Richard Williams, Jr.

The Inspiration

Richard Williams, Jr. (1933-2003) graduated from Charles M. Hall High School in 1951. After graduation, Richard entered the United States Army in Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he graduated with honors from the Fort Gordon Military Academy of Leadership. He then served in the U.S. Army as a military policeman in Okinawa, Japan.

He graduated with honors from the United States Department of Energy Courier Training Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was employed as a courier responsible for security and transportation of classified materials across the United States.

In January 1984, he was chosen to fill a vacated Blount County Commission seat. In August 1984, he was elected to the Blount County Commission and represented District 1 until his death in January 2003.

Richard was a deacon of St. John Baptist Church, a member of Granite Lodge No. 289, and Almas Shrine Temple No. 71, and he served as a leading officer for each. He was named the Mason of the Year in East Tennessee and received the Shriners Outstanding Leadership and Devoted Service Awards. He was a 33rd Degree Mason and Shriner. In July 1985, he was listed in the fourth edition of the Who’s Who Among Black Americans.

Richard Williams was without question the most influential and outstanding person on the Blount County Board of Commissioners in modern history. Very few people have been blessed with Richard’s people skills, intelligence, common sense, and oration skills. He was effective in working with people of all ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. People liked Richard because he made them feel good about themselves.

Richard was an effective negotiator in bringing contrasting viewpoints together to solve problems. If Commissioner Williams felt someone was being unfairly treated, he became a powerful and fearless advocate to right the wrong. Richard helped others without a thought of helping himself. He truly believed in service above self. Blount County is a much better place because of the public service of Richard Williams.

“On a personal note, I learned more about people, politics, and life in general from Richard than I could from any college. I feel like I was one of the first graduates of the Richard Williams Academy.  His frequent visits to my office were always a learning experience on my part. He always left my office saying “Thanks for being my friend.” I miss Richard very much and I will always be grateful for being his friend.”

-Roy Crawford Jr., Blount County Clerk

Richard will always be remembered for his love of the famous poem “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss.

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house
by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened
meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my
house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

The Co-Founder

George’s accomplishments included conceiving and serving as manager of Alcoa City Center which involves the use of the restored Hall High School building.  He provided project development and management functions at the business and education center.  He served from 1970 to 1979 with Oak Ridge Associated Universities where he had a major responsibility for training services in the manpower, education, research, and training division.

From 1979 to 1997, he was employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a business development specialist and customer service person in economic development where he was responsible for $25 million in public work contracts.  He later served in the division of natural resources and human resource development.

From 1998 to 2003, George provided financial services through Prudential.   He operated The George Williams Agency, providing a full range of financial services.  He served as chairman of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Blount County Historical Museum as well as serving on the Alcoa Board of Education and the Alcoa City Commission. His service also included the boards of Pellissippi State Technical Community College Foundation; Blount County Community Action Committee; Tennessee School Boards Association; deacon, Church of God in Christ; and he founded the Richard Williams, Jr. Leadership Development Academy, of which he served as executive director.

George Williams