Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams: Destiny and a dream deferred

This was not in the plan.

Wednesday will mark my 25th year with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. I can assure you, 25 years in Columbus and Phenix City was not how this deal was supposed to work out.

I was a young journalist and was hoping to become a sports writer for the Birmingham News. Some kids want to play pro ball or be a brain surgeon. Not me. I wanted to write like Alf Van Hoose and Clyde Bolton. And to do that, I needed to get to Birmingham and write for the newspaper that was delivered to my grandparents’ home on Seventh Avenue South every morning because that is what Mr. Van Hoose and Clyde did.

I started my Alabama journey in Enterprise, then worked in Dothan — a couple of times — and Anniston and Montgomery.

The professional barnstorming tour stopped here June 18, 1989, the day 12th Street became my work home. I didn’t know it was the last stop. And I am glad no one told me at the time. I am not sure a 28-year-old me could have handled that news.

But it stopped. Cold. And it stopped in a downtown Columbus that has little in common with the downtown of today.

The way I look at it, a funny thing happened on my way to Birmingham. Life happened. Not the dreams we had as kids. Just life. Marriage. Divorce. Kids. Jobs. You know, the DNA of life. The good and the bad.

And another thing happened.

The right thing happened, and I didn’t reach my perceived destiny because it wasn’t my destiny. It was my dream. Dreams and destiny are not same thing, and the older you get the more you realize that.

What I found in Columbus and Phenix City, just 40 miles from where I grew up in Eufaula, was a home. I found a community of people much like me, who cared about many of the things I care about.

I found a place to raise two girls — another thing I didn’t have 25 years ago. They are now all but grown and make me proud every day. I found a second chance at marriage and love. I didn’t know I was going to need that 25 years ago. And with that came two stepkids and a grandchild. Not a bad deal.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know I was going to need a quarter of a century ago when I rolled into Columbus.

At every turn, I have found what I needed to live a rich and fulfilling life. Good schools for my kids. People to listen and offer counsel when the wheels were coming off. People to encourage me and my family. Amazing co-workers, many who have been here much longer than I have.

Opportunity. Second chances. It’s all here. I just didn’t know it 25 years ago.

From a professional side, I have held probably a dozen jobs at the paper — everything from business editor to sports copy editor. As I jokingly tell folks, I change jobs every couple of years and have yet to lose my generous four weeks of vacation.

And, as an added bonus, a decade or so ago, I did some freelance work for the Birmingham News, covering mostly Auburn, Troy and Tuskegee football games. Technically, I did get my byline in the Birmingham News.

Maybe dreams do come true.