The Soul of Horatio Williams

By Demetrius Carrington

Photos by @yahnik

October 10, 1989, started just like any other day for a college student athlete. He went to classes and then basketball practice, and on this day Horatio’s jumper was flawless. It seemed like every shot he took was all net. After a quick shower and an impromptu team meeting, he got on his bike and headed to his dorm apartment. Who would've thought a few moments later he would be dead?

You see, on his way home he was hit by a drunk driver. The officer that rescued him said he didn't have a pulse and wasn't breathing. Horatio Williams had died. He doesn’t remember much about the accident. He does remember seeing a very bright light and hearing the doctors saying things like, "We need blood now, he may lose his leg." He couldn't speak or move. He could only taste blood in his mouth and recalled thinking, "Call my mother, call my mother” and then everything went dark.

Five days later upon waking from his coma, the first person he saw was his mother. Immediately the doctors began running test after test. They concluded that his survival was nothing short of a miracle. They couldn't believe that he didn't have long-term brain damage. They told his Mother that only 1% of the people that had experienced this type of trauma came out of it with total use of their functions.

Once he got a chance to speak with his mother she explained everything that had happen to him. First, she explained that he had been hit by a drunk driver. His tibia and fibula bones in his left leg were broken. He had ruptured an artery in his right shoulder, and it was replaced by an artery from his leg. All his ribs were broken. She also told him, he had lost so much blood that it's a miracle that he was still alive. He didn't really understand the severity of the situation and asked her when he could go back to basketball practice. With tears in her eyes, she said, "Horatio, let's just take one day at a time."

For the next six months, he was totally bedridden. His rehabilitation was painful and frustrating, but he fought through it. He was facing years of rehab and in his heart he felt like his playing days were over, but no one ever said anything. During a visit with one of his doctors, he got the courage to ask, "Doc will I ever play competitive basketball again?” He replied, "Your injuries are severe, so probably not."

Photos by @yahnik


That night he cried like a baby. That was his dream. He had worked so hard to get to that point and now it was all gone. He became angry and bitter. He started slacking in rehab which made the situation worse. “I felt depressed, I was lost. I didn't have any idea what I was going to do with my life.”

One day on his way to rehab his mother asked him, "Why do you think God gave you a second chance when 99% of the people in your situation don’t make it? He answered, "I don't know". Then she said, "I don't know either but it’s surely not for you to waste it feeling sorry for yourself. Now get in there and get to work."

“That night, I thanked God for my family and my second chance and I didn't look back.”

Now armed with a new resolve, Horatio had a vision and with the help of his mentor, Saunders V. Dorsey, he now had a plan. “Saunders gave me a van and taught me the medical transportation business.” He worked tirelessly and built Ontime Transportation into an overwhelming success.

His work ethnic should not come as any surprise. I recently asked him where he got the strength that helped him overcome all that he’d been through.

Photos by @yahnik

He replied, “It started when I was a child. Growing up I was a very happy child. We lived on the East side of Detroit on Shipherd St. Although, it was a tough neighborhood I was always surrounded by love.

“My earliest memory is from around the age of eight. Life was so different in those days; your neighbors were like extended family members. I remember Mrs. Wilson yelling, "Horatio get out of the street, don't make me whoop your behind." We were a very close community.

“Back then the blocks were full of houses; we didn't have any vacant homes of vacant lots on our block. All the children played together, and we really looked out for each other. We would have sleepovers, eat dinner at each other's homes, and help each other with chores.

“My safe haven was 1094 Shipherd Street, a two-family flat that we occupied with my grandmother although my biological dad wasn't around. I had five uncles and four aunts and a wonderful Granddad that keep me and my brother on a straight and narrow path.

“My granddad, like so many other black people, came north to work in the factories. He worked for Detroit Steel until he retired. I remember seeing just how hard my granddad worked, and I live by all the lessons he taught me.

“My mother was a manager at Joe Muer Seafood Restaurant for thirty years. Although she loved her job, she always wanted more for her children. Between my mom and my grandparents, we always had more than we needed.

“One of my granddad’s rules was you had to go to church. So, I learned at an early age just how important it is to have a spiritual base. Greater Tree of Life Baptist Church was our place of worship. I loved going to church. I was in the choir and I'm even an Ordained Junior Deacon to this day.

“After my granddad passed, my uncles stepped right in where he left off. My uncles were great men. They were all law-abiding people who worked hard and lead by example. They were the first to notice that I had some athletic ability. They made sure I had everything I needed to flourish, and I am forever grateful for my uncles.”

Ten years ago, he started the Horatio Williams Foundation, and to date he has helped thousands of kids who just needed someone who believed in them.

The work that they’re doing at the HWF is amazing! I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Horatio for over 30 years and he has a heart of gold. He’s dedicated his life to making others’ better. He shares all the love that was shared with him to whoever needs it. Horatio is everybody’s Big Brother. He’s the friend that will tell you not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.

Photo by Antisia King

Every year the HWF takes about 700 children to Cedar Point Amusement Park. This year I had the honor of being a chaperone. Just as we were about to leave for the park four children appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, asking to be placed on one of the buses. I asked where their parents were. One of the children replied that their mother was sick and didn’t come. The truth was, the children were from a local shelter and their mother didn’t want to lose their bed for the evening, so she didn’t leave the shelter. Understandably so, no one wanted to take responsibility for these children. Horatio like the super hero is, said we’re taking them! He called the shelter to inform them of the situation and stated, “I’m responsible for these children.” He had a staff member get them some fresh t-shirts and get them some food. I watched over those children all day. They were so happy. They enjoyed every moment of that day. I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for them, but for that day they were just children having a ball at Cedar Point. I later asked Horatio, “What happened with those four children we took to Cedar Point?” He replied, “Their mother is in our culinary arts class and we’re tutoring the children.” I asked if they were still in a shelter. His reply was, “No we found them housing.”

The world doesn’t need another basketball player, but we could use a million more people like Horatio Williams.

Photo by Antisia King

“My life has been full of grace and blessings. I was once bitter and angry but now I’m thankful that I was chosen for this assignment. My life’s mission is clear to me. God saved me in order for me to help save others, to help them with a second chance, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Wells Fargo Advisors and Beautiful Machine Magazine will honor Horatio Williams with our Man of the Year Award March 9th, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

God Bless you Mr. Williams you’re a Detroit treasure.

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