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Hudson Valley Press


November 20th, 2013

Mother inspires Williams to “Never give up.”



Eddie Loren Williams
I was born in Batavia New York on February 25, 1974.  Batavia is a small town in Upstate New York with a small and under privileged minority community.   I was the middle child of five siblings born to Patricia and Eddie Williams. My mother, a church going woman, worked as a licensed practical nurse and my father as a machinist in a local factory. I grew up in one of Batavia’s low income housing projects on the east side.   With seven people under one roof my family never had it easy but we managed.  However, things became tough for us when my father was killed in a car accident when I was very young.   My mother was left to raise the five of us on her own.  The strength my mother demonstrated to us on a daily basis planted the seeds of an idealism that would grow to produce the key to unlock the door of opportunity.  The idealism I speak of is more of a reality today.  In other words, I grew up in a place and in a time where no one expected a tall, husky, black male to ever do anything other than dunk a basketball or run a football. 

Because my father died in the family car, we walked everywhere in the city.  Like little ducklings we followed my mother through the stores and the city streets.  She was our teacher, our mentor, our leader.   From watching my mother, I came to believe that I could literally do anything I set my mind to.  I remember when I was about seven years old, and she told me that I could do anything if I practiced hard enough.  That day I tied a towel around my neck and started trying to teach myself to fly like superman.  This may seem silly; however, you must understand that I came to this mindset in the midst of a town and a culture that did not value its minority class.  I never saw a black teacher, police officer, judge, or even college graduate.  I never saw anyone go to college.  In fact, my senior year, I was the only black male to graduate.  I watched all my friends drop out, get kicked out, or get sent to juvenile facilities.  Even with all of those examples of the statistical path I was supposed to walk, she was able to convince me that I could fly if I wanted to. 

I had a very happy and rewarding childhood.   Not because of material things or status in the community, because I had neither, it was because I was loved.  On the morning I left for college my mother recited the poem “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes to me.  As I kissed her goodbye and turned to pick up my suitcase with all of my worldly belonging in it, she called my name.   I turned back around and our eyes met.  She had started to cry.  As she looked at me with tears in her eyes she said, “never, never, never give up, never give up”.  Those words ring in my ears to this day.  I was the first in my family, the first I knew of, to go to college.  I could hear the pride in my mother’s voice every time I spoke with her on the phone.  Unfortunately, she would never see my graduation because she was killed my junior year in college. 

When I graduated college I had a lot on my plate.  With the recent loss of my mother I was officially on my own.  More than that, I recently had a child.  Just like that I was a grown man and responsible for another person.   I soon learned that working just one job wouldn’t provide for me AND my child.  So I worked 2 to 3 jobs at a time.  I didn’t realize it then, but this was preparation for the future.  It became apparent to me that working for just above minimum wage as a college grad was not sufficient to accomplish the thing I wanted to, even if I did have three jobs.  My goal was to give my daughter more than I had.   I knew I had to go back to school. 

I initially enrolled in law school because I wanted to go into the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  However, I soon found a new interest; trial law.  I picked the best criminal law professors and participated in as many trial teams as I could.  Academically, I was on solid ground; however, that was only a part of my experience.  My entire experience in law school was a tough one.  I worked a full time job, raised my young daughter, and attend school all at the same time.  Everyone from my professors, to the Dean, to my siblings told me that I was crazy for even attempting such a feat.  During that time in my life I drew upon the words of my mother for strength.  I repeated them to myself during the all night study sessions I engaged in to prepare for class the next day, “never”, when I would fall asleep at the dinner table while I was eating with my daughter, “never”, and when I was driving home from work at 1 AM in the winter.  “Never give up, never give up”.   I also hung a copy of the poem “Mother to Son” next to my bed so I could read it every day.  Working three jobs at once was indeed preparation for this time period in my life.  Even though I am sure my experience in law school, working, and   being a single dad took years off of my life, I call it a fair trade. 

My mother also taught me there is no substitute for hard work.  As such, my years toiling in what seemed like a never ending time in my life finally brought me to my law school graduation day.  It was a bitter sweet moment, because I would have to celebrate such an accomplishment without the person who helped me get there.  As I sat there listening to the commencement speaker and waiving at all of my siblings in attendance, I couldn’t help but feel like someone was missing.  Then, as if she heard my thoughts, I heard the commencement speaker say “Never, never, never give up, never give up”.  I knew then that my mother was celebrating that moment with me...and she was proud of me.

I went on from that moment to continue climbing the staircase that my mother started me on.   While it has indeed had rough spots, there has been the occasional landing…in my position at the General Electric Corporate Environmental Programs as an Associate In-House Counsel, and in my position as an Associate Counsel to the Majority for Sheldon Silver at the New York State Assembly.  I’ve also turned a few corners…. in my position as an Assistant District Attorney for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, and in my position as a Trial Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County,  but I am still climbing………


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