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Meet the man whose parents really (yes, really!) named him Darthvader

Will Lerner
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

The ghost of his grandfather haunts Ben Solo/Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. If only someone could inform our favorite emo wannabe Sith that a man by the name of Darthvader is alive and well in Memphis.

Darthvader Devon Williamson is a surgical tech at St. Francis Hospital-Bartlett, a medical center roughly 20 miles east of Memphis’s historic Beale Street. Humble and low-key, Williamson has found himself thrust into the spotlight after co-worker Derek Venckus filmed a video featuring Williamson and uploaded it to the hospital’s YouTube page. Yahoo Entertainment traveled to Tennessee to meet the man and learn more about his life as Darthvader.

Darthvader is born

Williamson owes his unique moniker to parents he says “are just normal … an everyday mother and father.” As Williamson put it, “Mom was the disciplinarian of the family, and my father was just a laid-back, easygoing guy. They were both in the military — that’s where they met, actually. In Honolulu. And after love transpired, so did I.”

Originally intended to be named Anthony Lee Williamson Jr. after his father, those plans changed after a fateful purchase of some Star Wars memorabilia. “They came out with baseball cards that [featured] certain scenes,” Williamson recalled. “And so there was one that was just Darth Vader. So, of course, enamored with the movie, [my father] was in love with the character. So he just came to my mom and said, ‘Look, this is one badass dude. We could name our child [Darth Vader].'”

“[My mom] was like, ‘OK. In the movie, his name is Lord Darth Vader. … We’ll drop the Lord, we’ll name him Darthvader as his first name.’ After giving birth and whatnot, realizing what she had done, she was like, ‘I agreed to this?!?’

“[My dad] was like, ‘It’s cool, it’s cool. He’ll be fine.'”

Darthvader’s early years

Williamson was born in Texas, but his military family was constantly on the move in his early years. With stops along the way in Boston and Germany, he started attending  kindergarten in Miami. “Kids and adults in elementary school could be just awful. … When we’d have teachers call roll call, and of course they’d do it alphabetically, and when it got to the end, they would just look up over their papers and say, ‘Really? Darthvader?’” Williamson said. “And I’d raise my hand, and all the kids would start laughing. I didn’t find it funny; it was just my name. Kids wouldn’t want to play with me because they thought something was wrong because I had that name. The list goes on.”

Williamson decided he was done being Darthvader. “In the third grade I wanted to change my name,” Williamson recalled. “Apparently I was really hellbent on my name being Jerry because when the teacher called my name out I didn’t answer. I told her my name was Jerry. She called my mother and told her what I had done. [My mother] told me what the process was, everything I’d have to do, and at that point I said, ‘You know what? I’ll just be Darthvader. I’ve got it. I’ll deal with it.’”

Darthvader Williamson, 39, is a surgical tech in Memphis. (Photo: Yahoo)

Darthvader goes to India

As an agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Williamson’s mother took an assignment in India when he was still in elementary school. It was a time that Williamson would come to cherish. Aside from the enjoyment of exploring a different nation, Williamson didn’t find himself the subject of ridicule because of his name.

“Nobody paid attention to the name Darthvader,” Williamson said. “It was just, ‘Hey Darth!’ I was the only black kid there. I had an Afro, and the kids were more enamored with my Afro than my name. The people were super awesome. It was a cultural experience and a learning experience.”

In 1992, Williamson moved back to the States and returned to Miami. While he didn’t experience cultural shock moving back to American soil, he did have to learn to fit in a new school with a name that was far more noticeable here than in India.

“The name put me in the forefront,” Williamson said. “I was a quiet and reserved guy. I didn’t know anybody, so once school started getting going and the girls would notice the name, it would start bringing me out of my comfort zone.”

Williamson graduated in 1996 and began his career as a surgical tech for the Army. He would be stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia before eventually moving to Memphis in 2001.

Darthvader’s first reaction to seeing Darth Vader

Born in 1978, Williamson was too young to go see The Empire Strikes Back when it came out in 1980. When Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, though, Williamson’s mother took him to see the movie. It didn’t go well.

“My mom decided to take me to the movies so I could see what the character was like,” Williamson said. “And when [Darth Vader] came on, she would say, ‘Look, honey, that’s you!’ And she said I would scream in the movie theater because apparently I was petrified of this character. As I got older, I looked at the movie, and I was like, ‘They really did this to me.’”

If you’re expecting Williamson’s favorite character from the franchise to be his namesake, guess again. “My favorite character is actually Boba Fett, the reason being I’ve always liked his costume,” Williamson said. “And as I got older and watched him — he was just an intergalactic badass. [He] never said much, but when you saw him, you knew he meant business.”

Williamson actually feels ambivalent about the saga that gave him his name. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m not a fan,” Williamson said. “I just haven’t watched or gotten into the whole Star Wars culture. I’ve seen the first three, but I haven’t seen anything after that. I understand they’re good movies, but I just haven’t seen them. I just haven’t made the connection and attraction to Star Wars. I’m more partial to Alien movies and horror, stuff like that.”

Darth Vader, Lando Calrissian, and Darthvader’s personal favorite, Boba Fett. (Photo: Lucasfilms/courtesy Everett Collection)

Darthvader has heard all your jokes

Nearly 40 years of life on this planet means that Williamson has basically heard every single joke you could make about his name. “The ‘greatest’ [joke] I’ve heard was, ‘Were your parents screwing when Star Wars was on?’ Williamson recalled with a smile. “And I just looked [at them] and was like, ‘Really?’ There’s just so many that you learn to tune them out.”

With all the variations of Darth Vader already claimed on social media, Williamson has had a difficult time finding a valid username. “I was always known as Yung Vade,” Williamson said of his days in the serivce. “So my Instagram, my email, all of it is YungVade78. And even then, somebody has taken [Yung Vade], so I put 78 on the end so I can have at least that part. I can’t even put Vader, because somebody has that.”

A father, Williamson has declined to give his kids any names from the Star Wars franchise. “I didn’t want my kids growing up being tormented the way I [was],” Williamson pointed out. “It’s even more cruel now because of social media and whatever have you. I didn’t want them to go through that.”

Darthvader’s non-Rebel crushing career

Williamson has been at St. Francis since 2007. “A surgical tech is a person who helps the nurse get the room ready, go over what’s called a ‘doctor’s preference’ card to make sure the specific items that the doctor uses are readily available for patient care, help break the room down, and position the patient,” he explained to us. “With that, I go a step further with what’s known as a surgical assist. You actually have to know the procedure because you’re that right hand of that surgeon. As he’s doing that procedure, I’m doing it with him.”

“I love what I do,” Williamson shared. “When people come here, they’re at their most vulnerable. And something as simple as closing up their knee is your trademark. Doctors have confidence in you. You’re contributing to the betterment of somebody else. You’re doing something worthwhile. You’re not just doing something where you can’t see your results. You can see your results immediately because you know this person is going to feel better once they’re done.”

George Lucas, Darthvader would like to meet you

As more and more people learn about the man named Darthvader, we asked him if he’s had the opportunity to meet anyone from Lucasfilm, or creator George Lucas. Williamson says that hasn’t happened yet, but he’d like to.

“I wouldn’t mind,” Williamson shared. “It’d be awesome to sit down and talk to somebody who was behind the actual creation of the character so I could talk to them and say, ‘Hey, because of the character you created, this is what my life has been. This is what Darth Vader would be in real life.'”

Watch The Last Jedi stars John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran react to learning about Darthvader Williamson:

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