Vietnam Veteran and Hell’s Angels William Mclean was instrumental in bringing joy and smiles to the children of the incarcerated by purchasing presents for San Quentin’s Annual Christmas Toy Drive.
The Toy drive at San Quentin last December almost did not happen. Yet, thanks to some strategic planning from Mclean, the toy drive was a success.
William, 61, also known as Willie was born in San Fernando Valley in 1950.
“I joined the Army when I was 17 because I was getting into a lot of trouble so my mother signed a waiver and with her blessing I went in,” Willie said.
He served three years in the army with an honorable discharge. In Europe in 1968 he served for two years in the Second Armored Calvary. Then he went to Viet Nam and finished out his tour.
“I was with the Big Red One, First Infantry Division, they are now in Afghanistan,” said Willie. “I was in 11 Bravo 10 (11B10).”
As a veteran, Willie has supported the San Quentin Veterans program for the last two years. He makes no excuses for contacting the Oakland Chapter of Hell’s Angels for a donation to support the toys for kids. They donated $1,500.
In 1993, Willie and the club brought a whole truckload of presents to the San Quentin toy drive.
“I wasn’t in prison then,” said Willie. “Now that I am and after I heard about it I was introduced in 2008 to Debra Sheldon who used to work in the education department.”
WALT DISNEY JOB
That same year in the visiting room Willie saw the toy drive and asked about it. “I told the vet guys my club would help if they needed it,” he said.
Willie joined the Hell’s Angels in 1983 while he was working in the movie industry. “I worked for Walt Disney for about three years and Universal Studios for five, I was a grip.”
As a grip, Willie mounted and moved cameras around for shows like Universal’s “Ba-ba Black Sheep” and “The Incredible Hulk.” At Disney, he did the same job for “Ghost Busters” and “MacArthur” with the late Gregory Peck.
Although it was in 2009 when Sheldon relayed information to Purcell that the toy drive was not going well. Purcell brought it to her attention that Willie’s club, the Hell’s Angels, would be willing to help.
“Debra contacted me and I contacted the club, and they had a toy drive,” Willie said. “My daughter Desireé brought the toys down to San Quentin.”
It was kind of funny, Willie said, because they did the toy drive and received so many gifts Sheldon had no place to put them.
“All year long we notoriously seem to end up in a bad light. But at the end of the year we coordinate and organize events and one of the things we do is toy runs,” he commented.
At San Quentin, Willie said, when you do something wrong they never forget, but when you do something right they never seem to remember. “But last year might be the first time they did remember,” Willie said smiling.
In 2010, Ronald “Yana” Self of the Veterans Information Project contacted him. Self told Willie they were having another rough year. Self connected him to Lieutenant Evans, who is now the Veterans sponsor.
DONATED THE FUNDS
“Lt. Evans said the sponsors who had promised to do it, turned out they couldn’t,” Willie said. The one week they had was not enough time to organize the drive, so the Hell’s Angels donated the funds to San Quentin.
Willie a four-year resident of San Quentin has experienced great highs and lows in his life. He and his wife married in 1982 and that following year his baby boy William McLean was born. Then in 1984 his daughter Desireé was born. Yet it was in May of 2008 on the Marin Freeway when a man pulled a gun out and shot William.
Incarcerated when it happened Mclean said, “Allegedly William threw a burrito out of his car, it hit another guy’s car, and something kicked off the road rage on the freeway,” said Willie. “The man pulled a gun out and shot my boy to death.”
Administration tried to get him to his son’s funeral, but that never happened.
Willie said one thing is for sure. There is always room to go up, and there is plenty of room to come down, but he never thought he would ever be in San Quentin State Prison. He commented that some people in prison cannot do for their kids and that children reflect on their parents in prison.
“Those kids don’t remember all the guards they remember the toys.” Willie said he and the Hell’s Angels enjoyed helping the vets of San Quentin with the toy drives and looks forward to helping in the future, and he wants people to remember. “There are good people in prison who do good things.”