Richard Williams

Richard J Williams

1945 - 2019

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Obituary of Richard J Williams

On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Richard Joe Williams, husband and loving father, passed away at the age of 73 at his home in University Place, WA. Richard was born June 6, 1945 in Huntingdon, TN, the eldest of seven children.


From humble beginnings, Richard attended segregated schools and had daily chores that might include picking cotton or plowing fields with an old mule. Out of necessity, he emerged as the male leader of his home, and faithfully looked after his six brothers and sisters. During a childhood filled with equal parts adventure and tribulation, Richard learned how to thrive, no matter the circumstance. Weeks after graduating from Webb High School in 1963, where he excelled both academically and on the basketball court, he joined the Air Force during the Vietnam War.


During the war, Richard was assigned to Phan Rang Air Base, and served as an aircraft mechanic on the F-100 Super Sabre. Returning safely from the conflict, he was stationed at McChord Air Force Base near Lakewood, WA. Upon receiving an honorable discharge, Richard naturally transitioned to be a mechanic for the Boeing Company, even working on a prototype that eventually became the 747 Jumbo Jet.


Always loyal to justice and the rule of law, destiny brought Richard to the Tacoma Police Department (TPD). Tacoma avoided serious rioting after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, in 1969, racial tensions in Tacoma exploded, culminating in the Mother’s Day Disturbance, a night of mayhem in the Hilltop community. In the wake of this unfortunate event, political pressure caused TPD to recruit African-American candidates, including Richard. Only the 6th black officer to be hired by TPD, he would go on to serve over 27 years on the force, retiring at the rank of captain in 1998. Richard started his career as a patrolman, spending countless hours with his first patrol partner and lifelong friend, James A. Walker. During his career, he also served as a fraud detective, motorcycle unit sergeant, special investigations and internal affairs lieutenant, and division commander. 


Remarkably, Richard received two Medals of Valor. First, in 1977, he pulled his patrol car in front of an assailant speeding towards a 4th of July crowd on the Tacoma waterfront. The fierce collision sent Richard into the back seat of his vehicle, nearly killing him. Twenty years later, for his second medal, Richard thwarted an attempted kidnapping and armed robbery of one of his neighbors, an incident in which he fired upon and wounded the two perpetrators. 


While climbing the ranks in TPD, Richard found time to be a member of the TAPCO Credit Union board of directors, even being elected chairman for a period of time. In all, he devoted 24 years of service to TAPCO as a board member.


Naturally intelligent and eternally inquisitive, Richard pursued multiple academic degrees while on TPD. He received an associate degree from Tacoma Community College, and bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Puget Sound (UPS), attending classes before and after shifts as a patrolman. Soon thereafter, Richard also earned his law degree from UPS in 1981, this time taking classes at night. 


Being a licensed attorney gave Richard the perfect activity to stimulate his mind during retirement. From 1998 to 2016, he operated a solo legal practice of both criminal defense and personal injury cases. Always able to deftly argue either side of an issue, Richard now found himself defending the due process of citizens who had interactions with law enforcement. Walking from his law office at 10th and I street down to the courthouse, he could regularly be seen conversing jovially with members of the defense bar and law enforcement community alike. Ready to finally retire once and for all, Richard closed his legal practice in the summer of 2016.


In November 2016, less than 6 months into this 2nd retirement, Richard became seriously ill, requiring brain surgery. Continually resolute, even in his journey to the after-life, he embodied the essence of bravery and courage. The same inner strength that propelled him from his humble beginnings in the segregated south to achieve greatness as a husband, father, and member of the local community, similarly pushed him to bravely fight the condition that ultimately took his life. His tremendous fortitude permitted him to meet his first grandson, Austin, born in October 2017. Holding true to her vow to love Richard in sickness and in health, his devoted wife, Theresa, affectionately cared for him at home until his final breath.


To be sure, Richard had a predilection for duty and hard work, but he also knew how to enjoy life. Playing backgammon, completing crossword puzzles, and watching jeopardy were a few of Richard’s favorite pastimes. But nothing brought pleasure to his life like spending time with his family and wide array of friends.


First and foremost, Richard will be remembered for his quick wit, sense of humor, and infectious laugh. While he was often admired for his sharp intellect and graceful eloquence, he was also exceedingly humble and patient for someone who God blessed with so many gifts. Selfless and loyal, Richard never hesitated to help those in need, whether it involved generously sharing his resources, or offering sage advice and counsel. And as a husband and father, he was extraordinarily loving and compassionate, possessing the perfect balance of strength and kindness. Richard touched many lives, and will be deeply missed.


He is survived by his wife, Theresa; mother, Myrtle E. Holmes; three sisters, Helen M. Adams, Martha R. Oglesby, Myra F. Hampton; two brothers, Keith A. Williams, Ronald W. Williams; son, Evan C. Williams; daughter, Roshawne D. Williams (mother, Carol Miles); and grandson, Austin R. Williams.


The family wishes to acknowledge and gratefully thank the healthcare professionals and many life-long friends who cared for him, without whom this arduous journey would have been far more difficult.  A special heartfelt thanks is extended to the TPD and TAPCO families for their incredible love and support throughout the years. 


The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations or memorials be submitted to the Williams account, TAPCO Credit Union # 3195960. A memorial service will be held April 13, 2019, 5:00 pm at Edwards Memorial, 11020 S. Tacoma Way, Lakewood.


Memorial Service

5:00 pm
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Edwards Memorial - Lakewood
11020 South Tacoma Way
Lakewood, Washington, United States