BEDFORD – Former Mayor John Williams loved Bedford and the people that live here.
He passed away Wednesday, at 1:15 p.m. at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. He was 84 years of age.
Survivors include his wife Jean, his daughter, Lisa Webb, and husband Allen; his son, John A. Williams, Jr. and wife Tracy; four grandchildren, Alexander Webb and wife Olivia, Andrew Webb and wife Jordan, Margaret Williams, and Elizabeth (Williams) Gouty and husband A.J.; Five great-grandchildren, River Webb, Benjamin Webb, Harbor Webb, Abram Webb and Grey Gouty.
Williams was hospitalized last week after suffering three heart attacks.
Mayor Williams said during an interview before his death – “I can’t imagine being anywhere else other than here, living anywhere other than here, doing anything other than what I’ve done, or having any other family than the one I have. Bedford is where I want to be and where I intend to stay.”
John grew up as an only child in Williams. He moved to Bedford in 1963. Before being elected as mayor, he served as Lawrence County’s clerk for eight years and worked as the manager of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch in Bedford.
Williams served as mayor of Bedford for three decades – serving 8,760 days spanning 24 years.
Donna Brumbaugh served as Mayor Williams’ deputy clerk-treasurer and clerk-treasurer.
“He had a vision for Bedford better than any other mayor we had,” she said. “He loved Bedford, he thought Bedford was the best place to live and raise a family. He wanted Bedford better and during his time as mayor he worked hard to improve the city but we were limited on funds and he would not go into debt. He worked with what he had. He was a nice person to work with and I enjoyed working with him.”
Former US Representative Steve Buyer said, during Williams’ tenure, the city’s landscape underwent a remarkable change for the better as vacant stores acquired tenants and empty lots sprouted new homes and businesses. City pride swelled and Bedford’s reputation of sound government and livability spread throughout the State of Indiana.
When Mayor Williams entered office he inherited a city with a decaying downtown business district and an outdated and malfunctioning infrastructure. To be successful, he realized that community action and involvement were needed. He established a citizens’ committee to lead efforts to rejuvenate downtown and at the same time worked with state officials to improve transportation and utility services. Today that same “citizens committee” still operates and has evolved into the present-day Bedford Revitalization, Inc.
The courthouse square, once a bastion of activity, had slowed. Under Williams’ leadership, the focus was to develop the Courthouse Square business district and he was successful in having the district included in the National Register of Historic Places.
In the early 1980’s, Mayor Williams worked with state and federal agencies and created the Transit Authority of Stone City (TASC). In the 1990’s, he built upon that effort and initiated a point-to-point or door-to-door, pickup service that streamlined the operation. This success prompted state transportation officials to cite TASC as a model program for other small to medium-sized Hoosier cities to emulate.
Mayor Williams’ transportation successes, and his efforts to expand and develop opportunities for local businesses and individuals to compete in the marketplace, resulted in a four-lane east-west street connecting Indiana State Road 37 and Lincoln Avenue that is now named in tribute to him. Doing so, opened hundreds of acres for industrial and business development. The process took ten years from inception to completion, but, today, John A. Williams Boulevard is one of the main arteries in the city.
Recreation was a continuing program in Mayor Williams’ administration. Today, Bedford has seven city parks and an 18-hole golf course, which has been called one of the best municipal courses in Indiana.
William’s voice resonated on the airwaves of WBIW 1340 AM for more than 20 years. Williams provided live play-by-play radio coverage with his broadcast partner, Al Walker, for Bedford High School and Bedford North Lawrence High School sports.
Myron Rainey and Mayor Williams also worked alongside each other broadcasting approximately 60 games a year for 17 years on WBIW 1340 AM.
“Where do you begin, we became great friends, it was a terrific time,” Rainey said. “We shared a lot of laughs with quite a few stories that I will never forget. He meant a lot to me. I want to express my condolences to his family.”
Countless local citizens would tune into the ever-popular morning show on WBIW 1340 AM to hear Williams’ voice as the Talk of the Town host for more than a decade. Williams’ passion for radio began early as he also served as a part-time board operator on the weekends for several years.
Visitation will be from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday, August 6, at Hillcrest Christian Church in Bedford. A Masonic Service will be conducted at 7:00 p.m. by members of Masonic Lodge #14 F & AM. The funeral service will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 7 at Hillcrest Christian Church with Pastor Mark Fugate officiating with visitation from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. prior to the service. Burial will follow at Green Hill Cemetery in Bedford. Day & Carter Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.
Memorial contributions may be made in John’s memory to the Bedford Rotary Scholarship, John Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund at Lawrence County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1235, Bedford.