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Clippers guard Lou Williams prefers focus be on his late mentor, Paul G. Williams

The Atlanta businessman was a father figure to many

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When LA Clippers guard Lou Williams left the NBA bubble in July, it was to celebrate the life of his mentor Paul G. Williams, a successful businessman, husband, father and father figure he often affectionately referred to as “Pops.”

Lou Williams said he knows now that the stop at Magic City strip club in Atlanta to grab chicken wings during a pandemic before returning to the NBA bubble may not have been the best decision, as it sparked much conversation. But lost in the jokes and debate was the death of Paul Williams, Lou Williams said on Tuesday in his first public comments since returning to the bubble.

“He was like a mentor to me,” Lou Williams told The Undefeated after a 117-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. “The last time I talked to him he said he was rooting for us to win a championship. I really want the focus to be on that. I really want people to know I wasn’t in Atlanta bulls—-ing around. I was really there mourning for someone. Things happened. I understand. It is what it is.”

Paul G. Williams Sr. died July 16 in Atlanta at 66. Once Lou Williams heard that the father of his best friend, Paul Williams Jr., had died, the process began for him to request leave from the NBA’s quarantined bubble so he could pay his respects.

Paul Williams was born on Nov. 1, 1953, and was very proud to be from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, according to friends. He was in the alumni Hall of Fame at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, a historically Black college. He was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically African American Greek-letter fraternity.

Paul Williams dreamed of owning his own signature chain of restaurants one day, according to words from his longtime friend Nancy White at his homegoing at Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home in Atlanta. He realized that dream as owner of numerous Wendy’s franchises, including once owning six in Georgia and three fast-casual cuisine chain restaurants called Newk’s Eatery, White said.

“My best friend lost his pops, Paul Williams Sr. He was the first Black man I saw make legal money in my life,” Lou Williams said. “He had [numerous] Wendy’s and he gave my best friend a Wendy’s for his 25th birthday. That real success that I was able to see up close.”

Paul Williams opened his first signature restaurant, called Sweet Auburn Seafood, in 2014 in Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood. The Sweet Auburn neighborhood was once viewed as the richest avenue of commercial businesses for Black entrepreneurs. James Brown, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight were among the African American music legends who performed there. Also nearby is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes Ebenezer Baptist Church and King’s burial site. Paul Williams opened the restaurant in part to pay tribute to the Black history in the neighborhood.

White said the Williamses chose red as a “power color” along with black as the colors for Sweet Auburn Seafood. The restaurant’s menu includes such fare as shrimp and grits, seafood nachos, crab boil, mountain trout and lobster pot pie. Atlanta Hawks DJ Big Tigger is among those who have spinned there regularly. Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce once met Paul Williams there for a meal. In June, Atlantafi.com listed Sweet Auburn Seafood as one of the “60+ Best Black-Owned Restaurants In Atlanta.”

A half-mile away from Sweet Auburn Seafood is where rapper, political activist, businessman and Sweet Auburn Seafood fan Killer Mike’s SWAG Shop barbershop resides.

“He was such a cool human being,” Killer Mike told The Undefeated via text. “I mean 100 all the way. Always a smile and accommodating to my wife and I. As a restaurant owner, he was always on site and available to his customers. We lost a real boss. He will be sorely missed.”

Paul Williams was also a staple in the Atlanta community as a member of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta and other endeavors. His family and friends describe Paul Williams as someone who would keep it brutally honest because he cared and wanted to push his loved ones for the best and always told his children he loved them even in tough times. And he was known to help the less fortunate.

Paul Williams had the same respect in Atlanta as any entertainer, athlete, politician or businessman.

“As a Black businessman, he was that guy,” Atlanta-based music icon “Legendary” Jerry Clark Sr. told The Undefeated via text. “He was someone a lot of young Blacks looked up to because of his business acumen. I love the restaurant on Auburn Avenue. That was the heart of the birth of Black Atlanta. It was fitting that Mr. Williams had a place in Auburn Avenue. The food is great. That was not just a loss from the Blacks in Atlanta, but Atlanta as a whole with what he meant to the business world.”

For Lou Williams, it all speaks to the man he respected, and he’s disappointed that relationship has been overshadowed by his stop at Magic City. He told The Undefeated that he regretted taking that picture wearing a mask with a friend at the club and added that he was “naive and I didn’t think I was in a place where I was doing something wrong or something that was frowned upon.”

For anyone listening, the veteran guard says that he has taken the coronavirus seriously, understands the NBA’s concern and has not exposed his teammates or anyone to COVID-19. The three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year had 7 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists against the Suns in his first game in the bubble after quarantining for 10 days.

While the trip to Magic City won’t ever be forgotten by the social media world, Lou Williams wished the two visits he made to a funeral home to pay respects to Paul G. Williams was more talked about.

“It meant a lot to be able to say goodbye to him,” Lou Williams said. “I’ve known this man since I was 12 years old. He wasn’t blood, but blood couldn’t have made us closer. I really appreciated the opportunity to say goodbye.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.