The Obit For Lawrence Williams

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Lawrence Williams, player in Negro League

LATHRUP VILLAGE -- Lawrence Williams toured the United States and Canada in the late 1930s and early 1940s doing what he loved -- throwing strikes and hitting fast balls.

Mr. Williams, a pitcher and outfielder for the Chicago American Giants Negro League baseball team, never fretted about what might have been if blacks had not been barred from major league baseball at the time.

"He didn't talk about that a lot," said his son, Gregory Williams. "He wasn't bitter. He talked about all the traveling they'd do. They went from Mississippi to Saskatchewan -- all over the place. And he talked about seeing Satchel Paige pitch."

Mr. Williams, a retired city of Detroit employee, died of a heart attack on Friday, Feb. 28, 2003, at Providence Hospital in Southfield. He was 86.

The exploits of Paige, one of baseball's greatest pitchers, are well-documented. But for every Paige, there are dozens of former Negro Leaguers like Mr. Williams, who toiled in relative obscurity. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City has no record of Mr. Williams' playing career, said curator Raymond Doswell.

"Unfortunately, records don't exist for a lot of these guys," he explained.

Mr. Williams' baseball career ended when he joined the Navy during World War II.

After the war, Mr. Williams settled in Detroit, where he landed a job with the city's Department of Public Works. He worked for the city from 1945 until his retirement in 1976.

After he retired, Mr. Williams followed the path of many retirees: "He played a lot of golf," said his wife of 66 years, Willie. "He loved golf, and every year, a group would go down to Tampa Bay to play in a tournament."

Mr. Williams' greatest legacy, his son said, was his insistence that his children graduate college.

"He didn't tolerate any foolishness ... as far as school was concerned," Gregory Williams said. "We didn't have a choice in the matter -- we were going to graduate from college, and that was that. When I got older, I finally understood why he was so big on education."

Both Mr. Williams' children graduated college, as did three of his six grandchildren. "The other three will follow suit," Gregory Williams said.

Survivors include his wife, Willie; a daughter, Silvia Sims; a son, Gregory; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be 1-9 p.m. Thursday at the Swanson Funeral Home Northwest Chapel, 14751 W. McNichols in Detroit.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Liberty Temple Baptist Church, 17188 Greenfield in Detroit. Burial will be in Evergreen Cemetery in Detroit.