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Tribute to Elwin Williams, Photographer and Friend of the MCBL&F

The Madison County Business League & Foundation is shocked and saddened to hear of Elwin William's death. He was a friend to the business league and will be greatly missed.

**Article reprinted from the Madison County Journal   

Williams captured history with camera

By TYLER CLEVELAND, Madison County Journal
Wednesday, May 13, 2020 12:00 PM

Elwin James Williams, a longtime Madison County Journal and independent photographer who was a fixture at events large and small around the metro, died of natural causes on May 3. He was 71.

Williams spent the majority of his career in human resources at the University of Mississippi Medical Center before retiring and turning his photography hobby into a business — of sorts — because he never charged anyone, including the Journal.

“I was signing letters to the White House on Elwin’s behalf,” said Journal Publisher James E. Prince III. “Or it was NASCAR.”

“He may have been the most gentle soul on the planet,” Prince said. “His pay was access to events, he would always tell us. He never took a dime.”

Over the last decade, Williams attended numerous Super Bowls, the Oscars, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, and more recently the Inauguration of President Donald John Trump.

“When Elwin was covering George W. Bush’s second inauguration, I just knew he was going to pop out of the shoot on the platform in front of the Capitol on national television acting like he belonged.”

“By the time it came around to Trump we were not worried about getting a call from the Secret Service.”

Locally, Williams could be found at almost every single ribbon-cutting ceremony for new businesses, as well as chamber events throughout the year.

“It’s sad knowing he isn’t going to walk through our doors again carrying a CD filled with photos from his latest adventure,” said Michael Simmons, associate editor and publisher of the Journal.

“I’ll never forget my first real introduction to Elwin,” Simmons said. “It was shortly after I moved here and Mitt Romney came to Jackson campaigning for the 2012 presidential election. We were at the Fairgrounds and Romney was in the middle of a cattle pen talking to a crowd. All of a sudden I heard this metal chair dragging across the ground and it was Elwin moving to the front of the pen. He climbed the chair to take pictures and the Secret Service detail quietly moved around to ask him to come down. He told them he was taking pictures for the local paper and they backed down as to not cause a scene. It was classic Elwin.”

Williams covered everything from the Mississippi Legislature to the Mississippi Braves and the inaugurations of Govs. Barbour and Bryant — but was sick when Reeves was inaugurated.

Linda Bynum, executive director of the Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce, sent out an email to Chamber members sharing the sad news of his passing.

“One day, 14 years ago, Elwin showed up at a Ridgeland Chamber ribbon-cutting and began taking pictures,” she wrote.

“From that day on, it was rare that Elwin missed a Ridgeland Chamber event — ribbon-cuttings, Business After Hours, golf tournaments, Women to Women, Monster Bash, and our Annual Awards Banquet, the event he loved best.”

Bynum said he never charged the Chamber a penny for his services, saving them “untold amounts of money.”

Elizabeth Tyler, executive director of the Madison the City Chamber of Commerce, said it’s hard to believe Elwin won’t be around anymore.

“He was always such an upbeat and positive person and arrived at each event with a big smile,” she said. “He lived an adventurous life with his camera and it was always so interesting to hear where he would be next — whether it was the Kentucky Derby, a Presidential Inauguration, or simply our annual golf tournament. He will really be missed.”

Williams’ last trip out taking photos was for the grand opening of the Ridgeland Costco on March 12, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shutdown tthe country.

“I knew he had been the recipient of a donor organ and told him the last place he should be was at a grand opening with hundreds of people since at the time we knew very little about the virus and I didn’t want him to worry about catching anything,” Simmons said. “But, he was determined to capture that moment in history. It was Elwin.”

A member of Broadmoor Baptist Church for 48 years, Williams is survived by his wife, Ellen, of 46 years, and his daughters, Wendy Hanes and husband Dave of Huntsville, Ala., and Cindy Abblitt and husband Aric of Grove City, Ohio; six grandsons, Dylan, Jacob and Caleb Hanes and Mason, Lachlan and Parker Abblitt; brother-in-law Todd Jordan and several nieces and nephews.

Williams was born in Bogalusa, La., on Sept. 1, 1948, and graduated from Bogalusa High School in 1966. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration before later earning his MBA from Mississippi College.

Known as “Papaw” to his grandchildren, Williams enjoyed book readings, story making and magic tricks.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the family held a private graveside service last Thursday at 11 a.m. at Parkway Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to show appreciation for the donor organ Elwin received by suggesting memorial gifts be made to Donate Life Mississippi, 4400 Lakeland Dr., Flowood, MS 39232, or a favorite charity.
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