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A pioneer: Raphu Salathiel Williams

Charlayne W. Thompkins | 3/6/2014, 9 a.m.
Is it better to concentrate on the positive and leave the negative behind? I say no, for so much good ...
Williams Ambulance Service. The first Black-owned ambulance company that provided services in Miami-Dade County with a fleet of over 50 ambulances.

Raphu was an inventor whose resources did not allow him to complete the first four (4) axle car, the first limousine prototype.  Raphu owned auto repair and gas stations in Boston, Mass., Overtown and Brownsville, FL.  Three of the gas stations (two Cities Service stations and one Shell station) all owned simultaneously in Miami were named after his daughters.  Alethiea’s Cities Service station was in Overtown on 3rd Ave. which was later purchased by his brother Phichol; Charlayne’s Cities Service station was on 15th Ave. and 62nd St. and Arnetta’s Shell station was on 22nd Ave. and 62nd St. which was later purchased by his brother Kenneth. 

All of his daughters worked, and pumped gas for the customers and started the day with the following greeting to customers:  “Williams Service Station, May I help you.”  The work day ended for the daughters when the meters were read and the money was counted.

Raphu purchased real estate through the Salathiel Realty Trust and Williams Trust Company, with offices in Boston and Richmond Heights, FL.  As a politician, Raphu was again one of the first Black candidates to run for a seat on the Homestead City Commission in 1955.  He was also actively involved in the civil rights movement.

Raphu was married more than once and was the father of six children, Alethiea Caroline, Charlayne Rhalette, Arnetta Rozalia, Catherine Ann, Ray Elmore Williams and Gladys Bernadette. 

He was also a Charter Member of the Church of the Open Door (Congregational), United Church of Christ where he and his brother Kenneth were excellent singers in the bass section of the choir.  Raphu was quite “a bragg-a-dosha” about all of his family including his children. He instilled high values for education, business and music in them and would encourage them with sayings like: “Children in the Williams family go to school to respect the state”.  Therefore C’s and D’s were not tolerated and B’s were frowned upon. 

While repairing his RV, Raphu sustained burn injuries from a gas leak and passed away on January 18, 1987 at the age of 73.