Grandfather's Passion for Voting Lives On in Present Generations After His Death

PHOTO: Albert Patrick, of Eusala, Alabama, stressed the importance of voting to his family over generations. He died in 2008, one month after casting his ballot.PlayCourtesy Chenise L. Williams
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For one great-grandfather, voting was not optional; it was mandatory.

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Albert Patrick, who was born in 1905, believed so much in the power of voting that he talked about it "ad nauseam," his granddaughter Chenise Williams told ABC News. He died one month after casting his ballot in the 2008 presidential election.

He passed down his love for this civic responsibility to Williams and her daughter, Patrick's great-granddaughter, Imani Williams, who will vote for the very first time in this year's presidential election.

The college student called the upcoming elections "bittersweet" without Patrick.

Why Voting Means So Much to Him

PHOTO: Albert Patrick, of Eusala, Alabama, stressed the importance of voting to his family over generations. He died in 2008, one month after casting his ballot. Courtesy Chenise L. Williams
Albert Patrick, of Eusala, Alabama, stressed the importance of voting to his family over generations. He died in 2008, one month after casting his ballot.

Albert Patrick was born Jan. 24, 1905, in Eunola, Alabama, to Della and William Patrick. One of nine children, Albert left school in the "third or fourth grade" to pick cotton and make turpentine, according to Chenise Williams.

He moved to Orlando, Florida, in 1941, "looking for higher wages and better job opportunities," his obituary read. There he was an employee in a Palmer Feed Store in addition to installing residential fencing as an independent contractor.

It was in that central Floridian city where he met and married his wife, Alberta Johnson-Patrick. The couple had three children together, one of whom was Chenise Williams' mother, Maude.

"My grandfather would share stories from the '60s when Martin Luther King [Jr.] came to Orlando, and he said [King] didn't really have a big audience," Williams recalled. "People were either afraid or they weren't at the point where they were ready to take a stand."

King was instrumental in the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which outlawed state and local practices preventing African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.

"But he would talk about our civil rights and all the lives that were lost [in order to vote]," she continued. "People had to know how to read at one point [in order to vote]. They had to pay poll taxes. All these things were barriers to be able to cast their votes."

"So he made it a point to explain how we got here," Williams continued. "It meant too much to him."

PHOTO: Albert Patrick, who died one month after casting his ballot in 2008, taught his grandchildren the importance of voting. Courtesy Chenise L. Williams
Albert Patrick, who died one month after casting his ballot in 2008, taught his grandchildren the importance of voting.

Patrick retired in 1986, but his love for voting didn't wane.

"He made sure that other people — especially in his age group — went to vote. He used to say, 'They'll be coming around. They'll even come pick you up [if you want to vote].'"

She added, "If he didn't know something about an issue ... he would ask. He had a grade school education, so that said a lot to me."

And when Patrick cast his vote in the 2008 presidential election for then-Sen. Barack Obama, Williams recalled her grandfather saying, "It feels dang good."

He died a month later, on Dec. 8, 2008.

Passing His Love of Voting Down to His Granddaughter

Williams, 42, who is part of a military family, said she plans to vote by absentee ballot this year. She's one of Patrick's 11 grandchildren and said she wouldn't dare miss the opportunity to vote, because of her grandfather.

"I went with him to the polls before I was old enough to be able to [vote]. I'd be dragging a Barbie doll or Cabbage Patch [doll] in my hand," she recalled. "My grandfather said it was important that you understand the process and the action and the people standing out in the line waiting to go in."

PHOTO: Chenise L. Williams with her grandfather, Albert Patrick, who taught her the importance of voting. Courtesy Chenise L. Williams
Chenise L. Williams with her grandfather, Albert Patrick, who taught her the importance of voting.

When she was a student at Florida A&M University and got her first opportunity to vote, she remembered her grandfather's words.

"He would say, 'People lost their lives for the right to vote.' It was disrespectful to the ancestors and the people who came before you not to exercise your right to vote."

And the Legacy Continues

PHOTO: Chenise L. Williams with her daughter, Imani. The two are both descendants of the late voting enthusiast, Albert Patrick. Ron Sanders Photography
Chenise L. Williams with her daughter, Imani. The two are both descendants of the late voting enthusiast, Albert Patrick.

"Even if it's a school election, he'd say, 'You better go vote! It's mandatory,'" Imani Williams said of her great-grandfather.

Williams — one of Patrick's 22 great-grandchildren — is a second-year student at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. She plans to mail in her Florida voting ballot.

It's thanks to Patrick that she's looking forward to the upcoming elections — the first time she's able to cast her ballot in a U.S. presidential election.

"Personally, it's kind of a bittersweet thing because I do wish that my great-granddad was here to see me cast my first ballot. He did tell me how important it was, and at that time I didn't really understand the magnitude," Williams, 19, told ABC News.

PHOTO: Imani Williams, 19, is excited to cast her ballot in her first presidential election thanks to her late grandfather, Albert Patrick. JeLisa Price Photography
Imani Williams, 19, is excited to cast her ballot in her first presidential election thanks to her late grandfather, Albert Patrick.

"But now being of legal age to vote and the candidates having an effect on my life — for me this is a do or die time for our country," she continued.

It's clear that Patrick's lectures to her as a young girl weren't in vain.

"I can't find better words to say it. The next four or possibly eight years lies in the hands of us, as American people," Imani Williams said. "It's a weight that is really heavy, but I feel like we can carry it."

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