Early Life and Family
William Julius Champion Jr. was born to US Civil War veteran William Julius Champion Sr. and Elvira Hellen Gammons, a descendant of Mayflower passenger Thomas Rogers. Willie married Alice Viola Brown on June 15, 1908 in Boston, Massachusetts. He died on February 12, 1972.
Champion graduated Cum Laude from Yale University in the class of 1905 after walking from his childhood home in White Cloud, Michigan to Yale's campus in New Haven, Connecticut (over 850 miles), and "earning all of his expenses" as he put it. His major was Geology. The jobs he worked to pay for school included a sales agent for the Saturday Evening Post and a summer on the road with the Barnum and Bailey Circus which later became the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Willie experienced wild swings in fortune throughout his long life. In addition to various business ventures and investments he held full or partial interest in a gold mine in Colorado and the Champion Lead Mine in Niranda, Ontario (Canada). A local newspaper obituary called him a "radio pioneer" saying that after graduating from Yale William moved to the Boston area and went to work with Lee DeForest, inventor of the vacuum tube and goes on to say that he "helped setup and operated Boston's first radio transmitters".
Champion invented the board game of Kalah and worked for years to popularize the game in the United States. He long held that the game has intrisic educational value and held other benefits as well. Family history has it that in 1905 Willie first read about ancient games of the mancala family. He started manufacturing Kalah game sets in Mystic, Connecticut in 1944 and later in Salem, Massachusetts, and finally Holbrook, Massachusetts, in 1958.
- Kalah recognized as valuable educational Aid - 350 Students participate in Tournament: Kalah sweeps Coolidge School. In: Melrose Free Press December 19, 1963.
- Colorado State.
- 1885 Colorado State Census. June 1, 1885.
- Curts, B. G.
- History of the Class of 1905 (Yale), 1930.
- Loring, J. C.
- Champion Family History - Personal Notes, 2004.