Willie J. Black was born March 31, 1896 to the parents of Jacob and Lula (Beazell) Black in Crystal River, Citrus Co., FL. There is some controversy over the actual name of Willie’s mother. The Alabama Marriage Records has it as Lula Beazell with Willie’s death certificate having the name as Brazell. A short time after Willie was born his mother passed away leaving Willie and his older brother Carl motherless. The children are shown living in Marion County with their grandparents, Peter and Susan Black on the 1900 census. Their father was living in Citrus County with his new wife, Alice Martin. The children were brought back to Crystal River where they were raised and remained for the most part of their lives. Granny (Alice) always talked about how the boy’s mother “Sissy” was her best friend and when she died she married their father to see that they were well taken care of. The children thought of her as their natural mother and treated her with kindness their entire lives.
Willie married Artha Townsend December 31, 1916 in Polk County, FL. He and his wife were never able to have children, but through the years relatives would leave their own children for extended amounts of time with them, resting in the assurance their children would be kept safe.
As a very small child Willie learned the family business of net fishing, and was a commercial fisherman most of his life. In later years he would change his occupation to that of an automobile radiator repairman.
To Willie, growing up on the islands was like growing up in his own back yard. Between the fishing and pleasure trips to the islands he must have thought of one in particular as his own because…there came a time when as a “squatter” on Hog Island, he sold it to a Greek from Tarpon Springs, Fl. At least the old Greek who referred to him as “Crazy Willie” considered him to be a squatter, which makes one wonder why he would have paid anything for it in the first place. It’s just possible he might have owned the title to that island, but never the less, it had to be a very emotional day when…Willie gave up “His Island”!
Willie was inducted into the Army at Inverness, FL as a pvt. in World War I on August 25, 1918, the same day as his brother. As with Carl, neither saw time oversees during the war. His organization was listed as…156 Dep Brig. He received an honorable discharge on 1918 due to demobilization.
Through the years several articles appeared in the local newspaper on Willie and his ability to grow some of the finest vegetables Crystal River had ever seen. More than once he was featured holding some enormous vegetable that defied logic. He lived in a low-lying area of Crystal River that was prone to flooding, but which produced some exceptionally rich soil.
Except for short periods of time spent in Lakeland, Willie remained in Crystal River his entire life. Oh! There were the trips to the Everglades the family would make in search of more fish, but those don’t really count. His roots were planted in that rich, fertile, black dirt on 5th Ave., Crystal River, FL.
Willie died January 1, 1980 in Crystal River and is buried at Crystal River Memorial Cemetery.
On A Personal Note…Uncle Bill was my grandmother’s brother. I grew up hearing all the family stories including those of Uncle Bill and Aunt Artha. I would visit them from time to time over the years and have warm memories of the time spent with them.
Author: Linda Flowers