The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Former Stafford sheriff, ‘a man of such integrity,’ dies
BY KATIE THISDELL
The Free Lance-Star
Growing up in Stafford, Ralph Williams knew he wanted to be a cop.
He idolized the deputies who frequented his parents’ restaurant and eventually worked his way to the top of the Sheriff’s Office.
“He was a man of such integrity,” said retired Commonwealth’s Attorney Dan Chichester, a longtime friend. “He made certain the sheriff’s department was like that, too.”
Williams, whose 28-year law enforcement career included a nine-year stint as sheriff, died Thursday. He was 69.
Williams’ personality made him a great fit for his career, said Chichester. The two met the first day of first grade and remained close friends through adulthood.
“He had a great way of putting people at ease, whether it was humor or some sort of remark,” said Chichester, who retired last year. “He could get a confession out of Mother Teresa. He could get a confession out of anybody.”
Williams started his police career in 1971 as a relief deputy, doing whatever was needed, including filling in as the jailhouse cook for a week.
The Stafford old-timer watched the county grow from 19,000 to 100,000 residents. He also improved technology by computerizing the office, starting a motorcycle squad and putting bicycle cops on streets.
“As a prosecutor you never had to worry about his deputies and his investigators because if there was any difficulty, the deputy was gone,” Chichester said. “Ralph wasn’t going to put up with someone who wasn’t of the highest caliber.”
Current Sheriff Charles Jett says it was Williams’ focus on quality fundamental crime-scene work that led to many cases being solved.
Jett likes to tell the story of a gruesome North Stafford homicide in 1980. Temperatures were in the teens as investigators worked in blistering winds.
But Jett said Williams meticulously pored over the scene. Because of DNA evidence collected that night, the case was solved in 2000.
“He made countless cases on physical evidence,” said Jett, who was elected as his successor in 2000. “That was his forte. He promoted that same meticulous work ethic.”
Williams retired in 1999 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and diabetes. A harmonica player, he formed a bluegrass band in 2003. Several members underwent open-heart surgery, so the band was dubbed “Bluegrass Bypass.”
“That was sort of his main thing after he retired. He was very good,” said Chichester, who said he and Williams also enjoyed watching other bluegrass performances.
Survivors include Williams’ wife of 50 years, Connie, two sons and two grandchildren.
Visitation will be Monday from 5–8 p.m., at Covenant Funeral Service in Fredericksburg. The funeral will be Tuesday at 10 a.m., at Vision Community Church (formerly Friendship Baptist Church), 410 Deacon Road. Burial will follow in Sunset Memorial Gardens.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975