Williams’ own official tenure at Grand Central is usually noted as starting in 1903, ten years prior to the opulent new station that opened in 1913.
In 1923, the New York Age observed that he had encouraged “some of the most successful [African-American] men in this city” to defray college expenses by working summers as Red Caps at Grand Central.
In 1928, the Pittsburgh Press asserted that the “person who put the railroad station porter in a red cap…and finally succeeded in selling him to the traveling public…is Chief James H. Williams, head of a body of 500 fellow colored men, the largest force of red caps in the world, at the Grand Central terminal, New York.”
Despite its original connection, the term “red cap” quickly jumped track out of Grand Central Terminal, and even out of the railroad context.
Reporting on the following year’s season opener in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the New York Age remarked that the “Grand Central Red Caps, under the leadership of Chief Williams and Captain C.B. Earle…compose one of the strongest colored teams in the East,” Williams approved a professional basketball team five years later under the same name.