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Published: Friday, 2/9/2007

Business owner was a mainstay at NAACP

Marshall Williams, 92, a retired Toledo business owner whose dedication to the Toledo branch of the NAACP and his duties as life membership chairman spanned decades, died Sunday in Waterford Commons, where he lived about 11 months.

The cause of death was not known, but he had been in ill health, his niece Marsha Tyson said.

Mr. Williams for more than 35 years ran Marshall's Maintenance and Janitorial Service, which he began with his wife, Lena.

Operating from a basement office in the couple's Mackow Drive home, he won and managed cleaning contracts with office buildings and stores and oversaw employees, his niece Floella Brogan said.

But when he saw the need, "he rolled up his sleeves and got the job done," she said.

"He loved the independence [owning a business] gave him," Mrs. Brogan said. "He was a proud man, and he took great pride in a doing a good job."

He retired in the 1990s.

The Toledo Urban Bankers Association gave him a community service award in 1997.

He was involved with the Toledo branch of the NAACP for decades, including many years as life membership chairman and board member. He became life membership chairman emeritus, and the branch's board honored him for his service in 1999.

"He loved the NAACP. The NAACP and the church were his life," said the Rev. Floyd Rose, now of Valdosta, Ga., who was president of the Toledo branch in the early 1980s. "He always sold more life memberships than anybody else."

Mr. Williams was in charge of the annual membership luncheon in the 1980s and invited as speaker the head of a major Toledo bank, Mr. Rose recalled.

Mr. Williams' business cards had information about his janitorial service on one side, and about his NAACP duties on the other, Mr. Rose said.

"He grew up in a time when the NAACP and the black church were the two major institutions that fostered change - political, economic, and social change - in the black community," Mr. Rose said. "He was in the forefront of that community."

Mr. Williams was treasurer and a trustee of United Missionary Baptist Church, duties he formerly held at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

The youngest of four sons, he was born in Leland, Miss., and moved with his parents to Toledo in childhood, where his oldest brother, Edmund, came to find work.

He drove buses and street- cars for more than a decade for the former Community Traction Co., a predecessor to TARTA. He was one of the first African- American drivers hired, family members said.

He and his wife liked to travel and took vacations throughout the United States, Mrs. Brogan said. He made friends wherever he went.

"He would endear himself by coming up to you and saying 'I'm Marshall Williams,'•" Mrs. Brogan said. "He would carry the ball in conversation. You didn't have to say anything."

Lena Williams, his wife of 48 years, died May 3, 2000.

There are no immediate survivors.

Services will be at 10 a.m. today at United Missionary Baptist Church. Arrangements are by the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home Chapel.



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