When Reverend Hosea Williams was born on this day in 1926 in Attapulgus, Georgia, it is certain he had no idea how many brushes with death he would live through before dying at the age of 74.
At the age of 13, Williams was almost captured and lynched by a mob that didn't like the fact that he'd become friendly with a white girl.
During World War II, he was the only surviving member of a 13-man platoon hit by an artillery shell in France. After 13 months in the hospital, he walked away with his life and a limp.
When he got back to the United States, after the war, Williams was so severely beaten by a white mob who took exception with him trying to drink from a "whites only" water fountain, that it was the undertaker who was called in to pick up his body who realized Williams was still alive and took him to a hospital for veterans.
It was the beating after coming back from defending the United States that prompted Williams to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He is quoted as saying:
"If we gotta fight and die for America, why should we be treated like slaves in America?"
Thus began a career for Hosea Williams as a civil rights activist, starting with the NAACP, going to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and becoming a member of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's staff. Williams even got involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Freedom Summer voter registration campaign.
In 1965, he was there in Selma, Alabama, on Edmund Pettus Bridge during "Bloody Sunday" when peaceful marchers were beaten and gassed by state troopers. He would later be among the men present when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN, and he also marched in all-white Forsyth County, Georgia, in 1987 to protest the county's refusal to observe the newly-established Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Although the march was peaceful, Williams and other marchers were attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
After a three-year battle, cancer accomplished what bombs and mobs could not. Hosea William's 50-year fight for equal rights for all people ended when he breathed his last breath on 16 November 2000.
Also, on this day in African-American history:
1911 - African-American fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. was founded at Indiana University.
1931 - Famed choreographer Alvin Ailey was born.
1943 - Noted scientist, George Washington Carver, died. The 79th Congress of the United States passed Public Law 290, declaring this day as George Washington Carver Recognition Day. It is actually a National Holiday that is very seldom recognized.
1975 - The longest-running black musical-with 1,672 shows-opened on Broadway. It was "The Wiz."
1993 - Known as "Mr. October," baseball player Reggie Jackson was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
These are but five black facts out of many. Purchase the eBook, "This day in African-American History, January" to have access to over 530 facts covering the entire month of January.