Longtime Statesboro resident Chester Williams, known for his incredible memory and his passion for all things Georgia Southern, passed away Tuesday at age 96.
Mr. Williams served as athletic director, varsity coach, classroom teacher and principal of numerous local junior and senior high school. He was an active member of First Baptist Church, where he served as deacon, Sunday school teacher and department superintendent. In addition, he was active in numerous local charity and civic groups, including serving as president of both the Lion’s Club and Kiwanis as well as the chairman of the Heart Fund Drive and the March of Dime committee.
Williams was a mainstay of the Snooky’s morning crowd and oldest member of the Snook-Pak, a local group, started by Erk Russell, that has been gathering there for breakfast for years. Bruce Yawn, owner of Snooky’s restaurant, knew Williams “it seems like forever” and said he was one of the most interesting people he ever met.
“People loved talking to him because he had such a wealth of knowledge and it’s probably just a shame we didn’t keep a record of all the things that he talked about because he could go back so much farther than the rest of us,” Yawn said. “And the thing about it is, everybody has a story to tell, but in all of his, the facts were in there, not just ‘what I heard.’”
"I have only known a few legends in my life," said Snook-Pak member Perk Robbins. "Erk Russell and Chester Williams. I often heard Coach Russell call Chester 'my hero.'"
Yawn said that even after years, Williams could remember just about any student he had in the past.
“It’s common for any of us as we get older to forget people and faces, but he had an uncanny ability to know people,” Yawn said. “I’ve seen him on many occasions sit down with a complete stranger and before the conversation was over, there would be at least one, if not more, people that he knew and had a relationship with through his years in school. There would be a common bond that he could engage them in conversation with somebody that they both knew.”
Long-time friend Joe Hines said he knew Williams his entire life.
“He was crazy about Georgia Southern and Georgia Southern athletics,” Hines said. “He always talked about his old students he had when he was teaching.”
Williams was the oldest living member of the Georgia Southern University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a four-sport athlete at South Georgia Teacher’s College from 1931 – 1933, competing in basketball, football, track and boxing. He received his bachelor degree in Education from GSC and a Masters of Education degree from the University of Georgia.
His funeral service will be held this Saturday at First Baptist Church. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Chester W. Williams Scholarship Fund, C/O Georgia Southern Boosters, P. O. Box 8115, Statesboro, GA 30460.