A Champion Passes
Charles James ‘Jim’ Williams of Frostburg, MD died yesterday, December 19, 2013. Born in 1932, Jim was a Champion of the sport of Table Tennis and cherished the many hundreds of friends he made in and through the sport. He introduced the game to hundreds of people during his life, bequeathed it to his children, turned his car into an advertising vehicle for it and learned it and played it and taught it with great zest.
Jim came to the sport through the YMCA and a promotional tour of America featuring the great English Champion, Richard Barna, sponsored by the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company in the post-war years. A multi-sport athlete in High School and College, Jim, as a high school sophomore finished first in a state-wide tournament sponsored by the YMCA, the “Chevy Chase Invitational” in 1948.
Marrying and starting a family in 1952, Jim lost touch with the sport for several years as many USATT members do in their early adulthood. He ‘rediscovered’ the game in 1963 while earning a M.Ed from West Virginia University. He encountered two German students who played with the ‘new inverted sponge’ and was intrigued all over again.
Joining USATT, Jim was thrilled by the diversity of the playing members and the dynamic personalities he met. He was always in awe of the skills of the top players and became a tournament regular at events in Maryland organized by Bob Kaminsky and Yvonne Kronlage. He became friends with Tim Boggan, although he always felt Tim’s serve was clearly illegal. What he learned at these events he brought home, organizing and running leagues and affiliated clubs for the next 50 years. At the YMCA, in rented warehouses, in College dorms, he spread his knowledge and love of the sport. Nothing made him happier than having a student or pupil eventually reaching and surpassing his own skill level, a solid 1600/1700 level tournament player with a surprisingly good backhand.
Jim was a great fan and friend of Dell Sweeris, and attended both the Michigan tournaments and Dell’s training camps, modeled on the teachings of the Japanese Champion, Ogimura. Driving great distances through rotten weather was no obstacle to him as his love for the sport and the people in it propelled him. He became a great fan as well of a young man from Pittsburgh, Danny Seemiller, engaging Danny for training sessions and public appearances in Western Maryland as he spread the table tennis gospel. He was always quick to tell you that he had known Danny, Sean O’Neill and Larry Hodges as juniors, implying that he somehow contributed to their own memorable careers. He greatly enjoyed the USATT’s national events, especially the US Nationals and US Opens held in Oklahoma, Michigan, Long Island and Las Vegas. He frequently attended the US Open Teams tournaments in Detroit as both a participant and a spectator.
Jim was a fixture at the North American Teams as well, with his cohorts Tom Huff, John Vos, Terry Bell and others willing to wear Viking Helmets and bad tee-shirts as members of “The Hammer of Thor” squad.
In his role as organizer of the Western Maryland Table Tennis Club, Jim purchased dozens of tables over the years, most of which he gave away to members and groups in need, all out of his own pocket. He was perpetually giving away rackets, balls and rubber to youngsters and newcomers as he shared sweat and fellowship. Jim funded and ran several sanctioned tournaments, most notably the Maryland Medallion series, and was thrilled by the positive response and participation they received.
While he was never National Champion, World-ranked or a USATT Board member, Jim Williams was a certified Umpire, true-believer, non-stop proselytizer and Champion for the sport. He is survived by his sons, David and Alan, USATT Life members, @8000 current USATT members, somewhere around 20,000 who only ever saw ‘Competitive Table Tennis’ by having seen Jim play. His greatest legacy is the next really good backhand you hit.
His family thanks you for remembering him and your good wishes as we hold funeral services for him this coming week.