Hosea Williams was a colorful Atlanta civil rights figure, often wearing his trademark denim bib overalls, red shirt and red Converse sneakers.
After Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, Williams’ focus became clear: He needed to nourish those who were suffering the most.
“That fire would not let him rest until he started feeding the hungry, ” said former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young at Williams’ funeral in 2000. Williams died after a long battle with kidney cancer, but Young remembered his passionate character in that speech. “He had fire in his bones,” he said.
Williams crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama on Bloody Sunday in 1965 with Rep. John Lewis. By his own account, he was arrested 135 times as he campaigned for civil rights from the 1950s to the ’70s. He happily played bad cop to Young’s good cop, and Young said this gave King “some room to come down the middle.”
His name lives on with his long-time non-profit group, long named Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless. His Thanksgiving Day dinner continues to draw hundreds of volunteers and thousands of homeless. His daughter Elisabeth Omilami recently re-named Hosea Helps as its mission has broadened to be more of a year-around effort.
His equally colorful grand-daughter Porsha Williams has kept his name alive for a new generation in an unusual way: as a reality show star. She is part of Bravo’s hit show “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and a host on syndicated gossip show “Dish Nation.”
Celebrate Black History Month
Throughout February, we’ll spotlight a different African-American pioneer in the daily Living section Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Go to myAJC.com/black-history-month for more subscriber exclusives on people, places and organizations that have changed the world, and to see videos on the African-American pioneer featured here each day.