The Fort Mill Post Office is two votes and a President Donald J. Trump signature away from getting a new name.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R, Dist. 5) introduced a bill Wednesday to rename the post office at 201 Tom Hall St. after a decorated U.S. Navy veteran born here almost 90 years ago.
“In honor of Veterans Day this weekend, and his birthday this coming Monday,” Norman said in an issued statement, “I was proud to introduce, with the entire South Carolina delegation, the ‘J. Elliott Williams Post Office Building.’”
James Elliott Williams was born in 1930, serving 20 years in the Navy, including time in Korea and Vietnam. Some military organizations — the U.S. Navy Memorial among them — list his birthplace as Fort Mill, others say he was born in Rock Hill. He and wife Elaine had five children and seven grandchildren. Williams is buried at the Florence National Cemetery in Florence.
“This bill would rename the post office located in Fort Mill after the most highly decorated enlisted soldier in the history of the United States Navy,” Norman said.
Williams’ accolades make a long list. Including the top honor, a Medal of Honor, awarded in 1968.
“After his retirement he was awarded the Medal of Honor, every sea-service award for heroism, the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart,” Norman said. “Furthermore, he was one of three sailors of American-Indian (Cherokee) decent in the 20th century to receive the Medal of Honor.”
The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation lists his citation, describing “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his live above and beyond the call of duty.”
As captain and patrol officer of a river patrol boat in Vietnam, Williams came under fire by two enemy sampans. He then pursued combatants through considerable fire from the riverbank, meeting a “numerically superior enemy force” and leading his patrol through intense fire as they awaited backup from armed helicopters.
After three hours of combat, the patrol accounted for the loss or destruction of 65 enemy boats and “inflicted numerous casualties on the enemy personnel,” according to the citation.
The United States Navy Memorial lists Williams as the “most decorated enlisted man in Navy history.”
It still could be months before the Fort Mill Post Office officially takes a new name.
“It has not been voted on yet,” said Jessica Cahill, communications director for Norman’s office.
The renaming bill was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. The House and Senate both have to pass it, then the president has to sign off to make the change official. Once introduced, bills are sent to the Library of Congress and U.S. Government Publishing Office within a couple of days of introduction.
Norman sponsored the bill with the other six South Carolina delegation members — five Republicans and a Democrat — co-sponsoring.
The Fort Mill post office could join a distinguished list of Williams namesakes. The Navy named a boat unit headquarters after him, along with a missile destroyer the USS James E. Williams.
The street where the Fort Mill post office now sits is itself named for a Medal of Honor recipient, Fort Mill native Tom Hall, who was killed in France during World War I.