My Father’s Story – Buford Williams

My father died on May 6, and we buried him Thursday. He was my biggest supporter. He and mother were present when I was sworn in at the Norfolk Office in 1982. He told everyone he met that one of his three daughters was an FBI agent, and he often wore an FBI hat, shirt, or jacket to spark a conversation about his daughter, the FBI agent.

My father with my mother, Odessa, at the Norfolk FBI Office my swearing in as an FBI special agent.
This is one of my favorite photos of my father (Thanks for the color corrections, Rick Rothstein).








Buford Williams lived a good life full of family, friends, and travel around the world. At 87-years-young, after a day spent playing pool in his man cave with his buddies, working in his garden, and talking to family, he laid down for a nap and peacefully left this world.

One day last fall, he let me record his life story. I wish I had done the same for my mother before she died in 1989 from breast cancer. For nearly three hours, he took me on a journey from his childhood to his retirement from his career in the Air Force. It was a journey I thought I already knew.

Buford Williams grew up in Goode and Newport News, VA. His family was so poor that to heat their home, his mother would send him out in the early morning to walk along the railroad tracks to pick up coal that had fallen off freight trains traveling through town overnight.

In 1952, when he turned 17 years old, he joined the Air Force and was assigned to bases all over the world, taking my mother, my sisters, and me along for the amazing ride.

I knew all that before I started recording.

But here’s what I didn’t know.

I didn’t know he went into the military because he saw soldiers returning home from the Korean War with new clothes and new shoes and he wanted those things, too. Growing up, he never had new anything.

I didn’t know he joined the Air Force instead of the Army because he heard African Americans could apply for jobs other than just infantry and cooks in the mess hall.

I didn’t know as a materials facilities supervisor he played major roles in dismantling top secret bases in Casablanca, Morocco and prepping for the Cuban missile crisis at another top-secret base in Massachusetts.

And I didn’t know that while moonlighting as the manager of the Officer’s Club in Liverpool, England, he auditioned and rejected the not-yet-famous boy band The Beatles.

With nearly 21-years in the Air Force, he retired as a Tech Sergeant, having been assigned to bases in Washington D.C., Morocco, France, Massachusetts, England, Maine, Germany, Washington, and Taiwan. His last tour of duty was to Langley Airforce Base, where the family finally settled in Hampton, VA.

After retiring from a Civil Service position at Langley, he spent his days gardening in his beautifully landscaped backyard, and spending time with family and friends.

A beautiful memorial service was held on May 12. A highlight was the presentation of military honors. You may watch the service here:
My father was what is universally known as a good man. I will always love him and miss him. RIP, Buford Williams.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.


  1. Amy JaumanJune 5, 2022

    I’m so sorry to read of your father’s passing. What a wonderful tribute you wrote for him!

    I wish I had recorded more of my father’s story before he died more than twenty years ago. Your story reminded me of the fact that I knew he loved trains, but it wasn’t until after he died that I understood more about why. I found correspondence between him and various others that talked about visiting his grandparents and spending time at the train station. I read enchanting stories about station employees who spent time with him and even let him “work” at the station occassionally. (Certainly nothing that would happen today!) I wish I had been able to hear him tell it.

    Thank you for sharing your story! I hope it inspires others to capture the memories of their loved ones while they have the opportunity!

    1. Jerri WilliamsJune 6, 2022

      Thank you for your kind words of comfort. This is why I think it’s so important for us to share our stories.

  2. Lisa HillMay 19, 2022

    Jerri-I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his life story and how he was able to transform his life through the military. Just as he was so proud of you, I am sure that you were equally proud of him. It sounds like he was quite an amazing man!

    Also, I love your podcast and have recommended it to others. You are so professional and a wonderful interviewer. Keep up the good work!

    1. Jerri WilliamsMay 19, 2022

      Thank you for the kind words and thank you for listening.


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