Lt. James Williams, who has spent three decades in an Albany Police Department uniform, retired Friday. (April 26, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- The community room at the Albany Police Department was jammed with people Friday for the retirement ceremony of Lt. James Williams, who was leaving the force after 30 years of service.
A chain of law enforcement officers, friends and family stepped up to speak of Williams and what he's accomplished through the years. Williams' APD investigative "family" lined up to give farewell hugs.
"We go way way way back," Dougherty County district attorney, Greg Edwards said of Williams. "We were very successful in a lot of the murder investigations we worked on together. We even brought about the first death penalty verdict in Dougherty County and that was based on James' work. He's going to be missed."
Nathanial Clark, deputy chief of APD's Investigations Bureau and Williams' supervisor, praised Williams from the podium and offered words of encouragement.
"You have a legacy that will last for many years to come," Clark said. "They say it's possible that one man can touch the lives of thousands. I'm crazy enough to believe today that you have touched tens of thousands, and for that we are grateful. Today, my friend, as you prepare to step out, do so on faith and know that retirement is not an end but merely a new chapter in your life."
At last, when Williams took his walk from the far side of the hall, the crowd stood and cheered. At the podium, Williams began a chorus of "Lord, I Thank You for My Journey." Nearly all of the attendees joined in. When the stanza was completed, Williams told how he had come to be in law enforcement. As the story went, young Williams and four friends had agreed to join the military.
"I had signed up for the Marines," Williams said. "but as it happened, the police department called me first."
Williams left his long and distinguished career with a message to those remaining:
"As I'm retiring now, I want to ask you to be committed. It's time now to identify those who are not committed and those people need to be out in the community. There are a lot of people who say, 'I'm committed, I want to fight,' but where are you when our team needs you?"
According to Williams' daughter, Shunta Williams, her father joined the APD in 1983. He became the first Gang Task Force leader, as well as the first African American to serve training coordinator, the first Top Gun shooter in 2001 and the first certified gang expert in Dougherty County.
Williams, 50, made it clear he had no plans to spend his retirement days fishing or watching TV.
"God will continue to lead me," Williams said, "and I will continue to be active in this community -- so I'm not really retiring. I've already had a vision that I need to step out and serve in another way. I do want to get into the political arena and I hope that's where God will take me."
Williams ran for Dougherty County sheriff in 2004 and 2008 and said he's praying about trying it again.