For nearly 30 years, Williams has donned Uncle Sam suit

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By Johnathan Ryan

Every Fourth of July, Lancaster County parade goers can rely on one man to stand tall as their Uncle Sam.

Harold Williams, a Kershaw Town Councilman and business owner, makes sure to give the crowds at the Charlesboro and Heath Springs parades a good likeness of the country's personification.

He plans to be at the parades again today as the county celebrates Independence Day.

Williams has been playing Uncle Sam for more than 25 years, and he can't imagine not playing him at the parades each year.

"I just don't think of doing anything else," said Williams, who is now 76.

He's often at the front of the Charlesboro parade procession, donning the Uncle Sam suit made by seamstress Carolyn Truesdale more than 25 years ago.

He said it gets hot inside the suit, but he drinks plenty of water and doesn't stand as much as he used to.

He used to stand waving the American flag from a slow-moving pickup truck, but now, he sits, as he's older and a Parkinson's disease patient.

But once on ground, Williams waves the flag and makes sure to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the traditional program held each year at Charlesboro Baptist Church.

Williams said people sometimes compliment him on his depiction of an American icon.

"I was told early on I make a good Uncle Sam," he said. "People still do."

He and Uncle Sam share some natural characteristics.

"I've had white hair for a while and I'm tall," Williams said, laughing.

But while Uncle Sam has a goatee, Williams attaches a fake one to play the role.

Williams got involved in the Charlesboro parade when it was first organized in 1979.

That first parade in 1979 was a simple one, with "a car, truck and a dog," joked early organizer Frank Faulkenberry.

In the early years of the parade, Faulkenberry, who was the chief organizer of the parade until last year, remembers how Williams would go to Columbia to get a load of watermelons for all to enjoy once the parade concluded.

"He's really put a lot into this parade," Faulkenberry said. "He said, 'This is my stomping ground.'"

Faulkenberry, who is Williams' best friend, said Williams loves playing Uncle Sam each year.

"Harold gets a thrill out of it," Faulkenberry said. "He wouldn't miss it for anything in the world."

Though he enjoys playing the American icon each year, Williams is thinking about letting someone else play the role.

He said he hopes to play the part for 30 years, and then a suitable replacement will step up to take it over.

For all his work in the parades, Williams has always appreciated and been amazed by the efforts of other participants.

He's especially proud of the other participants who go to great lengths to transport their cars, trucks, horses and mules to participate in the Charlesboro parade out of love for their country and community each year.

"They go through a lot of trouble," Williams said. "It amazes me the people who do that every year."

No doubt many people also feel the same way about Williams and what he does each July Fourth.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or (803) 416-8416