By DEVON WILLIAMS
In the late 1980s, when telemarketing was at its
“I’m not interested.”
“No. No, thank you.”
“Well … I’m not ever going to die.”
And then he hung up. My mom and I looked at each other, and then him, with looks of incredulity. He explained that it was a company selling life insurance.
For a long time, I believed just that – that he was not going to die. That he would be here dropping knowledge on me, my family
I have always understood my father to be a teacher, a college professor. And, at the core of it, that’s what he was: a teacher. And he loved being one. So, why, in the days that followed my father’s death have things felt surreal?
I’ve spoken about my dad to reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post
I would argue that the essence of my father was that of an educator. In fact, many years ago, my dad told Dr. Sowell, “On the day I die, I’d like to have taught a class.” Teaching was his passion. It was his gift. It was, second only to his family, his greatest love.
Some of the obituaries I have read have called my dad a giant. He was. Literally. He stood at 6 foot 5 inches tall. My mom and I used to joke that it was always easy to find Dad in a crowd: We just needed to look up. An athlete well into his 70s, he took advantage of his stature and long limbs and played tennis and basketball, but his favorite activity was cycling. My mom would pack him snacks the night before, and he would set out for a 30- to 50-mile ride around 5 a.m. (when she and I were still sound asleep). I think that he enjoyed the time alone with his thoughts and his bike. Often, after a ride, he would shower and get straight to work on his syndicated column or his classwork for the week – clearheaded and ready to go.
Not only, however, was he physically a giant but he was an intellectual giant. In his lifetime, he wrote 10 books, hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly journal articles
As a father, he was also a teacher. My dad taught me that hard work eclipses talent or natural gifts every day of the week and twice on Sunday. He taught me how to drive like a Philadelphia cabbie and how to parallel park in a space equal to the length of my vehicle. He taught me that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one and that opportunities are often masked as disappointments. He taught me that play is necessary, but that it’s more fun when your work is finished. He taught me to love my life and the people in it. He taught me to drink the wine and not to save it for a special occasion. And he taught me that family is always my safe place to land.
When my dad was in Philadelphia and not with us in D.C., he would call me and ask, “How’s my baby?” I would tell him, “I’m just fine, Dad,” knowing full well that he was asking about my son. They shared a special bond, and it pains me greatly to know that they only shared six years together.
We will all miss Dr. Walter Edward Williams. But I’d like to think that through his dedication to his teaching, the reach of his students