Houston fire chief dies after battle with cancer


Longtime Houston County Fire Chief Jimmy Williams died Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 54.

Willams started with the department in 1982 as a volunteer and became chief in 1994. He was also the emergency management director, coordinating emergency response agencies during natural disasters.

County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said Williams learned of his diagnosis in October just as Hurricane Michael was headed toward Georgia. Williams left the doctor’s office and came to give a briefing to local emergency leaders about the storm.

“He went through that weather briefing and didn’t tell any of us. His mind was more on that storm and making sure citizens were notified of the danger,” Stalnaker said. “He put his service above himself. That’s what I will always remember about Chief Williams.”

McCullough Funeral Home is handling arrangements for Williams’ services.

After his diagnosis, fellow emergency responders and community members across the county rallied to support him, holding various fundraisers to assist with medical costs.

“That says everything about how well people thought of him,” Stalnaker said. “He was well liked by everyone who came in contact with him.”

Williams led the department of mostly volunteers to become more modernized, and in recent years got its first station to operate around the clock. During his illness, he was there for the delivery of the department’s first ladder truck.

Robert Singletary, retired Warner Robins fire chief, has known Williams since 1982 when both started their firefighting careers. They both served together on the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs. Singletary said the association recently created the James W. Williams Jr. Outstanding Service Award to recognize contributions to fire service, and Williams was named the inaugural recipient. The award will be given annually.

“I kidded him about how busy he always was, but really that was the type person he was,” Singletary said. “He was always doing something for other people.”

Chris Stoner, the county’s deputy fire chief, worked with Williams for 15 years.

“He’s taught me more than I could even put into words, not just about the fire service but life in general,” Stoner said.

He also said Williams put up a strong battle against cancer.

“He fought and fought and fought,” Stoner said. “He honestly lasted a lot longer than anybody could imagine with the diagnosis he had.”

Visitation will take place from 5-8 p.m. Thursday at McCullough Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Denise, and his two sons, Trent and Austin.