Rayford Williams: A Remembrance

Print this entry

I wasn’t able to pay my last respects to Rayford Williams in person. We were out of town when he was laid to rest at 84 in his hometown of Henderson. I am sure he would have understood my absence. He was one of the most easy-going fellows I ever knew.

We met when I became publisher of the Nacogdoches paper and joined the Booster Club, which was comprised of the town’s perceived mover-and-shakers. The club had been formed to help promote the university back in the 1920s. By the time I joined in the early 1990s, its primary purpose was to enjoy a decent meal every Monday night at the Nacogdoches Club, inside the Hotel Fredonia. We listened to reports given by representatives from SFA, the city, school district, county and the local utility companies. Sometimes there was a guest speaker, but the older members didn’t much like that, because the meetings’ end cut it too close to the start of Monday Night Football. The club didn’t actually do anything, but I enjoyed listening to folks telling stories from Nacogdoches’ past. Rayford had retired as the manager of the Entex (now Centerpoint) gas office just as I joined the Boosters. Though there was nearly three decades’ age difference, we became fast friends.

Fast Eddie Overhultz, his successor at the gas office, was a longtime friend and colleague of Rayford’s. The three of us hung out a lot — playing golf badly once a week, dove hunting in the fall, volunteering together on various civic endeavors. Here are a few of my favorite Rayford stories.

• Rayford soon grew bored in retirement and was looking to make some extra spending money, so he went to work for me redelivering papers, a part-time position. When folks missed their paper, or it was wet because the carrier didn’t bag it when it rained, or the sprinkler soaked it, Rayford would bring them another copy. No newspaper had a more conscientious redelivery driver. He didn’t just chunk it in the driveway. Invariably he would walk it up to the door and hand-deliver it. After a few years he became our circulation manager, a job he held until he was well into his 70s. He was still redelivering papers for the Sentinel until he became ill several months ago.

• He and I once drove to New Iberia, La. to deliver a jet ski I had sold to a friend. After a huge meal of boiled shrimp and the trimmings, plus a few beers, Rayford decided he needed to go to bed early, about 8 p.m. We were planning to head back to East Texas at 5 a.m. My friend and I decided to play a practical joke and woke him up as soon as it got dark, told him it was time to get up. Rayford jumped up and got dressed, and then we told him we were just kidding, that it was only 9 p.m. True to form, Rayford never got mad, just shook his head and crawled back into bed with all his clothes on.

• I mentioned dove hunting. Our method of dove hunting was to head to a farm where Fast Eddie was raising cattle outside Lufkin. Doves were occasionally spotted there. We also brought clay pigeons as backup. I once recall four of us firing wildly at a sole dove flying across. The poor bird survived unscathed. Rayford was wearing his favorite floppy hunting hat. Fast Eddie whispered to me to take it off his head from behind and fling it in the air like a Frisbee, which I did. Eddie peppered it with birdshot from his .20 gauge.  He couldn’t hit a dove, but he shot that hat full-square.

“Dang it, Eddie, now why did you want to go and do that?” Rayford asked, then trudged over, dusted off his hat and put it back on his head.

• Rayford once gave me a Remington Model 48 .16 gauge shotgun, manufactured in the 1950s, which I had restored by a gunsmith while I refinished the stock. Right before I moved from Lufkin to Longview, before the movers came, some cretins burglarized my house and took all my electronics and weapons. The only thing I really regretted losing, since I had insurance, was that shotgun because Rayford gave it to me.

Rayford ‘s brief obituary said in the 42 years he worked for the gas company he only missed one day of work. That sounds like the man I knew. I regret losing touch with him since moving to Longview five-and-a-half years ago. This is my modest attempt to pay tribute to one of the kindest, most conscientious men I ever knew.

Print this entry


  • Patti Hooper


    Thank for the sweet and uplifting memory of Rayford. We were neighbors in Nacogdoches back in the 90's. I recall a day he came from golf and walked all the way around his yard very cautiously as he did not want to scare the concrete cardinal in the birdbath. A great man!

    • admin


      Patti: Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write. I'm glad you got to know Rayford as well. Take care, Gary B.

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required