In a world where things change quickly and people move on, Woody Williams has been a constant in the NoDa community for a long time. “My parents were artists and North Charlotte, as it was called back then, was the hangout,” Williams said.
Williams is often seen at Smelly Cat Coffehouse talking with friends and swapping stories. And stories, he has.
Williams served during the Vietnam War, painting murals, usually hippy flower-power designs, across Germany. Ironically, the beautification project was to disguise the shell holes put there by American soldiers during WWII. Williams said, “I was known as the Cola Baby because I only drank Coca-Cola.”
After the war, Williams became a graphic artist, designing NASCAR signs for trucks and car sponsors. He is most proud of an editorial cartoon he did for Richard Petty when he retired. Petty was pictured in his car pulling a fishing boat.
Williams has developed a strong fan and friend base on Facebook. He posts daily with silly selfies, photos of Charlotte, people he meets and things that he notices. But don’t run to ‘friend’ Williams– he’s at his 5,000-friend capacity.
In the late 1980’s, Williams became a tube radio collector. His friends thought he was crazy buying up radios like Crosley, Fisher, Atwater Kent, Tombstone and Catalin from the 1920’s and 1930’s. But when eBay hit the internet in 1995, Williams saw his chance to sell his stash. According to Williams, he became an eBay four- time Platinum Powerseller.
A first introduction may get you The Funky Geezer character – the one with a joke, song or funny story – the man who made it through several auditions for America’s Got Talent in 2014. Delve deeper and you find out what is closest to his heart, and you quickly find out he is a serious community builder doing good works throughout Charlotte. Williams sells his artwork at the NoDa Eclectic Market to help the chronically homeless.
In February, over 15 fire stations in Charlotte and surrounding areas were being burglarized. While fire fighters were asleep or out on a call, their cars and trucks were broken into and their personal items were stolen. For several weeks, the burglars avoided being caught. When Williams heard about the burglaries, he took it upon himself to guard NoDa’s Fire Station No. 7 when they were out on a call.
Firefighter, Greg Shaner snapped a photo of Williams guarding the station. Williams posted the photo on Faceook and before he knew it, he was being interviewed on TV. The photo went viral, and Williams was once again center stage. Shaner said, “We appreciate him helping us. It is nice to have someone watching out for us. When we’d come back from a call, Woody would be there.”
For Williams, it was only natural for him to help. “I saw a gap that needed filling,” said Williams.
Photos: Woody Williams, Carl Miller Photography, Greg Shaner and Vanessa Infanzon.