Yesterday, i wrote down the points i wished to cover with plans to complete and email it to him this afternoon.
i had also written about two-thirds of a post about his successor.
At noon yesterday, i read the news and knew i would not have to email one and the post, this one, would have to be radically changed.
David Williams died yesterday morning.
If you do not follow Vanderbilt athletics or are not a serious fan of the Southeastern Conference, you probably don’t know who David Williams is. Nor is it likely you have a clue about what he has accomplished.
If you are not one of those folks listed above or a dedicated follower of pro basketball, you are unlikely to know about Malcolm Turner either.
The email i was attempting to make as effective as i could was to be sent to David Williams. The post i had almost completed was about Malcolm Turner and my assessment of him being an admirable choice to replace Williams.
i am more than sad there is no need for the email and that post, now this post, is radically different from the original intent.
i heard David Williams speak when he was Vanderbilt’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs during a Homecoming weekend, 2011 i believe. In a Q&A response to a bozo question about doing something to isolate the athletes as Florida had done, Williams responded, “We don’t do things the Gator way; we do things the right way, the Vandy way.” That was the first time i heard that comment, and it has become a guiding light for Vanderbilt athletics, even used by Turner, the new Vice Chancellor of Athletics.
i have seen David Williams on numerous occasions, heard him speak on videos, and read his thoughts on the Vanderbilt Athletic website. i met him only once, this past Christmas for just a few minutes in the foyer of the McGugin Center when i was being given a tour by Andrew Maraniss, the author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South. In just those short few minutes, David validated every thought i had about him. He was a gracious man with a personal interest in anyone he met. He fostered confidence in me. He exuded the aura of equality.
The email i did not finish was to suggest an idea for a book i had suggested to Andrew after the three of us and Candice Lee, Vanderbilt’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Athletics had met. i thought a study of Ralph Boston and Rafer Johnson would be an interesting and worthwhile subject. Both were incredible athletes, Boston the Olympic champion and world record holder in the long jump and Johnson the incredible Olympic decathlon champion, who were black heroes in that crucible of time of moving toward equality for people of color. From the little i knew having met both of these great men briefly, they appeared to have different opinions about their roles and possibly different stances in politics.
I suggested to Andrew, who has written on similar subjects, he might find this an interesting and worthwhile project and mentioned David Williams might be interested. Andrew wrote back and liked the idea but thought David and i should co-write such a book, that David and i being roughly the same age (David was 71; i just turned 75) growing up when Boston and Johnson were sports heroes and David black and me white would add depth and different perspectives to the book.
i was charged up at the idea. The email points i was formulating excited me even more. To work with Williams, who had retired and returned to teaching at Vanderbilt’s Law School, especially a program entitled “Sports, Law & Society.” It seemed to me the program dovetailed nicely with the book subjects i had in mind.
i am not chagrin the book now has little possibility of becoming a reality. I’m working on another book. Andrew is at work on two more books and his other writing projects. No, i am not chagrin, but i am heartbroken with the thought of losing David Williams, either in a possible close working relationship or following his next pursuit in his love of law.
i have put aside my comments about and praise of the new Vice Chancellor and his strategic vision. i believe he will be a worthy successor to Williams. i just wish Turner could have continued to have Williams for counsel and advice.
Regardless, it is a very sad time for me.
Rest In Peace, David Williams, you were remarkable, your achievements incredible, and what i considered the highest praise for my father, you were a good man.