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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Charles Williams - Unknown World Champion, Survivor of Titanic

“Champion at Racquets Lost”
London, April 17---Among the Titanic’s passengers was Charles Williams,
 The professional racquet champion of the world who was on his way
to New York to play Standing, the American champion for a stake
 of $5,000.
Published in the Chicago Tribune, Thursday, April 18, 1912:
[The racquets champ survived; he died in Chicago in 1935.]
Charles Eugene Williams was one of 700 survivors of the RMS Titanic on April 14, 1912.  Lesser known than Margaret “Molly” Brown, Bruce Ismay, or even Lady Astor for their actions during the tragedy, Williams was a World Champion racquets player who rarely spoke about the event, but the sinking of the English ship forever overshadowed his life.
As family and fans around the world prepare for the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, more stories about the lives of the survivors are being published. One Grand Junction family is finding out more about their ancestor who was a private champion.
Angie Antonopoulos, a local beautician, was watching the advertisement for the remake of the new 3-D Titanic film presentation of the fictitious story of Rose and Jack on the ship Academy Awards party when she casually mentioned, “My great-great grandfather was on the Titanic.
“He is my children’s grandfather, really, not mine. His name was Charles Eugene Williams. I only know a little.”
That little was enough to start an Internet search that lead to documents and articles that clarified the story of Charles Williams’ escape from death and his career after the ship went down.
More facts pieced together a better idea of  his personal survival story. The ship’s booking records were merged into one “list of the Titanic survivors” website which included the lifeboats records and personal interviews that were conducted on the rescue ship The Carpathia.
Twenty-three-year Charles Eugene Williams born in Harrow, England, was listed as a “Sportsman” on the list of passengers, and he wound up in lifeboat #14.
Text Box: It was while he was on the Carpathia being interviewed for the records that he heard that the London newspaper had sent the above telegram of his death. He quickly sent his reply: Daily Sketch, 20 April 1912
Mr Peterman, hon. secretary of the Racquets Association, stated last night that he recieved a cable from Williams, the professional racquets champion, who was on board the Titanic. Williams was to have played a match in New York against G. Standing on April 29 for the championship of the world. The cable reads: "Match postponed; return next week. Williams." 

After hearing this, Angie smiled and said, “Yes, we knew he played rackets. He was something of a champion.”
He was more than “something of champion.” Born and raised in England, he graduated from Harrow, one of the oldest schools in the country. While the squash racquets coach there, he turned professional, and became the World Champion in 1911 and 1912.  
The sport of squash racquets was in its infancy, not a lot of money nor notoriety, but the World title was important enough for recognition in England, so Williams was traveling to New York to defend his title from the American champ George Standing.

From an article in the , dated April 20, 1912:
Mr. Charles Eugene Williams from Harrow, England, boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger (ticket number 244373, £13). Williams was a squash racquets player. According to contemporary reports.    He was travelling to New York to defend his title.
Williams told reporters that he had left the squash racquet court at 10.30 p.m. and had gone to the smoking room. When he heard the crash he rushed out and saw the iceberg which he said rose a hundred feet above the deck. The iceberg broke up amidships and drifted away.
Williams said he jumped as far as he could from the side of the Boat Deck on the starboard side. He added that the boat he had to stand in water up to his knees in the boat that finally picked him up.
As he is not among the known survivors of boat A or B that match this description it is more likely that he got into lifeboat 14 when it was lowered from the deck (1).

He did make it to the tournament and defeated Standing, thus keeping the World title for England another year. But in 1913, his squash partner Jock Soutar from Philadelphia defeated Williams and held the title of the first American World Champion from 1913 to 1929.
            Charles Williams had moved his family to Chicago and continued to practice and complete with Soutar until he retained the World Title in 1929 to his death in 1935.  
His obituary in the Chicago Daily News was very short with no mention of his survival from the Titanic nor of his career title. Charles Eugene Williams was a very private celebrity.

Chicago Daily News  Williams—Charles Williams passed away Oct. 27, beloved husband of Lois Williams, fond father of Eugene, Ninian, John, Dorothy, Jean and Hilda. Funeral services Wed., Oct. 30th, at 2 pm, from residence, 5524 Lakewood av. Interment Rosehill cemetery.
Chicago Daily News, Tuesday, October 29, 1935, p. 27, c. 6:

“I have his obituary (the more extensive family one) and the spoon he had in his pocket when he was rescued,” Angie said. “My mother-in-law, that’s Dorothy, his daughter, gave it to me.”
Antonopoulos and her children’s ancestor are now the second Colorado link to the Titanic. They have many family stories about their great-great grandfather, that they can show documents and articles of his most public life events.
There is no evidence that Williams or his family went to the Titanic Survivors Reunion in 1931 or ever donated to the Titanic memorial in Washington, D.C. which was dedicated in  (Insert photo of Titanic Memorial)
Both of those projects were lead by the efforts of Margaret Brown. She spearheaded the fundraising to help the victims while in the lifeboat #3, on the Carpathia, and for years after she left New York. She was a very public person.
Charles Eugene Williams was a private man.  Only his family members can tell facts about his life after being one of 700 survivors of the famous ship. How did he cope with the memories, the death of his friends or shipmates, or even the fear of getting back on a ship?
On April 12, 2012, when Hollywood and the media play up the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, remember it wasn’t a fictional story; 1500 people died, only 710 survived, and their stories continue to fascinate and haunt us the living.  Every person has a story.
The Titanic was the first memorable tragedy in April 12, 1912.
What will we remember about the people of the Oklahoma bombing 4/19/95?
Or Columbine High School shooting, 4/20/99? (1152 words) 


  1. Charles Williams was my grandfather. My mother was Dorothy Williams Finnessey, who was born 5 years after the Titanic voyage. The family had several pieces of monogrammed silver and jewelry including the spoon described above. My mother was a great teller of tales--many of them tall--but I never heard her claim that the spoon was carried onto and off of the Titanic.

    I've been researching this topic for several years and have come across all of the clippings you have, which I forwarded to my brother, Dennis, who passed them along to my niece and nephew. One I didn't include in the folder I sent them was a Time article published in 1937, which traces the sport--then called "recondite racquets" and occasionally "extortion"--to 18th-century British prisons. It wasn't new or unknown in 1912. However,it was played by only a small percentage of people (exclusively men) because it required an enclosed slate-floored court. In the US, these courts existed in athletic clubs in only a few cities, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

    My grandfather emigrated with his family in 1924 to become the pro at the Chicago Racquets Club. My father and mother met while they were working in Chicago, married in 1940, and moved to Colorado in 1947, hence the GJ connection.

    1. Thanks for your reply. Sorry for taking so long to reply. This information is greatly appreciated. I'm thrilled that you told me so much of your family history. My deadline for the story was tight (only two weeks), so I had to use what was found on the internet search, the first time. After I submitted the story I uncovered a few more "facts," but I could not rewrite the story. I call them facts because one source stated that CHarles Eugene Williams was overheard telling another person (not to the Titanic investigation committee) that Williams was the last person to see Cpt. Smith save a child before swimming away from the lifeboat. Does your family have any reference to that story?
      I did have many questions about Charles' life and family after the Titanic. The quotes in my story were from Angela, and they were all I could learn from her. Sorry if I had some info wrong. Are you, your parents, and other family members in Colorado? Are you writing your family story as a book or to give to one of the Titanic museums?
      I would love to meet you and them sometime and share more information. I have so many questions, just curious about this World Champion that few interviewed or proclaimed in the early 1900s,Were all of Williams children born in England? Did Charles Williams talk or write about his survival?
      I continue to read the biographies of survivors, and several talked of their fear of getting back onto a ship. Yet I surmised that your grandfather went back to Harrow School to coach racquets, that King George and Queen Mary came to the school and met with him, and then back to the USA.
      Thank you so much for the information that you have given me already.

  2. Charles Eugene Williams was my great grandfather also. His son John "Jack" Williams was my Grandfather. Jack married Evelyn and had two daughters. My mom is Jackie Moorhead and she is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So Charles Eugene Williams was her grandfather.


Westley's Graduation - One Year later

Westley's Graduation - One Year later
Westley gets a hug from his mom the minute after he receives his diploma from Fruita Monument High School, Class of 2010.

He's BACK! Billy Crystal is 2012 Oscar Awards Host

Remember Bohemian Rhapsody Mountain Dew parody Ad

The Help: the film dividing America

By Philip Sherwell 7:30AM BST 23 Oct 20115 Her book has sold 1.3 million copies in Britain and 10 million in the States, the film adaptation has already earned $160 million as the movie hit of the summer in America, and now Oscar buzz is mounting ahead of its release in the UK this week. These should be heady days for Kathryn Stockett, author of bestselling debut novel The Help, a publishing phenomenon that earned the devotion of book clubs and legions of predominantly female fans on both sides of the Atlantic. The Help is the emotive story of black maids in the segregated world of Sixties Mississippi at the height of the civil rights struggle – their narratives recounted by a sympathetic, young white woman who rejects the virulent inbred racism of her old school friends. There are clear autobiographical parallels with Stockett, 42, herself, a blonde Southern belle raised by a beloved African-American nanny in Jackson, the Mississippi state capital where the story is set. And her success is all the more remarkable, as the manuscript, five years in the writing, was rejected by some 60 literary agents (she stopped counting at 45). The Disney film version is being marketed as an inspiring mixture of chick lit and civil rights, based on a heart-warming sorority between the races. And there is growing speculation about Oscar nods for Viola Davis (who plays the central character, Aibileen Clark), Octavia Spencer (her feisty friend, Minny) and newcomer Emma Stone (as white socialite Skeeter Phelan). But not everyone in the US is feeling so good about the “feel-good” juggernaut that is The Help. Certainly not Ablene Cooper, the black housekeeper for Stockett’s brother, who brought a lawsuit against the writer, claiming she was the unwitting and humiliated model for the similarly named lead figure. Nor a leading black actor, or the commentators – many of them also African-American – who view the book and film as patronising portrayals that sugar-coat one of the most violent eras in modern history. Those visceral responses reflect deep and enduring fault lines about race in a country where the horrors of segregation, a painful living memory for many, were not washed away by the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president. In Mississippi, the scene of some of the most brutal acts of the freedom struggles five decades ago, those sensitivities are particularly raw. And that violent past reared its ugly head again recently when a black man was viciously beaten up by a gang of young whites and then mowed down and killed by a pick-up truck in what prosecutors claim was a racially driven hate crime. Against that turbulent backdrop, Stockett was perhaps always courting controversy. Most poignant among the objecting voices is that of Mrs Cooper, who sued the writer for $75,000, a humble sum by America’s litigious standards, for using her likeness without permission. She said she was distressed that in the book Aibileen lost her son – just as she had – and that in one exchange the maid said her skin was blacker than a cockroach. The case was thrown out under the statute of limitations, as Mrs Cooper failed to lodge it within a year of being sent the book. Still, she was not alone in her complaints. Wendell Pierce, New Orleans-born star of The Wire and Treme, launched a blistering attack on the film after watching it with his mother, who told him afterwards for the first time that she too had once worked as “the help." In a series of scathing tweets, he called the film “passive segregation lite that was painful to watch”, said his mother thought it was an “insult”, that it was a “passive version of the terror of the South” and a “sentimental primer of a palatable segregation history." Mr Pierce was at pains to praise the cast, particularly Davis and Spencer, but added that Hollywood often seeks films with black actors as long as there is also a “great white saviour." The most damning verdict on its allegedly saccharine version of reality was delivered by Max Gordon, an African-American, New York-based writer, who described his outrage as he watched the film. “The phenomenon of The Help is so depressing, as it undercuts the real heroes of the era by ignoring the real horrors,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “This is not the South of lynchings and beatings, it’s the comfortable Hollywood take of the civil rights era. “I don’t think you can compare suffering and oppression, but what would people say if there was an executive decision to make a movie about the Holocaust and the Nazis without brutality, featuring only German officers’ wives and Jewish women, with no concentration camps or trains to Auschwitz?” But the two black stars are defending the film. Spencer, a friend of Stockett, was particularly combative. “We’ve gotten so PC and we’ve gotten so weirded out. We start labelling. You have to be a black person to write about black people, you have to be a white person…” she bemoaned in one interview, not needing to finish the thought process. “I have a problem with the fact that some people are making that an issue.” The book also received the imprimatur of Oprah Winfrey, the Mississippi-born talk- show queen whose views carry great weight with her overwhelmingly female and African-American audiences. The Help was described as a “favourite book” on her website. Stockett, a recently divorced mother of an eight-year-old daughter who worked in the magazine industry in New York before moving back to the South, is now working on her second novel, another tale of women, this one set during the Great Depression. The writer addresses some of the criticisms of The Help in a newly published version of the book. She denied that, despite the coincidence of names, her brother’s housekeeper was a model, saying she had barely met the woman. Rather, she wrote that the inspiration for the character was Demetrie, her beloved childhood maid who largely raised her after her parents divorced when she was six. “The Help is fiction, by and large,” she continued. Yet as she wrote it, she wondered what her family would say – and also what Demetrie, by then long dead, would have thought. She acknowledged that she was breaking what some have seen as a cultural and literary taboo. “I was scared a lot of the time that I was crossing a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person,” she said. “What I am sure about is this: I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the Sixties. I don’t think it is something any white woman at the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand.” But, she concluded, “trying to understand is vital to our humanity”. Loyal readers and cinema-goers might agree with these motives. Her critics, as adamantly, do not. As British box offices prepare for a lucrative new release, the polarisation shows no signs of abating. 'The Help’ is released on Wednesday in Britan.