Acadiana WWII Veteran shares first-hand account of civil rights struggle

Posted at 7:35 AM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 09:32:57-05

World War II Veteran Homer Williams knows that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream was not always a reality.

The Opelousas resident remembers a time when the civil rights struggle was young, and how it empowered black communities across the nation and Acadiana to find their way.

"We always had a door open. We couldn't see it, but it was always there," says Williams. "What we had to do was find our way. Find our way and trust in God."

And Homer did exactly that.

He says that, for him, growing up was not easy. And growing up black in the South was even harder.

"You were always lower than the lowest. You were a black boy and you never got grown," he says. "You never were a man. A black man was either an uncle or a boy. You never was a man."

A catalyst for change in the United States was when the country entered into World War II.

Homer says that the war started a revelation, a change in the world, as black men and women began the fight for a larger freedom than the ones they experienced in their own communities.

And while change had started, it wouldn't happen overnight.

"When we went in the Army, they had the white army and the black army," Homer says. "They never did fight brother to brother. The black man was always positioned where he could do good and make a difference. That's what got us up where we could make a difference."

After serving his country, Homer came back to Acadiana where he started a family. He says that's when he really started fighting for change.

No longer wanting to take a back seat to others and be discarded because of the color of his skin, Homer says he made a stand.

"We walked picket lines to make our lives better," he says. "For me, my children, and my great-grandchildren. My life was shattered already but I wanted them to have a better life."

He wanted to show his children and grandchildren that they were someone no matter what they looked like.

That fight is one that Williams has continued for all of his life.

And in October 2019, Homer received an unexpected honor. It was a chance to go to Washington D.C. on a heroes flight.

WWII Veteran thankful for Heroes Flight experience

Honoring the men and women who fought for the country, it was the first time, Homer says, that he truly felt that people were thankful for his service.

He says that it's something he will never forget.

"Everybody is somebody. I don't care what you look like, where you come from, or what your name," Homer says. "You're somebody."

See the Full Interview with Williams below: