DeLand Purple Heart recipient who fought in Vietnam War dies at 73

Veteran who advocated for civil rights alongside Jesse Jackson dies Friday

DeLAND, Fla. – A Purple Heart recipient from DeLand who fought in the Vietnam War died Friday at the age of 73.

Charles Edward Williams was a man of many roles: a commander, deacon, engineer, husband and father.

"He was what I would call a veteran's veteran," DeLand Mayor Robert F. Apgar said. "Any veteran was a friend, type of thing. (He was) just a wonderful man and a caring person."

Apgar said Williams played an instrumental role in restoring the American Legion Orange Baker Post #187, which was severely damaged by three hurricanes in 2004 and recently re-opened in October 2018. State Sen. Dorothy Hukill helped Williams receive a grant of $100,000 for restoration efforts.

"He wanted to see it restored," Apgar said. "He wanted it to be a place for young people to learn about veterans in our community, particularly the African-American community."

Apgar believed this to be William's legacy and as something for which he will always be remembered.

"Many people didn't know he was sick," Apgar said. "I heard three or four weeks ago that he was having some health problems ... He didn't complain and he kept working and he kept trying to accomplish certain goals."

Photo courtesy of City of Deland
Photo courtesy of City of Deland

Apgar said Williams leaves a huge void behind at local veterans activities and at the American Legion.

Last year, he was honored as a "Hometown Hero" for his efforts in the war and dedicated presence back in DeLand.

"I can't think of any veteran's event that I've gone to the entire time that I've been mayor that Charles was not present and actively involved in, whatever ceremony it was," Apgar said.

Williams was born Oct. 27, 1945, and grew up around music, according to his obituary. He played trumpet through grade-school and continued his talent in the AT&T University band. While in college, he also advocated for civil rights alongside activist Jesse Jackson in North Carolina.

In 1965, Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he went on to fight in the Vietnam War. His family said he received a Purple Heart award after he was shot in the leg.

When his time overseas was completed, Williams came to Florida to become an engineer at the Kennedy Space Center, where he spent 15 years of his life.

He continued his education at Bethune-Cookman College and became a teacher in the Volusia County School System and at Daytona Beach Community College. Although he enjoyed school, he also loved to barbecue and cater for families and special events.

Williams also served on the Deacon Board of the Greater Union Baptist Church and led a recent flooring restoration project. He was also president of the NAACP, and during his tenure, he wrote and received several grants for his chapter.