Charles "Swing" Williams, 82, of Sicklerville, who went from being a self-employed dry cleaner and tailor to a popular Camden City employee and activist with an extensive resumé, died of cancer Tuesday, May 25, at his home.
Mr. Williams did not tinker with hobbies or lounge around the house to relax after a stressful day at his city job. Instead, he took pleasure giving his time to his community, serving on various advisory boards for social justice issues, city development, and religious organizations.
"He was my hero," said his daughter, Sylvia Loverin. "He was always out to help other people, and he did it very well."
Mr. Williams was born in Clarksdale, Miss., and moved to Camden during his childhood. During his boxing days as a teenager, he gained the nickname "Swing," which stuck through his career, according to a 1995 Inquirer article.
He attended the prestigious Bordentown Manual Training School for African American youth, where he learned to be a tailor, eventually becoming self-employed in the field. Later, he taught tailoring at vocational schools in Camden County.
He also took classes at Camden County College and Rutgers University and worked at one point at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and for the New York Ship Building Corp. of Camden.
From 1967 to 1970, Mr. Williams worked as a housing inspector for Camden's Department of Health, Housing, and Welfare.
Mr. Williams was rehired by the city in 1971 to work in the Community Relations Department, which ended up being his strength. He started as a juvenile aide and ended up as a coordinator and department chief.
During a period of racial tension within Camden's Puerto Rican community in 1973, Mr. Williams helped lead the effort to set up a telephone service with bilingual operators to tell residents about city curfews, relocation help, and health-care services.
"We want to put to rest rumors that could lead or escalate civil unrest," Mr. Williams said in a 1973 Inquirer interview.
Mr. Williams served as administrative assistant to Mayor Angelo Errichetti for a few years.
From 1981 to 1994, he was the Department of Health and Human Services' chief community relations specialist. He then took over as director of the department and held the title until his retirement in 1998.
He was never afraid to speak up for what he believed in. When Camden's Free Public Library system suffered deep budget cuts in 1981, a furious Mr. Williams took part in a mock funeral to "bury" the library system.
In 1998, he chaired a petition-drive committee for the "Camden Citizens Against U.S. Water Deal," in an attempt to force a referendum on a 20-year contract the city had signed.
Mr. Williams was a devoted member of the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. He served on the board of his Camden Chestnut Street UAME church and held various positions within the regional brotherhood.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Williams is survived by his wife, Julia; a son, Charles Sample; and three grandchildren.
A funeral was held Saturday, June 5.