Gray reflects on memories with Williams

Published 8:30 am Friday, April 24, 2020

LANETT — The entire staff of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) was deeply saddened by the recent passing of their board president, Bobby Williams. They had full confidence in him as a decision maker and a good leader. They also knew him to be a very good friend.

Williams had been a CCDA board member since 2009, having been appointed by the Chambers County Commission. He’d been the chairman for the past eight years.

“I never met anyone who didn’t like Bobby or have a fond memory of him,” said CCDA Executive Director Valerie Gray. “He truly made a positive impression on everyone he met and took personal relationships seriously. I always looked forward to our weekly coffee table discussions in the office. He had so many good insights, many he acquired in those good-old banking days ‘when a man’s word was all that was needed.’ Such core beliefs, I believe, is why he was so successful as a banker. It was all about relationships. Economic development is all about relationships, and that’s why he led us so well. He knew that we worked crazy hours and that it’s who you know and who you can count on to make projects happen.”

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Gray said that Williams would always talk about his family in those coffee table discussions.

“He would talk about Tricia, the one he’d loved since kindergarten days in River View,” she said. “He’d also talk about how hard his mom and dad had worked, and him and Tricia getting married and starting a family. Some of my favorite stories were the ones about family vacations.”

He and his son, Neal, once met Richard Nixon when he was president.

“With security all around the president,” said Gray, “Neal walked up and started a conversation. Nixon enjoyed talking to them both. Another favorite story is the one about meeting President Bill Clinton. He was the Lanett city manager at the time and had gone to Washington D.C. with Mayor Terrell Whaley. The mayor got him up at the crack of dawn one morning and told him they were going to meet the president. ‘Oh, bull,’ Bobby muttered getting out of bed, but sure enough they did get to meet him on his early morning run. Running alongside were members of the Secret Service. Clinton stopped and talked to both of them.”

Gray said that Williams had a way of meeting people and making friends.

“Just by chance, he met so many people over his lifetime,” she said. “In my eyes, two of the most important were my dad and me. Bobby was a key person in the bank that helped my mom and dad get started in their business. After my dad (Michael Givorns), passed away almost 17 years ago now, Bobby quickly became a father figure to me. I never, ever wanted to disappoint that man, and no matter what or when, he was always there for us.”

Gray had the opportunity to travel with Williams on a number of business trips.

“New York City and Point Clear were my favorites,” she said. “On one trip, we visited the United Nations. We also went to some AMEA events. Bobby never quit leaning about how to help the citizens of Lanett. His love for Lanett also extended to the county as a whole. Just go back and review his Facebook posts and you can see that. He loved everything about Chambers County and promoted us like no other.”

“His friends and family should know what they meant to him,” Gray said. “There are so many stories surrounding the Bishops, his city hall sidekick Shirley Motley, the McCoys, the Reardens, the Pearces. Tricia, Neal, Jacie, Jordan and the newest addition, Mason. Every one of them held a special place in his heart, and he was so proud of all of them.”