At the beginning of 2011, being penniless and having only a handwritten sign, Ted Williams stood at a busy crossroads in Columbus, Ohio, feeling cold and hopeless.
“Broke and homeless addict, standing in the middle of the street. My family severed all connections with me,” Williams mentioned in an interview.
The ex-radio announcer was desperately trying to win back his life after it was destroyed by drugs and alcohol.
But he had not a single clue where to start.
Ted Williams holds a sign describing his talent near a highway in Columbus, Ohio. Williams’ deep voice made him popular when the Columbus Dispatch posted a video of him speaking on its website.
Ted’s dream of quitting streets life and coming back to doing voiceover finally came true when a Columbus Dispatch correspondent saw his sign, asking for help and spread the word about Williams’ “God given gift of voice.”
The Dispatch posted a video of Williams’ amazing baritone voice — and soon, Williams went viral. He got a haircut, a shave and offers for work, including voicing commercials for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
“It was the happiest day of my life”
Now “the man with the golden voice” has another dream: to thank the homeless community which once saved his life.
He’s starting out with a small idea: giving out socks.
“Many homeless people end up in jail. And the worst part of being in the cage and not having socks is let alone to be bothered by the elements, the cold weather, etc. So I go out and I give packages of socks,” Williams, 58, who was behind bars dozens of times before taking a new path, he revealed.
But he has even bigger goals to achieve.
“I have a plan to establish a homeless laundromat,” he said. “Frequently, homeless people discard clothes, or they walk down the street with millions of clothes, but in the worst condition”
He is thinking about a laundromat where volunteers wash and dry homeless people’s clothes so they are encouraged to have a new life, just like him once.
Ted Williams, the ex-homeless “man with the golden voice.”
Him becoming famous was not a way without obstacles. He celebrated four years’ of being sober not so long ago, but his path to it was full of depression, failed attempts at rehab and bad business relationships.
However, Williams landed a $300,000 book deal — “A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation” came out in May 2012 — and has been the voice of Kraft Mac and Cheese since 2011. Pepsi debuted an ad voiced by Williams, which was running during the Super Bowl 2016.
And in his free time, Williams gives motivational speeches across the country.
“I’m having the time of my life,” he happily says.
He especially likes talking to children. “They don’t have the time to break away, other than for social media,” he said. “When I make it on the scene, it’s like, ‘Look at the homeless guy with the voice!’”
Over the summer, he briefly thought about launching a presidential bid as an Independent, but later decided he could make a difference in other ways.
“I wanted to focus on other things: to inspire and encourage,” he said.
Faith has kept him away from his old lifestyle, he said. Williams’ first time in prison was when he was a 21-year-old, for stealing from his father — he often pray to maintain strong.
He still lives in Columbus, only now in his own home.
Reminders of his past are everywhere. Sometimes, he mentioned, he goes through aisles of stores where he used to pocket items.
“Then, all of a sudden, I’m thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ I know I’m not going to buy anything here, but I’m certainly not going to steal.”
Even in the darkest times, Williams believed he’d do voiceover work again. When he was in prison, he said, he would make fellow inmates laugh by doing fake radio commercials.
“They would actually think that I was on the air,” he said.
Williams, who was adopted and raised in Brooklyn, New York, has nine children and stepchildren, and 16 grandchildren. Despite prior issues in relationships with family, he has reconnected with many of his relatives since he quitted drinking.
A trip as a child to meet a radio deejay inspired him to make a career out of his own voice. While his second chance at life has surpassed his expectations, there’s one company he’s still hoping will someday call him: Disney-Pixar.
“They’re going to write an animated feature that has my voice on it. I promise you,” he said. “You’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s Ted, he made it!’”