Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Remembering Jerry Williams
June 25, 2020

(Remarks prepared for delivery on June 25, 2020, at Phillips Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Trotwood, Ohio)

Thank you, Elder Beamon, and Pastor Washington.

Good morning, everyone.

It is an honor for me to be here with you.

On behalf of the Supreme Court of Ohio, our justices, and all of our staff, I extend our deepest sympathies to the family of our dear Court director, Jerry Williams.

To his mother, Eva

His wife, Amanda

His children, Victoria and Monifa

And to all the Williams family.

We grieve with you today.

All of us at the Supreme Court will miss Jerry dearly.

His easy smile. His quiet way of getting the job done. His intellect and his ethics. His mentorship of the people under him.

Jerry was the director in charge of Facilities and the beautiful building that houses our Supreme Court – the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus.

It is the finest state Supreme Court building in America.

It is also nearly 90 years old. While it is very special, it is also rather quirky, as old historic buildings can be.

Overseeing its care requires special skills.

Jerry appreciated our building like no one else who works there.

He appreciated the rare pieces of art, the intricate workmanship, the yards of marble, the mosaics, the sculptures, the fountains and the plazas.

He spent most of the past year leading a difficult and thorough renovation of the building’s exterior.

Jerry had to oversee large budgets, construction vendors and even event planning, because our Court is such a busy place.

He supervised 17 Court employees and, often, dozens of contractors on site.

Jerry certainly put his mechanical engineering degrees and his administration masters’ degree to work.

But Jerry’s legacy will be his people skills on the job – his achievements as a boss, a friend, and a colleague to our employees.

Those attributes were based in his faith.

Jerry’s work ethic was legendary.

His strength of character allowed him to face his health challenges privately while continuing to work. He did so with excellence and without complaining. He came to work day after day without showing signs of fatigue, and no one was the wiser to his physical challenge.

Jerry was a great storyteller. Through his stories we learned about his love for his family, his wife, children, and grandchildren.

One of our staff said, “Jerry always had a life nugget and an encouraging word to offer.”

Mike Buenger, the former Court administrative director who, with me, hired Jerry, called him “one of those increasingly rare individuals who said a lot by actually saying very little.”

Mike said, quote:

“Jerry felt no need in meetings or hallway encounters to fill the time with piles of endless words and meaningless drivel. Jerry would say what he needed to say and that was his most endearing quality to me – a person of sound judgment, extreme competence, and absolute solid character.”

Mike continued, quote: “Jerry could communicate volumes by his presence, not simply about the business at hand, but how we should treat one another.  His life should remind all of us that the quality of one’s character still counts, and it is not just in the words we speak but equally important in the words we do not speak.”

Tony Joyce, a supervisor under Jerry, called him “a mentor and a brother.”

Tony called Jerry, quote:

“A very wise man, who was fair and kind, and who knew his purpose in life. Jerry knew he was placed here on Earth to serve.”

Still quoting Tony:

“Our conversations ranged from current events, family, life’s tests and lessons, and how all of this relates to using Biblical principles in this walk of life.”

And here is an observation from Tony Joyce that is such a fitting testimonial:

“Jerry knew that you can’t go wrong when you choose what is right and good.”

Doesn’t that reflection make everyone here think of Jerry?

Those are just a few perspectives. There are many more visions of Jerry going through the minds of people at the Court.

Our employees are incredibly sad. But at the same time, they appreciate how Jerry touched them as a person.

I found Jerry to be always on top of matters. And yet, under all that business competence, his basic goodness shone through.

I never had to worry about the projects under Jerry’s domain.

Even more important, I never had to worry about how he approached the people side of his job.

Jerry Williams came to this beautiful church and prayed with you, and celebrated life with you.

With Amanda in the choir, he worshipped with you.

Jerry didn’t leave his faith behind when he left these walls.

He took that extra step that Christians are called to do.

He put his faith into practice, and he let it guide his life.

He did so for the benefit of all of us.

Jerry Williams proved that God works through good people.

His faith and his commitment to basic human goodness was bigger than any building.

Let us celebrate the life he lived with us, and his everlasting life.

Let’s reflect on his life with us to improve our own lives.

Let’s remember Jerry by being more like him.

Thank you all.

And may God Bless.