Williams realized he had to protect his future; he had to do it as much to serve as a good example to his children—he now has an eight-month-old son, Julien—as anything else. So he went back to Maryland in 1982 and hard as it was ("I'm making a million a year and I have homework?"), got a degree in business administration in 1988. "I had to think long term," he says.
It occurred to him that as far back as he could see, his family had been a victim of racial inequality, in one way or another. His father, Moses, who quit school in the third grade, worked on a construction gang for 10 cents a day. Moses labored so many hours—later he was a cement finisher—that Buck scarcely remembers his being around. All those hours enabled Moses to build the four-room house, still standing, that sheltered the family for 26 years.
As a youngster, Williams was proud of both his father and his mother, but he was also conscious of and ashamed of the family's poverty. The Williamses had no hot water and no indoor plumbing until Charles was in the 10th grade. "At night I would pray for indoor plumbing." he says. "It was embarrassing to come home from school, even with my friends, and walk past my house. It was a small little shack that we lived in."
When Williams was 12 years old, earning 50 cents an hour stocking candy for a local wholesaler, he surprised his mother with an egg beater; she uses it today. It should come as no surprise then that NBA rookie Williams, before he replaced his 1979 Buick or bought himself a house, put his folks in a new home in Rocky Mount. "The best day of my life," he says. That old house, that shack, had stood too long as a reminder of where he had come from and where—if a fellow didn't work hard, didn't save, didn't take matters into his own hands—he could return.
Betty Williams describes the house that she picked out as "a mansion. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms and all them showers."
Indoor plumbing galore.