HAYNESVILLE, La. -- As we celebrate African American History month starting in February, we meet a World War II veteran from Haynesville. A.D. Williams has a remarkable story about his treatment in a foreign land amid battle, and how things were here when he came back home.
"I never was where there was boom-boom-boom combat," A.D. cautioned. "I'm no General MacArthur."
A.D. was in a segregated unit of black soldiers doing general services -- like supply and construction.
"Whatever they told me to do," he says.
His outfit advanced into Germany. He and some others were separated from the unit. He was surprised when a German family, friendly to the U.S., hid the black soldiers in their house, away from Nazis lurking nearby.
"If they didn't hide us and the Germans had caught us they would -- boom!" A.D. said, mimicking the sound of another gunshot.
A.D. says they could've all been shot or put in a Nazi prison camp. But they weren’t found.
"Man upstairs," A.D. credits for his survival.
"Some years after serving our country at war -- in the 1950's -- A.D. had settled in Claiborne Parish. He remembers going to the courthouse to register to vote. And he was reminded that he was still not considered equal."
He can laugh now at his experiences with the literacy test.
"You'd be taking the test and a big deputy sheriff come up behind you," A.D. recalled of an intimidation effort.
A.D. had two college degrees. But he had to take the test over.
"She said you didn't pass it. And flipped it over. I said what? And she said I can't show you where you did wrong," A.D. says of the registrar.
Then pointing to his cheek, he added of the real reason he didn't pass the test, "You see the color of this right here? That's why."
Literacy tests were used until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to keep people of color out of the voting booths. Not until A.D. took the test a third time was he was allowed to register.
"If I'd fought through what I was being carried through, I would've been in Angola," A.D. further explains about the times.
But he did not remain bitter.
“You can't go back and wallow in bad treatment and all that stuff because you'll never get out of it. You have to find a higher calling," he says.
A.D. found that calling in education. He taught industrial arts in Claiborne Parish schools.
"I was able to help somebody -- helping the child. I stuck with the child. Impressed upon his heart and mind how important it was to get an education," he says of his career.
After attending Southern University, A.D. received grants to continue his studies at UCLA and San Diego State. But he chose to return home to Louisiana for his teaching career so that he could help his mother father. They raised another teacher and a preacher.