To Allyson Williams and the rest of the Williams family, William “Roger” Williams was just Dad. But when they went out into the community and others knew they were family members of the longtime state legislator, they knew that Dad meant a great deal to so many.
“Every single time I meet someone and tell them I am his daughter, they say 'I will never forget what your dad did for me,'” Allyson Williams said. “He has given an awful lot to a lot of people. Whether it was in his business or in politics or through his church or to his kids and his grandkids, he was always willing to help someone.”
Roger Williams, who served 22 years in the Georgia House of Representatives from Dalton and later was a member of the State Transportation Board, died Wednesday at the age of 85. Allyson Williams said her father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
She remembers him as setting an example by wanting to help others, being humble and being selfless.
“We’ve had time to prepare for this, and so many people have given to us the way he did for others,” Allyson Williams said. “The Veterans Administration has been very helpful throughout this and so many others as well.”
Roger Williams was born in Gainesville and moved to Dalton in 1963 after serving in the U.S. Army for eight years and attaining the rank of captain. He was a graduate of North Georgia College in 1955 and served in Germany and in Vietnam while in the military. He and his wife Joann came to northwest Georgia when he became president of Credit Services Inc. After being involved in business, civic and church causes around town, he ran for the state legislature.
Williams was elected as a Democrat and served five consecutive terms from 1977 to 1986. He was elected as a Republican in a 2001 special election to finish the unexpired term of the late Harold Mann and was re-elected each time until he did not run for re-election after the 2012 legislative session.
After more than two decades in the legislature and even more time involved with local and state politics in a variety of ways, Williams’ passing brought accolades and fond memories from officials both locally and from across the state.
“I’ve lost a true friend and certainly an outstanding mentor who helped me so much during the time we were in the legislature together,” said former state legislator and current Varnell Mayor Tom Dickson. “There weren’t many people who served in the House who were more respected than Roger Williams. The thing that stood out with Roger was he was quick to work with anyone. Roger was one of those people whose own priorities never got in the way of people who needed help. He was just a great friend.”
The first time former Whitfield County Commission chairman Mike Babb met Williams, Babb was a volunteer firefighter and Williams, then a representative in the state legislature, was on a tractor.
“We were working a wildfire and all of a sudden here came Roger on his tractor making his own firebreaks,” said Babb. “He was just out there to give us a hand. That was the first time we worked together, and in all the years that we worked together, there was never a time when he failed me or the people that he represented. He was always available, and he never failed to return a call.”
Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Williams enjoyed a level of trust and respect among legislators that few have attained.
“Roger Williams served with grace, dignity and integrity,” Ralston said. “He cared deeply about his community and worked hard every day to represent Dalton and Whitfield County. Not only was he a great leader, but he was a dear friend of mine and a solid rock of wisdom and good counsel.”
Former Dalton mayor David Pennington said Williams’ impact on the community was more than just from his time in government.
“He was a great local business person and he genuinely cared about his clients,” Pennington said. “He will be missed by the community as a whole — not for the fact that he was a state representative but because of what he means to this community.”
After he left the state legislature, the local legislative conference elected Williams as the area’s 14th Congressional District representative on the State Transportation Board.
In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by children Richard Michael and Sherrell Williams of Gainesville; Kathy Williams and Randy Bent of Nova Scotia, Canada; William Marcus Williams II and Jan Dougherty, and Allyson Williams, all of Dalton; and eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
A private ceremony will be held at Ponders Funeral Home in Dalton on Saturday, Sept. 14, with an open reception held by the family to celebrate Roger Williams' life at the funeral home from 3:30 to 5:30.