HUNDREDS OF people are expected to say their final farewells today (March 1) to popular Birmingham ambassador and community leader Gus Williams, who died suddenly on February 4.
A visionary, a scholar and a champion of youth education, Williams founded the charity Acafess, which supported generations of young people from its Moseley Road base.
A surveyor, who worked with Birmingham City Council for 30 years, and a Liberal Party candidate, Williams regularly walked the streets of Handsworth as he attended Parliamentary committees, or while talking with his great friend Liberal Party Leader Lord David Steele.
Williams, who was 64, divided his time between his beloved hometown of Basseterre in St Kitts where he owned the station Radio One, and spending several months of the year with his family in Birmingham.
He was staying with his sister Lorna George at her home in Perry Barr when he fell ill with stomach pains and died of kidney failure at City Hospital 24 hours later. Six months earlier he had suffered a stroke in St Kitts but had made a good recovery.
“Gus’s sudden death has been a terrible shock to us all because he still had so much to offer. It’s a waste of a great mind,” said his sister Lorna.
“He was an intellectual, but also a humble, charming man who had great charisma. He always had a smile on his face and was there for anyone in the community who needed his help,” she said.
Many tributes poured in for the popular father of four, who studied at the University of Birmingham and pioneered research into ‘hurricane-proof’ homes in the Caribbean.
Dr Denzil Douglas, the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, highlighted Williams’ many contributions to the development of the islands.
Former Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Sybil Spence, said: “Gus was a man of many talents – a real community leader who inspired others.”
Civil rights veteran Maxie Hayles, said: “Gus was a dynamic personality who was a great ambassador for black people in the city. He was very politically astute but supported the wrong party. I used to tell him that if he supported Labour he would have gone far.”
Fellow community activist Bini Brown recalled Williams’ entrepreneurial spirit from their schooldays together in Birmingham when he would go out at lunchtime to buy biscuits for a penny each then come back and sell them in the schoolyard for two pennies.
“He was always laughing and cracking jokes, but he had a great mind. He’ll be missed,” said Brown.
Desmond Jaddoo, of Birmingham Empowerment Forum, said: “Gus was instrumental in building bridges within the community following the 1985 riots in Birmingham.”