Jerry Williams has been chief of the Lesslie Volunteer Fire Department for nearly 50 years, and, while he will step aside for a new chief Jan. 1, he will continue to serve as a member of the department.
Now that's dedication!
Williams joined the department in 1955, just a few months after it was formed. He became chief four years later and kept the title ever since, except for a stint from 1977 to 1982 when he served on the first York County Council.
Williams -- admirably -- stepped down as chief while on the council to avoid any conflict of interest.
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During his more than half a century as a firefighter, he has served as president of the S.C. Firefighters' Association and the S.C. State Association of Fire Chiefs, a rarity for a volunteer chief. He had been named firefighter and fire chief of the year and has been inducted into the state Firefighters Hall of Fame. And trucks designed and built by Williams are on roads across the state today.
Williams has been an inspiration to many, including his son, Johnny, and his grandson, Stevie, both of whom serve with him on the department. Williams' wife, Jeri, volunteers at the department, too.
We commonly hear about the big-city fire departments and their heroic deeds. Their exploits are the stuff of books and movies.
More rarely do we hear about the diligence, skill and devotion of firefighters such as Jerry Williams, who has given his entire working life to the cause of public safety. His boots will be hard to fill.