by Henry Lane Hull
This past weekend while over in the Middle Peninsula my thoughts turned to Kenneth Wayne Williams, one of the genuinely great modern era contributors to the quality of life many people enjoy in Tidewater Virginia.
Kenneth Wayne was a native of Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County, and lived all of his adult life in Middlesex County.
For 18 years he served on the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors, where he came to epitomize the term “public servant.” Kenneth Wayne was always available to help, to work and to lead in causes that he deemed to be in the public interest. He was tireless in striving to achieve his goals of good government, based on equity and justice for all. He had utter disdain for those who in any way slacked in their civic responsibility.
For over 50 years Kenneth Wayne was a proud Virginia waterman, plying the trade that was indigenous to those of his background. No one surpassed him in his knowledge of the Chesapeake Bay and all of its tributaries. He understood the imperative equilibrium between the health of the bay and the proper husbanding of its bountiful resources for the good of today and the promise of tomorrow.
Knowing of his extraordinary wealth of knowledge Governor James Gilmore appointed Kenneth Wayne to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, where he worked to advance the cause of sound practices for the charges entrusted to the commission. He previously had served as president of the Virginia Waterman’s Association where he was beloved by its members who respected his abiding concern for their welfare.
Kenneth Wayne had a deep loathing for injustice, and he traveled far and wide across the Commonwealth to add his voice to those whom he thought were being denied fair and equitable treatment, whether by government or private individuals. He often went to Richmond during the annual legislative session to speak on behalf of the bay, the watermen and matters affecting Middlesex County and its citizens. No effort was too great for Kenneth Wayne in doing what he thought was right. In that regard he was the “model citizen,” working full time in his business on land and water, and like Cincinnatus, stepping forward when duty called to do his part in advancing the public good.
In the half-century of their marriage Kenneth Wayne and his wife, Sissie, had two children, their daughter, Tammy, and their son, Kenny, whom he called “special.” In 1996 Kenny died at a young age, bringing profound grief to the family. Kenneth Wayne spoke of him as having expanded his horizon in looking at the world and what he could do to make it a better place for all.
Kenneth Wayne and I were friends and colleagues for over 25 years. We worked closely on matters of common interest, and in all of that time I never saw him take any step to advance himself, always aiming for what was best for others. When he spoke, be it in public or in private, his listeners knew he was a man of absolute honesty and integrity. He did not quibble, and articulated his positions with clarity and brevity. He was one of the most dedicated individuals I ever knew.
Middlesex County, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the quality of the Chesapeake Bay and all of its working watermen are better off today because of the labors of Kenneth Wayne Williams. Ever humble in his demeanor, he found his happiness and satisfaction in his faith in the Almighty, his love of his family and his work. Whether fishing in the Atlantic Ocean or patiently listening to the concerns of a constituent, Kenneth Wayne gave his all, and everyone who knew him appreciated his commitment to the common good.
Kenneth Wayne Williams, August 4, 1943 – December 2, 2016. R.I.P.