark Souther [01:14:21] You dealt with a lot to get that pension.
Charles Williams [01:14:27] I suffered because I had to think twice. I passed a test to be working in the Post Office, and I passed that test to work in the Post Office because I've helped a lot of deaf people work there. I helped a lot of the people who worked there that time when I filled out the complaint when my father came in and told the art people. What you call his name down in the bottom of the desk, way down in the bottom cheating. I left, and my father had a conversation with him about it the next day. All those people start going to take the test passed. It's 75. And they get 74, they get 75, they still work at the post office though. So I helped a lot. I helped a mother who begged me to help her daughter pass the test. I took my ex-wife and this man who was an artist for the Plain Dealer. His daughter took four people in my house and trained in math, taught them how to guess and all that, and told her manager at their post office he was responsible for overseeing the tests. Now that he had to be a black man, and they came over and took the test and had 74 or 73. He hired him, so the mother thanked me and all that, so I had no problem. And then later on, some didn't like to have that... It's a lighter job. Make some big changes. So I did my job and all that, I'm happy what I did. But when they offered me that Post Office job, I said, ehhhh, and I worked for the county so long [inaudible] was a pension plan, I'm told. I ought to think about my former boss told me to keep my eyes open. So I dropped and I stayed with the county, and I'm glad I stayed with the county because of my pension instead of Social Security and all that. And then Stokes offered me a job working with the City of CLeveland, which I did a lot of dirty work for him, so I had to think about that too, so I drive that way to work. Asked who I worked with city, so I said Porter. I had a job with the state when Celeste was running and I campaigned for Celeste. Oh my God, I knew his father when he was Mayor of Lakewood and all that. And Celeste, oh, you don't know what I did for him, oh, I did a lot of things for him. I was on TTY calling deaf people all over the state of Ohio, and he got elected, and he offered me a job. And I got in the car, I said, ehhhh, I didn't want to move to Columbus or anything like that. So I know the person who, was his name, Dave Williams. He called me, he says, did Celeste offer you that job. I said I turned down, so they gave it to Dave Williams, took that job and all that. I had so many good offers though, but I stayed put it, that's it.
Mark Souther [01:17:48] I want to get back to the Stokes campaign, but first I wanted to go back to the time when Reverend Bruce Klunder was protesting against the building of the Stephen Howe Elementary School in Glenville. This was 1964. Can you tell me about what you know about events surrounding that and how your father came to be involved?
Charles Williams [01:18:18] Well, that was very good. That was in the newspaper. That happened on Eddy Road out there. That was Eddy Road that time, and it was a house in the driveway. There was a [front-]end loader there. And that's where the protest was, in the driveway. So for some reason, they couldn't see, the end loader was too big, and the preacher was in back of it. The end loader backed up and ran over and killed the preacher, and when it came to the court, all the judges refused to take it because the public was keeping an eye on it, wanted to know what's up. But my father took the case. I was surprised because it's a very serious case to take. But he took the case, and I don't know what the outcome of that [was]. He received death threats though, but I don't know if it was satisfied to the pastor's wife or family. I didn't know what outcome of that was. But he received a lot of death threats and all that. My father was used it because he was the judge, and he'd get people who'd say, I'm gonna kill you when I get out. But he lived with that though, so that's all I know about that. But I was taken by surprise and all the other judges where taken by surprise that he took the case.
Mark Souther [01:19:58] Pat is sharing a note with me. I'll let you say it because I'm not sure....
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:20:07] Chuck, I was just talking about, maybe you could mention that your father was a judge for many years in Cleveland Municipal Court system until he retired and then--and that was around the time that we were talking about this incident with the preacher having been killed by the end loader--then he practiced law as a judge for many years after that. And then when he retired, he was the visiting judge for East Cleveland. That was around the time of the Moseley kickback incident. So he came out of retirement and they asked your dad to be a visiting judge in East Cleveland... [crosstalk]
Charles Williams [01:20:47] Visiting Judge, right, East Cleveland.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:20:49] The last four years of his life. And then dad, finally, he worked a long time. He worked for many, many years into his 80s like you are still doing. You have dad's genes.
Charles Williams [01:21:02] Important things. He became visiting judge, and he fell off the bench. He threw up, fell off the bench, and then to everybody's surprise, he went back to work the next day.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:21:22] Trauma to the brain.
Mark Souther [01:21:24] Aneurysm?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:21:25] I think he did have an aneurysm, and he did recover and then eventually passed away. That was pretty miraculous that dad outlived that.
Mark Souther [01:21:42] Thinking back to the 1960s, a lot was going on, of course, here then. We moved from the Bruce Klunder incident that you've mentioned, and you know within two years there's the Hough rebellion, or riot. Then the 1968 Glenville Shootout, and then in between those we have Stokes' election. I wondered if you'd like to share anything about, really, any of that. From '66 to '68.
Charles Williams [01:22:17] What was the first one you said?
Mark Souther [01:22:17] I mentioned the Hough Riot.
Charles Williams [01:22:21] OK, Hough. That's one street Blacks were not allowed going on Hough. I will never forget that Hough Street. And we had to bypass Hough Street. Said there would never be any Black to live on that street until later things changed. But on 79th Street at Euclid, Carnegie, if you get on a bus, you have to get off at Euclid. You can''t go through Hough. I'll never forget that. There were a lot of stories of Deaf people tell me that. But we didn't get upset. Maybe the hearing people was upset about that because they want to go all way through to St. Clair. St. Clair's over here, and Hough [was] right in the middle of that. But there was a lot of protests going on about Hough. My friend's family owned a small 5 and 10 cent store in Hough, a small one. I'l never forget that place there, right on Hough Street. And Frank Lammarino, he had to pick up a Deaf girl who lives on Hough. I had to tag along with him, be behind Frank and take care of Carla, she was living in the apartment with her mother. And that was with Frank because Frank was Italian [inaudible]. I'l never forget that until the girl grew up too. What's that?
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:24:12] It's a book that your friend wrote.
Charles Williams [01:24:14] That doesn't help, that was on Superior though. Now what happened on Superior Avenue, Black Panthers organized something. It was on Eddy Road, and they called the police, that the car was blocking, something like that. The police came. Black Panthers up there in the apartment up there with a rifle shot and killed the policeman. That's where these problems started, and we had our club, Deaf Club upstairs in the dancing hall. We were that [inaudible] I will never forget that. And the policemen, a whole bunch of them, came and, on that street, started shooting. Bullets were flying back and forth. They couldn't [inaudible] deaf people who came from work smashing windows, shoes in the windows, steal the shoes. And people scream, Hey, he's Deaf, he's Deaf. Then the Army came in, and the Jeeps and all that, but my friend, my Deaf friend, was saved though because he took three or four pairs of shoes from the shoe store. [Laughs] I'll never forget that part. A lot of people came from the South to [inaudible]. I said, "You're crazy!" The Army and the Jeep and rifles to help. I said, wow, I wouldn't go near them. Things got so worse, went all the way down to 79th and Superior. Carl Stokes walked the street with the Army behind him. And once he started walking the street, things climbed down. Let me finish my story, okay? Carl Stokes never asked me to do anything. I only volunteered for him because I knew him from the neighborhood. I worked, went home, ate dinner, then I went down 9th Street. Right on 9th Street, I think, was Caxton Building, still there. He had his office on the second floor. And remember, I can't hear, but I can see. I want you to remember that. And I saw all those kids. I haven't seen one Black kid in there. All white kids. I said something was wrong. What's going on? Carl Stokes's office. All his team was white except a doctor, a Black doctor, who... Clemmons. Dr. Clemmons. He has two daughters. He was putting in money for the campaign and all that. I kept my eyes open and looked around. And when he ran for mayor and he lost, they wanted a recount. My job was to go pick up the money for the recount. I went all the way out on the West Side. Cash! I didn't even take a penny out of it. Checks I have, my God, you don't know how much money I picked up that I never counted it. Post Office, I had to pick up all those mails and haul them back them back in the Post Office every night, Post Office staff, and everybody in my car. Carl Stokes looked at me, see me every day, know I'm there but never talked to me. I don't know if he called me a dumb ass. I don't care what he called me 'cause he just wave at me. We never talk, but Lou, Lou's fine, we talk, but that Carl just wave at me. There are problems with some of a sad people, that they see a door rattle and all that and look. So, he won the election and became Mayor. When he became mayor, he didn't overlook me. He wrote a note because I went up to the office same time, saw all the people for Christmas. Believe me, I haven't seen anything. I see nothing but liquor bottles all over the floor for his holiday. I looked, but I was not allowed to do that though, but he got so much liquor bottles, wine bottles. And he came out and saw me, he waved to me and never called me by my name. I don't think he knows my name, just waved me in. He says, "I want to thank you for the hard work you did. I'll offer you the job." I said, "What job?" "Be in charge of parking.".
Mark Souther [01:29:40] Be in charge of just what?
Charles Williams [01:29:51] Parking. I said, what I see, everybody wants favors. Let me in the favor and I say ... I had to say no to him. No. Because I go there all the time. I see a lot of big shots want to sneak in the parking lot. I'd have a hard time and all that [inaudible]. But he says, "It's yours if you want it." I said, "I'll think about it." But I may as well give up the years I put in with the county and then go over with the city. So, I think I had, my friend who worked with me called him and told him no thanks. No thanks. And I'm glad I didn't take it because I know all those people, politicians and all of them had... "Hey, Chuck, go park my car..." I know too many people to know my head would be like I couldn't take it.
Mark Souther [01:31:02] Well, I think we want to take a break because Lori needs to leave at one o'clock and we're at about... It's ten minutes till, right now.
Charles Williams [01:31:12] Okay, thank you.
Mark Souther [01:31:12] So we can resume another day?
Charles Williams [01:31:19] Any time. How much more I got?
Mark Souther [01:31:20] We haven't even gotten in... We've barely scratched the surface of advocacy.
Pat Cangelosi-Williams [01:31:25] Right.
Mark Souther [01:31:27] 1970s and since.
Carla Williams [01:31:29] Early in the '70s because I'm not born yet.
Charles Williams [01:31:30] Okay then, we'll take our break. Okay. Thank you.
Mark Souther [01:31:37] Thank you. Thanks to everyone.
Charles Williams [01:31:39] Don't go home and tell me it's not working now! [Laughter
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"Charles V. Williams interview, 01 February 2020" (2020). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 999160.