After buying a 1971 Thunderbird, he then highly customized it into his own “Rescue Ship” — fully equipped with a hero’s color scheme, fire extinguisher, extra gasoline, CB, beacon lights, as well as a toaster and Atari video game console.
With the help of his “Rescue Ship,” Willie took to the streets of Birmingham to assist with traffic accidents, give rides to people who were unable to drive, take elderly people to doctor’s appointments, and drive kids around to get food or as entertainment for birthday parties. He also visited home-bound neighbors, and on one occasion, he even intercepted an attempted robbery at a pharmacy.
As always, Willie never asked or received any type of payment for his services.
1982 was a great year indeed for Willie. Former Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr honored him by declaring August 3rd “Willie Perry Day” and presented him with an award for his exceptional service to the City of Birmingham. He was featured as well for his heroics on the famous television show “That’s Incredible!” Finally, later that year, while in town rehearsing with his brothers for the “Victory” tour, Michael Jackson himself met Willie with the “Rescue Ship.”
Restoration of the “Rescue Ship” in underway!
In January 1983, Willie was honored to be the lead car of the funeral procession for the famous University of Alabama coach Paul Bear Bryant, with the “Rescue Ship’s” lights flashing all the way from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.
Willie was awarded by Centennial Sertoma Club for Significant and Meritorious Service to Mankind in 1984, and during a rare snowfall in January 1985, he helped four University of Tennessee students stranded by snow in the city. He found a motel room for them at a motel and when the students could only gather $7.00, he paid the other $30.00 for the room.
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