William Francis Boyd was born on February 7, 1915, on East 38th Street and Central Avenue in Cleveland, OH. He moved with his parents, Elmer F. and Cora S. Boyd and sister Lucille in 1917 and lived above his father’s funeral home on East 43rd Street and Central Avenue. The family later moved in 1925 to East 81st Street and Cedar Avenue. William F. Boyd attended Quincy Elementary School and Patrick Henry Junior High School. During the Depression, Elmer Boyd moved his family again to an upscale, predominantly Jewish neighborhood at 10704 Drexel Avenue off East 105th Street in the Glenville area. They were the second family of Negroes on the street. William finished Glenville High School in 1933. Under the influence of two cousins, he completed post-graduate courses for one year at Central High School. At Central High School, the student enrollment was predominantly African-American. Bill Boyd was elected President of his class and loved and cherished the friendships that were made at Central. The Boyd family faithfully attended St. John AME Church on East 40th Street for many years. The Great Depression compromised the financial stability of the home and Elmer Boyd was forced to move his family residence back to East 81st Street in 1932. William’s desire was to help his father run the business and provide for the family. There was no money for him to pursue a college degree, so he volunteered to attend Cleveland College of Embalming and graduated in 1938. Seeing a need to expand his services, Elmer F. Boyd purchased the Slaughter Funeral Home at 2165 E. 89th Street in 1938 and the ‘& Son’ was added to the firm name.
On August 19, 1939, William F. Boyd married Mary E. Webster, daughter of Dr. Franklyn DeDelk and Ina Guy Webster at Lane Metropolitan CME Church. In the early 1930’s, he joined Antioch Baptist Church alongside his mother, Cora Stewart Boyd. He served there as a Trustee. Elmer F. Boyd passed away in February of 1944 and William ran the business with his mother until her demise in 1960. William and Mary raised three children: William F. “Pepper” Boyd, II, Marina Elisabeth and Marcella Millicent. The first Cleveland NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner was chaired by William F. Boyd in 1959. In August of 1963, he was appointed by the committee to fill the vacancy of Rev. Cole’s position on the Cleveland School Board. By November of 1963, he successfully ran for the Cleveland School Board and later became Vice President. He served on the Board until 1970. He was responsible for the school district erecting yellow flashing lights around all public schools. While serving on the Board, he used his influence to get positions for many school teachers and other personnel. William F., affectionately known as “Bill”, was a tireless community servant for many years. Many times he performed funerals and received no compensation.
He was one of the last members of a rare class of gentlemen who believed that if you do as God asks with honesty and integrity, you will be rewarded. Committed to the African American community, he served on the Eliza Bryant Skilled Nursing Facility Board for over 24 years, received the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts, Lifetime Achievement Award from BPACF, a member of the Central Area Council, the Urban League and the Prince Hall Excelsior Masonic Lodge. Because of his belief that a strong family unit was the essence of life, the Urban League recognized the Boyd Family as the “Family of the Year” in the ‘70s. He never influenced his children to join him, but his example inspired all three of the Boyd children to become a part of the family dynasty including William F. “Pepper” Boyd, II (LaVerne), Marina Boyd Grant and Marcella Boyd Cox, grandchildren, Victoria Boyd and Lisa Taylor. William and Mary were proud grandparents of 10 and great-grandparents of 18. William F. Boyd, Sr. celebrated his 75th Anniversary of service to the public in November 2008.