ISRI’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Charles “Cricket” Williams Jr. has been working in the recycling industry since he was a teenager. A veteran of the industry, Cricket has held various positions with ISRI over the years, including serving as ISRI Chair from 2002-2004. In this edition of Faces of ISRI, Cricket discusses his career and the work he’s done for the association over the years.
Tell me about your background and how you found your war to the recycling industry.
My father, Charles Sr., began his recycling career in Philadelphia, working as a buyer for the Luria Brothers, a major brokerage firm at the time. In the mid-1940s, he moved our family to Richmond, Va., to open a new office for the company. He continued to work for the Luria Brothers until the 1960s when the company was forced to close or sell off many of its operations. One of those operations was the Richmond office, which he took over and continued as Charles Williams Co., a ferrous brokerage proprietorship. That’s how it remained until the early 1970s when he developed a heart condition.
At the time I was working as an engineer, but I left that career and returned to Richmond to help my father with the business. In 1972, Charles Williams Co. became a partnership named Charles Williams & Son and later a corporation called Charles Williams & Son Inc. I eventually took over as the sole overseer of Charles Williams & Son while also serving as an officer of Davis Industries Inc., a recycling company based in Lorton, Va. Charles Williams & Son Inc. shut down in the early 2000s. Fortunately, though, Davis Industries Inc. was one of our prime customers and they offered me an opportunity to join them, which I accepted. Eventually I took a small minority stake in the business.
How were you introduced to ISRI, and what role did ISRI play in the success of companies you worked for?
I started off with the Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel (ISIS). I became a chapter president of the Seaboard chapter, which doesn’t exist anymore. I was also a director-at-large, and I was active with various committees, as well as at the local and national levels. From 2002-2004, I had the honor of serving as the chairman of ISRI.
Charles Williams & Son Inc. was a small company, so being an ISRI member played an integral role in our success because it gave us creditably to trade within the industry. Personal relationships were key to being taken seriously in the business, so being ISRI members fulfilled that function for us.
How did you react when you learned you were the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient?
It was an honor, and it was humbling. I’ve been involved with the association forever, so to be acknowledged by my peers in this way is really special.
What are you most looking forward to at ISRI2022?
I’m no longer active in the business except for some management responsibilities with Davis Industries. Sometimes people reach out to me, and I remind them that I’m retired. The convention will allow me to connect with old friends that I’ve known for years. I haven’t missed many conventions over the years, and many of them have taken place in Vegas so I know my way around pretty well. I’m looking forward to returning.
What do you hope is your legacy in the recycling industry?
That I played a role in ISRI becoming what it is today. By no means was I the driving force, but I’d like to think I played a role, even a small one, in the great place the association is today.
What advice would you give to the next generation of recyclers?
Recognize the importance of ISRI and the role it plays in the success of your company and the recycling industry. ISRI was a major catalyst for the success of companies I’ve been a part of over the years.
Photos courtesy of Charles “Cricket” Williams Jr.