Roy Lee Williams

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Roy Lee Williams
Ronald Reagan and Roy Williams 1982.jpg
with Ronald Reagan in 1982
Born (1915-03-22)March 22, 1915
Ottumwa, Iowa, U.S.
Died April 28, 1989(1989-04-28) (aged 74)
Leeton, Missouri, U.S.
Occupation Union leader
Children Two daughters
Not to be confused with the American college basketball coach Roy Williams or the American football player, Roy Williams

Roy Lee Williams (March 22, 1915 – April 28, 1989) was an American labor leader who was president of the Teamsters from May 15, 1981, to April 14, 1983.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Ottumwa, Iowa, Williams was one of 12 children in a very poor family. He grew up in the Ozark Mountains in southwestern Missouri. He got work as a truck driver in 1935.

Williams served in the United States Army in World War II and personally took 41 German soldiers prisoner, earning him the Silver Star.


After the war, Williams returned to trucking. He was elected business agent of the union's Wichita, Kansas local in 1948. He later was elected president of Joint Council 56 and president of Teamsters Local 41 in Kansas City, Missouri. He married and had two daughters.

In 1955, Williams was elected a trustee of the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, one of the union's largest and most important pension funds. He later testified in federal court that leaders of organized crime paid him $1,500 a month in order to funnel $87.75 million in loans from the pension fund to construction projects run by the mob. During this period, Williams formed a close working relationship with Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa.

Williams quickly rose to power in the post-Hoffa Teamsters by associating himself with new president Frank Fitzsimmons. In 1967, Williams was appointed spokesman for the union's national surface transportation negotiating committee by Fitzsimmons. In 1971, Williams elected appointed a vice president of the international union. In 1976, Fitzsimmons appointed Williams to be director of the Central Conference of Teamsters, a regional council which controlled union locals in 14 Midwestern states.

In 1977, Williams was forced to resign from the Central States Pension Fund after the United States Department of Labor sued Williams and four others for violating their fiduciary duty.

Teamsters presidency[edit]

Fitzsimmons died on May 7, 1981. First vice president George Mock was named interim president. But Mock's age militated against his assuming the presidency at the upcoming membership convention. So on May 15, Mock stepped down and Williams was named interim president by the Teamsters executive board. He won election at the union's convention in early June of that year.

However, Williams came under immediate suspicion for involvement with organized crime, particularly Kansas City Crime Boss Nicholas Civella. On May 11, 1981, testimony before a subcommitee of the United States Senate indicated that Williams was heavily involved with the Mafia. Williams was indicted on May 22.

Teamsters members, however, elected Williams president to fill Fitzsimmons' unexpired five-year term on June 6, 1981.

During his short tenure as president, Williams was forced to reopen the national trucking agreement in September 1981 and accept a two-year wage freeze (which the union ratified in March 1982).

Trial and conviction[edit]

After a two-month trial during which extensive wiretapping evidence was heard, Williams and four others were convicted on December 15, 1982 for conspiring to bribe Nevada Senator Howard Cannon to defeat a trucking industry deregulation bill, the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act of 1980.

Williams attempted to remain president of the Teamsters, however. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison on March 31, 1983. He offered to testify in various trials of organized crime figures, which federal prosecutors accepted. Williams remained free on bail while he was deposed. But Congress, hearing more and more testimony about the degree of criminal infiltration of the Teamsters, pressed him to step down. Williams eventually resigned on April 14, 1983, and Presser assumed the presidency. A large collection of documents that were produced during Williams tenure as Teamsters president are now under the care of the Special Collections Research Center of The George Washington University, located in the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.[1]

His continuing testimony delayed his prison term. Roy Williams finally entered a federal medical prison on August 20, 1985. He continued to testify in a large number of cases.

His successor as Teamsters president, Jackie Presser, was a major source of the information used in Williams' conviction.

Parole and death[edit]

In August 1988, Williams was granted parole due to ill health and for having turned state's evidence in federal prosecutions in a number of other criminal cases. He was released from the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, in September 1988. His parole was conditioned on his continuing cooperation with federal authorities.

However, Williams only testified a few more times in the seven months of life left to him. He died on April 28, 1989, at his farm in Leeton, Missouri, from cardiac disease and emphysema.[2]

See also[edit]


  • Guide to the Roy Lee Williams Papers, 1974-1983, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  • "Ex-Teamsters Chief Testifies on Payoffs for Help." New York Times. November 1, 1985.
  • Franklin, Ben A. "Judge Gives Teamster Chief Long Term." New York Times. April 1, 1983.
  • Gerth, Jeff. "Senate Panel Urges Inquiry on New Teamster Head." New York Times. May 22, 1981.
  • Herron, Caroline Rand and Wright, Michael. "Teamsters Union Fills the Throne." New York Times. April 24, 1983.
  • Holsendolph, Ernest. "Teamsters Agree to Reopen Trucking Pact." New York Times. September 19, 1981.
  • "Judge Orders Williams to Begin 10-Year Sentence in Bribery Plot." New York Times. December 3, 1985.
  • King, Seth S. "Teamsters Ratify A New Agreement With Wage Freeze." New York Times. March 2, 1982.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H. "Ex-Teamster Chief Tells Jury Mafia Controls Union Leaders." New York Times. June 2, 1987.
  • Methvin, Eugene H. "The Devil and Roy Williams." Reader's Digest. June 1986.
  • Molotsky, Irvin. "Fitzsimmons' Likely Successor Under Investigation." New York Times. May 11, 1981.
  • "News Summary." New York Times. April 15, 1983.

.*Pound, Edward T. "Teamster Leader Indicated for Plot to Offer Bribe to Senator Cannon." New York Times. May 23, 1981.

  • Serrin, William. "The Teamsters' New Chieftain." New York Times. June 5, 1981.
  • Shabecoff, Philip. "Teamster President and 3 Others to Quit Pension Fund Posts." New York Times. March 14, 1977.
  • "Teamsters' President Pleads Not Guilty to Conspiracy." New York Times. June 13, 1981.
  • "Williams Speaks of Perils to Labor as Teamsters Adjourn." New York Times. June 6, 1981.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
George Mock (interim)
President of Teamsters Union (IBT)
May 15, 1981 – April 14, 1983
Succeeded by
Jackie Presser