Sheriff John Williams Memorial Scholarships support college dreams

Published 8:40 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

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Three Lowndes County students are the newest recipients of the 3rd Annual Sheriff John Williams Memorial Scholarship. Senior Zipporah Abercrombie of Central High School, Ava Casey of Lowndes Academy, and LaDarrian McCall of The Calhoun High School each received $2,000 and gift bags filled with items that college-bound students might need.

Children’s Policy Chairman District Judge Adrian Johnson said the scholarship focuses on community, something Williams, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019, cherished. 

“He always tried to support the community. You couldn’t go to an event at any school in Lowndes County and not see Big John there,” Johnson said. 

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Students were nominated by their schools based upon academic achievement and outstanding community service. Each nominee wrote an essay, and one of the essay topics required students to discuss a characteristic they shared with Williams.

“Each student had a different perspective,” Johnson said. “Ava Casey said she knew Big John from Wednesday night bible study. Mr. McCall said in his essay that he identified with Big John’s being proud of himself and growing closer to God. Zipporah wrote about her resilience in overcoming obstacles.” 

Williams’ widow, JoAnn, said hearing excerpts from the students’ essays and seeing them receive the scholarships was very moving to her and her family.

“This means a whole lot to me. Seeing him being remembered through this scholarship is so special. He loved everyone and would be very happy about this,” JoAnn said.

Abercrombie said, “I just want to thank you all.” Johnson said Zipporah has a very high grade point average and is a member of the volleyball team, softball team, Future Farmers of America (FFA), ROTC, and Future Business Leaders of America. Abercrombie plans to attend Clark University in Atlanta. 

According to Central High School Principal Archie Curtis, Abercrombieis a quiet student who is a very hard worker.  “She is a great student and participated in sports and maintained a very impressive grade point average. We are all very proud of Zipporah,”Curtis said.

Casey also thanked the scholarship committee and said,”I want to thank everyone for the scholarship that will help me to further my education.” 

Johnson described how Casey overcame a debilitating physical condition while remaining active in church activities, being active in softball, cheerleading and volleyball, the Student Government Association (SGA). She plans to attend the University of South Alabama in the fall.

McCall plans to attend Alabama A&M University, “I just want to thank the scholarship committee for selecting me for this award. Also, I want to thank everyone at the school for their support,” he said. 

Johnson described McCall as a student who has an outstanding academic record and is involved in church activities including childrens’ choir and a food drive. McCall is a student athlete who participates in baseball and track and field. 

Over the past three years, $18,000 has been awarded through the John Williams Scholarship Fund.

There are two main supporters of the scholarship. The Calhoun School Class of ‘76 holds an annual golf tournament raising money for the fund. Class of ‘76 president Leon Bennett said, “Big John was the only person in our class who knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. He was going to grow up to help people who helped him when he was a kid. I’m very proud that we are keeping that going. This year we were able to raise $6,000 for the Sheriff John Williams Scholarship fund.”

Daniel Rudolph said he and his wife were friends of Sheriff Williams, and because of that friendship, he is organizing a special motorcycle event benefiting next year’s scholarships.

“The Rambling Thunder 45 Motorcycle Ride in honor of Sheriff Williams will raise money towards next year’s scholarships,” said Rudolph. “Because of the way that Big John gave to the community, I feel that it is our duty to give back to the community,too.” 

Anyone wishing to participate in the motorcycle event, may call (334) 412-8624. The event will be held June 10 in Hayneville on the town square.