Buster Williams was born on December 16, 1884, in Barnwell, South Carolina.1 We do not know when he arrived in Florida, but by 1917, when he registered for the in St Johns County, as seen here on the draft registration card, he was single, living in New Augustine, farming for Mr. George Willson, in Elkton.
The Selective Service Act enacted on May 18, 1917, authorized the army to organize a first draft registration on June 5, 1917 for all men between twenty-one to thirty-one years old. The age was then extended from eighteen to forty-five years old after September 12, 1918. Buster Williams was inducted in the Army, at St. Augustine, Florida, on June 19, 1918. According to his draft registration, he would have been thirty-four years old. It is likely however, that he lied about his age when he was inducted, as his birthday day on his service card showed December 16, 1888, which put him right under the maximum age limit. Buster Williams could have been motivated by the thirty dollars per month a serviceman gained in the Army which was a significant raise for many African American workers or farmers.2
For two months, Buster Williams was part of the 135th Depot Brigade. On August 18, 1918 he transferred to Company D, 536th Engineers Service Battalion. Twelve days later, on August 26, he and his new battalion boarded the USS Mount Vernon, as seen on the picture, at Hoboken, New Jersey, to go to France.3
In France, the 536th Engineers Service Battalion likely worked at St-Aignan depot, loading, unloading cars and sorting material. St-Aignan was a depot part of the Service of Supply (SOS) organization. It was a reserve depot used for classification and distribution of casual officers arriving from United States.4
Post Service Life
When the war ended, Buster Williams left France from the Atlantic port of St Nazaire, sailing back to the United States on board of the USS Kroonland on July 19, 1919. He returned to his civilian life on August 7, 1919, honorably discharged from the army as a Private First Class.5 In 1920, Buster William was back at New Augustine, in St Johns County, Florida. He was married to Ethel Carter Williams and had two sons: Curtis, two years old and Arnold, a newborn. The family rented their house and Buster worked as a laborer. On November 20, 1920, a third child, a girl, Audrey, joined the family. 6
Buster Williams still worked as a laborer but owned his house by 1930. His wife worked as well, from home, as a laundress.7 On May 29, 1938, their daughter, Audrey, then seventeen, who had married Daniel Green and lived in South Carolina, died of malaria.8
By 1940, Buster Williams worked as a laborer for a cemetery. He lived in his house, with his wife and his son-in-law, Daniel Green who worked also as a laborer but in the fishing industry. The Richardsons, a couple who lodged with the Williams family, perhaps brought some more income for the family.9 Buster Williams died on December 28, 1945, at the age of fifty-eight, he is interred in Saint Augustine National Cemetery, in Section D, Grave 47.10
2 “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed June 13, 2018), entry for Buster Williams; Jennifer D. Keene, World War I: The American Soldier Experience (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), 35, 94.
3 “Service Card” database, Floridamemory.com, entry for Buster Williams; “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939,” database, Ancestry.com. (http://ancestry.com : Accessed June 13, 2018).
4 American Battle Monuments Commission, American Armies and Battlefields in Europe: A History, Guide, and Reference Book, (Washington, D.C., 1938), 437-447; Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War. Vol. 1: American Expeditionary Forces: divisions, (Washington D.C.: Center of Military History United States Army, 1931-1949), 52-54.
5 “Service Card” database, Floridamemory.com, entry for Buster Williams; “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939”., database, Ancestry.com. (http://ancestry.com : Accessed June 13, 2018).
6 “Florida, New Augustine, St Johns, Florida. 1920 U.S. Census, population schedule” database, Ancestry.com. (http://ancestry.com : accessed June 13, 2018), entry for Buster Williams; “South Carolina, Death Record, 1821-1965” database, Ancestry.com. (http://ancestry.com : accessed June 13, 2018), entry for Audrey Williams.
8 “South Carolina, Death Record, 1821-1965” database, Ancestry.com, entry for Audrey Williams.
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