On March 6, the Austin community lost a legend, Roy Williams, of the 1200 block North Menard. Mr. Roy, as the neighborhood kids affectionately called him, was still extremely involved in the community at the age of 77. He held several seats of leadership, including president of the Community Warriors and Block Club Committee. He worked with Austin’s community leader, Mrs. Rosetta Guy, several aldermen, pastors and the Mayor’s Office with efforts to address the needs of the community in any way. He worked at many polling places during elections, was a 25th District Police Dept. CAPS representative, a member of the Noble Neighbors group, and Austin Coming Together.
But his service went beyond the Austin Area. He was instrumental in making better accommodations at the St. Francis Outreach Homeless Shelter, 2715 W. Harrison St., regarding moving the Christmas concert indoors rather than having people outside in the cold.
“It finally happened after years of trying,” Mrs. Guy said. This was one of Roy’s greatest accomplishments for the homeless shelter.
Other community efforts included working with the 25th District police, gathering food and clothes for those in need. He started the Young Entrepreneurs Club, which helped children learn about starting a business and making their own money, selling their goods on Saturday mornings. He also dedicated time to the Young Gardeners, teaching children about taking care of the flower and vegetable garden at the corner or Menard and Division. He would give the children school supplies and book bags, Easter baskets with a special appearance from the Easter Bunny, and he hosted movie afternoons in the garage, zoo trips, and Halloween goodie bags, for all the children. He started “Porch Prayer” with Pastor D. McIntyre of Mt. Olivet M.B.C., 5642 W. North Ave., which is held the first Saturday of every month for an hour of prayer service and worship on Menard.
Roy always had a passion for life and sports. He came to Chicago from Helena, Arkansas after high school, chasing the dream of becoming a professional baseball player. He had tryouts with the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. Ultimately, he ended up on a semi-pro team out of Gary, Indiana called the Steel City Giants. After his time on the team, he became the owner of his own newspaper agency with the Chicago Tribune and then the Chicago Sun-Times. This is when he transitioned from playing baseball to teaching baseball.
He hired several boys and gave them newspaper routes. He started taking the boys to the park to teach them the skills of baseball. These kids later became known as “The St. Louis Cardinals” or “Redbirds of Garfield & Franklin Park.” The community donated uniforms to help make them official. After the players grew up, Roy joined the IAOA (Illinois Athletic Officials Association). He became an official umpire in the state of Illinois for high school and college baseball and basketball.
After his newspaper career ended, he taught physical education at Our Lady of Sorrows School and coached the basketball team there. But his love of baseball never diminished. He continued umpiring but left the school and began driving for Airport Express and then Peapod as a dispatch supervisor. After Peapod, he became a driver for CDT-PACE until he retired in 2018.
Although retired, his involvement with the community kept him working overtime but he truly enjoyed the work and believed in the mission of getting people what they need, and helping however he could. From his years of work, most strangers he met turned into lifelong friends. That’s just the person he was, and he never had a bad day. He loved people and people loved Roy.
Roy Williams leaves to cherish his memories his beloved Janis; one brother, Garfield (Rosie); five children, Roy (Lena), Anthony (Lenore), David, Anica, and Nerissa (Troy); 13 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, friends and the kids of the community that he loved.