Charles was born June 29, 1932 in Washington, D.C., the only child of Charles Haddon Williams and Kathryne Passailaigue Williams. He was raised in Washington and earned a B.S. from the University of Maryland and a PhD in Biochemistry from Duke University. While doing post-doctoral work in Sheffield, UK, he met his wife of 61 years, Angela Murison (Small) Williams. Together they settled in Ann Arbor, MI where Charles worked for the V.A. doing basic research as well as serving as a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Michigan. They raised two sons, Stephen Charles Williams and Patrick Timothy Williams.
Charles was devoted to his work on enzymes that contain vitamin B2 and to Science in general. He studied enzymes containing versions of vitamin B2 that are involved with crucial functions in maintaining protein structure, providing reducing equivalents for the production of the bases in DNA, and for the function of mitochondria in cells. He collaborated with scientists from England, Germany, and Italy. He and Angela, frequently accompanied by Stephen and Patrick, made many trips to these countries, especially the UK, and they maintained deep ties to family and friends there.