Here is an article I wrote for the FSView & Florida Flambeau in February 2003. Quick backstory: when I was doing research into the local goth scene I met this interesting elderly gentleman who was dressed like a desert biker version of Willie Nelson. Needless to say, I had to tell this guy’s story.
Tallahassee’s Local Badass
Tallahassee’s bar and club scene is ever changing. Names and locations come and go seemingly as often as the students that frequent them. Just in the last year, for example, clubs such as Chubby’s and Skyline opened, adding to the wide array of establishments. For the last five decades, there has been one constant in the scene, however, no matter what bar or club comes or goes. His name is Carlton Williams and he is a local Tallahassee legend.
Contrary to any rumors of him “crawling out from under a beer stein,” Williams was born fifty-five years ago right here in Tallahassee.
“I was born on Orange Ave.,” Williams said. “I was impatient. It’s a good thing my grandmother was a nurse.”
During his youth in Tallahassee, Williams saw the integration of Rickard’s High School and later partied at the same places as Jim Morrison, who would later become famous as head of the 60’s rock band The Doors.
“As a human being he [Morrison] didn’t need to exist,” Williams said. “His poetry was good. I liked some of his music. But at a party he always had to be the center of attention and he always Bogarted.”
Afterwards Williams joined the US Army. His Army career was cut short after his training when he was told he was “too crazy” to stay in.
“It didn’t make no sense to me because that was 1967 and I was just a body count basically,” Williams said.
After his time in the military was abruptly over, Williams used his Army training to become a bounty hunter.
“I was working at the Piggly Wiggly and split out of there. I figured I’d go and have a good time,” he said. “[Bounty hunting] was different then then it is now. You didn’t have to be certified.”
Although bounty hunting didn’t pay very much- a lot of the money went to paying informants- it gave Williams a rush. For over 25 years, he strapped on his familiar military utility vest, body armor, mask and hood and hunted down people who skipped bail.
“I was doing it off and on,” Williams said. “When you do something like that, you get to where you think you can break the law. You have to know when to walk away.”
In the meanwhile, Williams worked in construction, carpentry, laid vinyl, and sold handmade leather goods. In 1970, he met Judy, his future wife. They married in 1971 and have been together since.
“I told her I was going to marry her and she said ‘no way’,” Williams said.
The couple claims to have been the first merchants to sell their goods in the FSU Student Union.
“We were just some old hippies,” he said. “We would just throw a blanket down and sell our stuff there. Now they charge an arm and a leg.”
Still Williams bounty hunted, rounding up a vast collection of bail jumpers.
“Me and my boss would just sit in the neighborhoods and watch for these people,” he said. “There was one guy- mean old guy, strong as an ox- he wore me around for like three or four months. We finally got him. I waited at the backend of the guy’s house when I could hear my boss beating on that man’s house. I could see the guy running out. My boss pulled his car right in his way and grabbed him, sticking his gun in his stomach. I came out the passenger side and pulled out my gun and pointed it up against his skull. We put the handcuffs on him and gave him to a deputy. It was exciting. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.”
After bounty hunting, Williams went on to do security at the Cow Haus. There he said he saw a situation there where bouncers weren’t acting as well as he thought they should. He worked there for several years, “cleaning up the place.”
Recently, Williams has been stricken with several health conditions. He has suffered a stroke, had a major heart attack, and just weeks ago, his doctors thought he might have cancer.
“The night of my heart attack, I kept saying ‘Something ain’t right. Something ain’t right,’” Williams said. “The doctor told me I might have had several smaller heart attacks when I worked at the Cow Haus but I whenever felt tightness I would just jump in the mosh pit and get the blood flowing.”
The heart attack made him eventually leave the security job at the Cow Haus and resume selling homemade leather goods at the flea market.
“I would sell leather bikini tops to the college girls in exchange for a picture them wearing it- that was the deal,” he said.
Currently, because there “isn’t much work for someone who has had their chest opened up,” Williams works overnight security at car lots.
Throughout it all, Carlton Williams continues to do what he does best- visit the bar scene. Whether it be a bar on the Strip or Club Jade on Tuesday night “Goth Night,” Williams feels at home.
“I’ve been in bars so long, even if I didn’t smoke, I would probably still be sick,” he said. “It [a bar] is the only building I can be in and be comfortable.”
Epilogue: A quick Google search doesn’t find much for a follow-up on Carlton Williams, although I think he may have created a twitter account. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since September 2009.