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Georgia Political Papers and Oral History Program

The Georgia Political Papers and Oral History Program is comprised of over 3,000 linear feet of archival collections, along with an extensive number of oral history interviews, that document the unique political culture of the state of Georgia.

Hosea Williams

Hosea Williams (1926-2000) was born to blind parents in the small Georgia town of Attapulgus, in Decatur County on January 5, 1926. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, but forced to leave home at age 14 after being nearly lynched for alleged involvement with a white girl. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earning a Purple Heart. Williams used the G.I. Bill to earn a chemistry degree from Atlanta University after the war. He became involved in Civil Rights issues in the early 1960's, eventually becoming executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., organized marches, and was arrested over 100 times. Williams was one of the leaders of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in 1965 and was with Dr. King when he was assassinated. Williams represented the 54th District as a Democrat in the Georgia assembly from 1974-1985 and served on the Atlanta City Council from 1985-1990. Williams died in November 2000 after a three year battle with cancer.
Interviewed by Dr. Steely at the University of West Georgia on May 15, 1998.

Williams begins the interview by talking about his family and his life growing up in Attapulgus and in the Everglades of Florida. He went into the army in 1944, and came back after being wounded, determined to go back to school and earn a degree. He talks about his interactions with white men in the 1950s and into the Civil Rights Movement. Williams then discusses about getting into politics, and how once he got a position, he never worried about losing an election. He says that affirmative action is the best they [the African American community] have, so they make the most of it. Williams also talks about white politicians from his time, and he says that Harris and Busbee were two of the best governors he'd seen in office. Williams answers questions about what he is most proud of and what he is most disappointed in, in regards to his time in office. In the last part of the interview, he discusses Carter and Reagan and their ethnic audiences, as well as whom he chose to support during their elections. He ends the interview by stating that there is a political future for Hosea Williams.