Accolades for Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, were many and heartfelt Saturday evening as a crowd of supporters gathered at the Shuman Recreation Center in Hinesville to celebrate the lawmaker’s many achievements.
Religious, civic, educational and community leaders shared anecdotes and laughs about the man whose political career was launched from humble beginnings in a corner of Liberty County.
Locals and out-of-town guests from Macon, Brantley, Wayne, Long, McIntosh and Chatham counties enjoyed a meal and live musical entertainment as they marveled at five decades worth of legislative accomplishments and community service. Williams, according to Liberty County Commission chairman-elect Donald Lovette, has weathered many storms and now is known as “the dean.”
“Tonight is a night of celebration for a man who has dedicated 50-plus years of his life to this community,” Hinesville Assistant City Manager Kenneth Howard said as he introduced the evening’s two hosts, Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Verdell Jones and Midway Middle School Principal Debra Frazier.
“It is with great joy that I congratulate you for 50 years of devotion, commitment and operating in excellence. We thank you for your time, talent and voice to improve and challenge the community we live in,” said Sanford Anderson, Williams’ pastor from Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.
Anderson said it is always a joy to hear Williams repeat his personal mantra, “This is the best day of my life, for the joy of the Lord is my strength.”
“You can talk to the politicians in Atlanta and Washington, but also to the man under the tree,” Frazier said.
“When my mother died in Claxton at age 106, Al Williams was there. We couldn’t have a better representative in Atlanta. We have had a close relationship for many years,” former Liberty County School System Superintendent Ed Edwards said.
The Liberty County Board of Commissioners, the city of Hinesville and the Liberty County High School Alumni Association joined to proclaim Aug. 11, 2012 as Al Williams Appreciation Day.
“Al is a strong advocate for us,” alumni association President Charles Frasier said.
“A mayor needs a friend, and Al has always been there for the city of Hinesville,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said.
Midway Mayor Clemontine Washington’s praise for Williams drew a few laughs.
“Al entered the world as a politician. The first word he said was money. He is an orator, facilitator and negotiator. He has rubbed shoulders with many great leaders, but you always see him out in the community at family reunions, community gatherings, funerals and visitations. He is everywhere,” Washington said.
James Hall, Williams’ high school football coach at the old Liberty County High School, described the qualities that have made Williams a great leader on and off the field.
“Al is the kind of guy that you need on the football field. You know he has discipline. He was a very determined young man and a great quarterback,” Hall said.
The lawmaker’s longtime mentor, 88-year-old Sadie Ryals of McIntosh County, joked that Williams began preparing before birth for a career in the public eye.
“He comes from a family with tall trees. When he was a young boy, I asked him to do the response to the welcome at my church, Prospect Missionary Baptist. He must have been rehearsing for public speaking in his mother’s womb,” Ryals said.
After Williams’ admirers finished lavishing praise upon him, he took the podium.
“Everybody is important. No matter how high you think you might go, it is because of people you meet along the way. I want to thank you for your support today, and I thank you for allowing me to serve you. I will always try to do the best I can for you,” Williams said.
He thanked his wife, Olivia; his children, Cyril Alexander, Malcolme Xavia, Gregory, Cordell Algeron and Carlton Allen; grandchildren; great-grandchild; mother-in-law, Evangelist Evelyn Richardson; god daughter, Jacobi Izzard, twin sister, Chiquita; and brother, Maurice.