WARE, WILLIAM J. (31 Aug 1901 - 23 April 1997), master plumber, was one of Cleveland's first black union plumbers and a mentor to other minority plumbers wishing to join the profession. He was born in Demopolis, Alabama, to Mary Jane (Fenderson), a housewife, and Willie Ware, a farmer. He graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in 1928, having trained in stationary engineering and plumbing and heating, then came to Cleveland and opened his own company, Ware Plumbing and Heating. He opened a plumbing school on E. 79th Street in 1944 and conducted weekly instructional classes at no charge to his students for eighteen years. At a time when there were only six minority plumbers in Cleveland and most non-whites who sought to learn the plumbing trade were denied the opportunity, Mr. Ware not only trained them to enter the trade, he also provided paid apprentice positions. After closing his school in 1962, Ware continued to teach plumbing at the Harry Ratner Training School. In 1964, after 31 years of trying, Ware was finally admitted to Plumbers Union Local 55. Two years later, he testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about racial discrimination in Cleveland's plumbing industry. Ware helped draw up the Cleveland plumbing code, and served on the city's Board of Examiners of Plumbers during the MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF CARL B. STOKES. In 1968, Ware and a partner, Ed Sweeny, started Sweeny & Ware Inc., the city's first interracial plumbing and pipe fitting contracting firm, and Ware continued running his own business while serving as president of the new firm.
He served as a trustee of the URBAN LEAGUE and the Catholic Interracial Council, and on the Board of Managers of the Cedar YMCA and the labor committee of the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP. He was a member of the Cleveland Plumbers Contractors Association, the Cleveland Growth Board, the CLEVELAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, and a life member of the East Cleveland branch of KIWANIS. Among several professional and personal honors, Mr. Ware received the Cleveland Progressive Plumbers' Award, the MBDC Pacesetter Award, and the National Council of Negro Women Award. In 1976, he was named a Tuskegee Merit Scholar, and a decade later the Cleveland Tuskegee Alumni association awarded him a certificate of appreciation. He married a fellow student at Tuskegee who shared the same surname, Naomi Ware, and the couple were married for over fifty years when Mrs. Ware died in 1979. In 1982 he married Vashti Cartwright Ivy. Mr. Ware was named Father of the Year in 1987 by the Teen Father Program for being an outstanding role model for fathers and future fathers. He had five daughters and one son: Alfornia, Philomena, Janice, June, Thella, and William Jr. Mr. Ware died at MT. SINAI MEDICAL CENTER and is buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.