Ramblin’ Thunder ride honors ‘Big John’ Williams

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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The annual Ramblin’ Thunder 4/5 motorcycle ride will take place on June 15, honoring the late Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Sheriff “Big John” Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund, which benefits applicants from Central High School, The Calhoun School and Lowndes Academy.  

Jeff Berry, one of the event promoters, discussed the inspiration behind the ride. 

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“This event has enabled $28,000 in scholarships for Central, Calhoun, and Lowndes Academy,” said Berry. “It’s a great way to honor the life and legacy of Big John. He gave everything for the people of Lowndes, and we want to honor that sacrifice.”

Williams was shot and killed in the line of duty in the parking lot of the QV convenience store in Hayneville while responding to a noise complaint. His legacy in the Lowndes County community remains vibrant through events like the fundraiser and the scholarship named in his honor.

Berry is encouraging all riders to participate and invited anyone with an ATV, horse or classic car to join in the parade that will immediately follow the ride.

Those wishing to enter the parade or the ride should come to the Town Square in front of the courthouse before start time to register. Berry added that there will be plenty of food available, including ribs and barbecue, and a drawing at the end where a variety of prizes will be given out.

“Local businesses have really stepped up to donate,” Berry said. “We’ve got honey-baked hams, Starbucks [gift] cards, oil changes and gift baskets. There are so many prizes.”

Berry said that he became involved in the event after witnessing the efforts of event founders Daniel and Angela Rudolph.

“They have just really stepped up to create this event and keep it going,” Berry said. “I was inspired by them and by Big John’s legacy and just wanted to help.”

Angela Rudolph explained the couple’s motivation.

“What really inspired us, was that shortly after Big John was murdered, my husband had a dream that we should do something to honor him,” Angela said. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing to just take a ride around his patrol area. Then it got to where it was such a huge event that we decided to make it an annual thing and started the scholarship program.”

She added that although the program usually awards one scholarship to each Lowndes County high school, this year, the organization was able to award two additional scholarships so that past recipients can continue their education.

“We look forward to this every year and we’re always working to solicit donations because 100 percent of this goes back out. Not one cent gets kept by us or anyone else involved,” Angela said. 

Daniel Rudolph emphasized the event’s role in bringing the community together.

“We really focused on the unification of the residents of Lowndes County during a tragedy and we wanted to bring more positive things to the county,” he said. 

The scholarship program is a 501(c)(3) organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.

The event begins at 8 a.m., with the ride starting at 9 a.m. in Hayneville. A $10 donation per rider is requested, and a $5 donation is requested for parade participants. All proceeds go to the scholarship fund.