Thompson Williams grew up in Oklahoma as one of eight children. His father, Melford Williams, was a tribal leader of the Caddo Nation and a World War II veteran who had a big impact on Thompson’s life.
At StoryCorps, Thompson’s son, Kiamichi-tet, sat down with his dad to learn more about his grandfather.
Thompson also told his son about his father’s death from a heart attack in 1978.
Click here for the transcript.
Thompson Williams (TW): He wasn’t the biggest guy but people reacted to him like he was giant. He could swear with the best of them--it sounded like music--but he never used it to be angry with somebody. I remember my mom would tell me, "Your dad tried to spank you once and he cried instead." He had a kind heart.
And I remember in grade school there was a little kid, he was mentally retarded. One day, um, there was a bunch of us and we started throwing bottle caps at him. I picked one up and threw it--it smacked him in the head. I turned around and my dad was standing there. And I thought, Oops I'm really in trouble now. But he looked at me, tears in his eyes, and he said, “Maybe I didn’t teach you how to look after others. That’s my fault.”
You know, he could’ve stabbed me in the heart and it wouldn’t have hurt as much. I don’t know, maybe that’s why I became a special ed teacher. He had a lot of lessons that I hold onto to this day.
When I was young, I came home one day and I said, "Dad, I was told men don’t cry." He looked at me and he said, “Son, that’s a lie. If you don’t cry, you don’t get rid of that poison that's in your body, that hurt, that pain. That’s the only way you can truly be strong.”
That was one of the most powerful things that I’ve learned from him. And that’s how I’ll always remember him, the way I’d want to be remembered--as a good man.