Black doctor: ‘I’m COVID-19 positive’

Drs.-Josefus-Brenda-Williams-cousin-Willie-Mack-Thompson-1, Black doctor: ‘I’m COVID-19 positive’, News & Views
This photo of Drs. Josefus and Brenda Williams with their cousin, Professor Emeritus Willie Mack Thompson, was taken at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, California, in October 2019, when they visited Mack and Ile Omode School, which they support.

by Willie Mack Thompson

Millions of people over the world are receiving news that a family member has COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. My cousin, Josefus Williams, M.D., who lives and practices medicine with his wife in Sumter, South Carolina, tweeted the following news to me on Sunday, April 4, 2020: “I’m COVID-19 positive. I’m doing well. I’m isolated in my house. I will be out of commission for two to three weeks. I have cared for several COVID-19 patients. One was not recognized initially and this may have been the one that the infection came from. Can’t wait to get back in the fight.”

Dr. Josefus Williams is the son of Curtis and Josie Williams, paternal grandson of Edward and Madie, great grandson of Isaac and Georgiann Hudson. Dr. Josefus is the only medical doctor in the four generations of Williams-Hudsons of Harris County, Georgia.

He is one of more than 250 members of the third generation born after the Civil War. This was the period of the “Black Codes,” the fateful presidency of Andrew Johnson and the formalization of the Ku Klux Klan, mob rule, Jim Crow, racism and white supremacy. Josefus and his wife, Brenda Williams, M.D., have lived in Sumter, South Carolina, where they operated a private medical clinic for more than 30 years.

They now operate a free medical clinic for the uninsured two days a week. Joe also practices medicine at a local hospital.

Dr. Brenda works in the clinic, cares for the home, is the director of The Family Unit, Inc., her 501 c3 organization that works to improve the lives of those in need. Brenda’s work for voting rights was recognized in a film called “One Vote.” She appears with Warren Buffett and three others in the film that captures the compelling story of diverse voters on election day 2016.

She also buys and renovates houses for the poor, supports striking bus drivers and registers voters, including prison inmates. She is awaiting a jury trial after she was arrested for asserting her right to “walk through” a school in Sumter, S.C. The Sumter School Administration had her arrested and she spent the night in the same jail where she had registered inmates to vote. She is now awaiting a jury trial in Sumter, S.C.

Joe experienced discomforts including a cough and headache complicated by a history of asthma. Brenda gave Joe over-the- counter medication, home-cooked food and fluids. The cough, however, continued and he returned home from work. He was later determined to be COVID-19 positive.

Surprisingly, the voices of the two medical doctors with almost 70 years of combined medical practice, were not filled with expected panic. They were not seeking a magical intervention. They were calm and self-assured with an allusion to a spiritual faith as the ultimate decider.

Brenda told me on Monday that Joe was isolated in their large house; she had checked on Joe several times Sunday night and he had slept well. Joe says that he felt fine on Monday morning and awoke early to a breakfast of fluids and vegetable soup and deep breathing exercises on the deck of their spacious home. He later engaged in a three-hour teleconference as medical director of Agape Hospice.

I called Joe late this Tuesday afternoon hoping that, with Brenda’s home cooked meals, physical isolation, “medication,” deep breathing exercises and love and caring of family and friends he would continue to improve. Joe reported that he was a little sweaty with chills. His temperature was higher but still less than 100. He continues to consume lots of fluids. Brenda, who was tested yesterday, was asleep. Aisha, the youngest of his three daughters, is off work and spending time with her parents.

Willie Thompson, president of the Organization of African North Americans, is professor emeritus of sociology, City College of San Francisco. Email him at