Beloved florist dies, left Selma a touch more beautifulPublished 11:41am Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Similar to the beautiful flower arrangements he made, Fred Williams brought smiles to many through his warm spirit. Williams, longtime Selma resident and business owner, died Tuesday at the age of 76 after battling cancer.
Williams made and sold flower arrangements in Selma starting in 1956 and owned Fred’s Flower and Gift Shop on Broad Street until his retirement in June 2011. Born Sept. 28, 1936 to the late Fred and Mary Ellen Williams, he developed a love of flowers through being involved in the family funeral home business — J.H. Williams and Sons Funeral Home, Inc.
Longtime friend of Williams, Dick Morthland, said Williams was a stranger to no one.
“Back when the barriers of segregation were high, he stepped over and created beauty,” Morthland said. “He was a good friend to me and I know he will be missed greatly.”
After moving to California in the 1960’s to do freelance design work for Hollywood’s Alpha Florist, Williams returned to Selma in 1970 and became the first black member of the Alabama State Florist Association. Nine years later, he was elected president of the association.
“He was in the flower business for many, many years,” good friend Jim Stallings said. “He met a lot of people and served a lot of people though that.”
Stallings recalled moving to Selma in 1986, and how Williams embraced him and his family with open arms.
“He just took me in like I was a member of his family,” Stallings said. “We were just longtime friends. We used to talk almost every night on the phone — sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning.”
Williams’ dedication and love for Selma extended outside his floral business, as he was involved in several clubs and organizations including the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society, charter member of the 12 High Club, Chesterfield Club and founding member of the Tuesday Night Group.
“He was just always doing positive things in the community,” Johnny Moss, Sr., friend of Williams, said. “He was a very respected person and people really cared for him and he cared for people. He was a wonderful Christian man and he’ll be missed by the community.”
Sheryl Smedley, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, recalled how Williams would use his time to bring flower arrangements to local nursing homes on Valentine’s Day.
“He was always doing small gestures like that,” Smedley said. “And he didn’t see anybody for color, he saw them for who they were — and that’s what I admired him for.”
Selma Mayor George Evans said with Williams’ death, the community lost a good person and great friend.
“He believed in beautifying this community — he loved Selma,” Evans said. “Anytime you asked Fred to do something, he did it with a smile. People who knew him will miss him because he was genuine, sincere and just a good friend.”
Funeral services for Williams are scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at Historic Brown Chapel AME Church with burial to follow at Fairlawn Memorial Gardens.