Former School Board member dies

Published 10:47 pm Friday, October 19, 2012

Richard Williams Sr. was always building something.

The Nansemond County native was chair of the building committee of the county’s School Board when it was building several new high schools at the same time. The King’s Fork Ruritan Club, where he was a member, was building the King’s Fork Community House. And he was trying to build facilities on his dairy farm on King’s Fork Road.


Williams died this week at the age of 93, and his sons spent part of Friday reminiscing about their father’s community service, especially during the time when the new high schools were built.

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“The nights waned into days,” Roger Williams said. “There were many times he came home at two in the morning, changed clothes and went to milk cows.”

Williams ultimately served on the School Board for 13 years, from 1953 to 1966. He was vice chair for his last two years there, when the schools were being built.

The new high schools were integrated about five years before authorities in higher levels of government forced the change, the brothers said. There was no better man for the job than their father, older son Mit Williams said.

“He didn’t see color” at a time when it wasn’t popular to treat everyone the same, he said. Their father spent night after night making presentations on the new high schools across the county, he said.

The elder Williams graduated from Virginia Tech in 1941 after a teacher told him he could serve his community better with a college degree, his sons said. He served for five years during World War II and then revived the dairy operation he had started in high school, which son Roger keeps alive to this day.

The sons recalled powerful lawyers, judges and politicians stopping by the dairy barn to talk with their father and get his opinion.

“No matter how busy he was, he had time to let people know what he thought,” Mit Williams said.

Roger Williams said he always took pride when he walked into any of the schools built during his father’s tenure and saw his name on the plaque near the entrance.

“His legacy was his community service,” he added. “It was just beyond anyone’s imagination.”

His service also earned him the First Citizen award in 1963, when it was presented by the Cosmopolitan Club of Suffolk.

Williams will be buried today after a 2 p.m. funeral at Western Branch Baptist Church. He is also survived by son Richard Williams Jr. and daughter Marion Lovelace, as well as seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.