He was born a slave in Georgia in 1849 and later sold to a plantation owner in Tennessee. Young William would stop at nothing to be free. At age 15 he ran away with the Union Army to become an officer’s servant and later joined the ranks of the Union Army. He retuned to the south to become a school teacher and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He later founded the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers. The organization’s holdings included an insurance company, hotel, office building,, concert hall and the True Reformers Savings Bank. At the time the bank opened in 1889, it became the first African American Bank in the United States to receive a charter.