The 45 rides to remember Sheriff “Big John” Williams

Published 5:57 pm Monday, June 19, 2023

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The Lowndes County community continues to honor the legacy of its beloved Sheriff “Big John” Williams who was murdered in the line of duty on November 23, 2019 and left the community heartbroken over his loss. 

On Saturday, motorcycle riders from near and far descended upon the 45 to honor his memory and ride in the Fourth Annual Fallen Sheriff John “Big John” Williams Memorial Ride, hosted by Ramblin Thunder Motorcycle Club.

According to Daniel Rudolph, Ramblin Thunder member, and event coordinator, he and his wife started the event in 2020, as a way to remember Williams after his tragic death. 

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“We started out with just a small group of riders, but the participation has grown tremendously over the years,” he said. 

Rudolph said riders came from Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia, to show their support to the Williams family. Biker Tyrone Jones, is a long time Greenville resident, but grew up surrounded by family and friends in Lowndes County. 

“I look forward to this event every year, and the brotherhood we(bikers) have formed for this great cause is very special,” Jones said.

“This is a special day,” Rudolph said. “It is an emotional day for the family, but we want to make sure [Williams] legacy lives on. “Big John gave me my first speeding ticket back in 1985. He was such a pillar in this community, and we cherish the memories that we all have with him.” Williams’s widow, Joann Williams said that she is thankful for the community support, and proud of the turn out for the event. 

“It’s such a wonderful way to remember my husband, all that he stood for,” she said.

In a safety briefing right before the ride, Rudolph reminded guests that each rider is asked for a $10 donation. According to Rudolph, the proceeds from the ride goes directly into the Sheriff John Williams Memorial Scholarship fund. Scholarships have been awarded to students at Central High School, Lowndes Academy, and The Calhoun  School. 

Rudolph said, “This is a way not only to remember Big John, but to ensure that future generations also know who he was as well.” 

Bikers enjoyed music, food, and fellowship with the Williams family. Event coordinator Mark Williams served up some delicious barbeque to attendees. He said the response from the community for the scholarship fund was pleasing, and encourages everyone to continue to support. Prizes were awarded to the youngest, oldest, and longest rider in attendance. 

Longest rider award winner Henry Jenkins said he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The ride started at 9:00 a.m from the Hayneville Courthouse Square, and took a 130 mile journey throughout Lowndes County, with several law enforcement officers leading the way.