When Dick Williams called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, I had no idea he was calling to tell me goodbye.

But on Monday, just before I was about to head out the door and call it a day, his lovely wife, Carolyn, called to tell me Mr. Williams died on Sunday.

Just like Mr. Williams a couple of weeks before, Mrs. Williams didn’t ask for anything special. She knew her husband and I went back for a couple of decades. I considered him a friend, and she just wanted me to know.

Of course, just like five years ago, I couldn’t let it go without acknowledging Mr. Williams’ contributions to the local golf scene.

Mr. Williams, who would have been 84 this September, was the founder of the Ark-La-Tex Junior Golf Tour back in 1999, just a couple of years after I arrived in Longview.

For 15 years before that, he organized the North Texas Junior Golf Association Tour. When the format of that particular event changed, he created the Ark-La-Tex model – which made a stop on Monday in Liberty City at The Tempest.

Chances are, if you or your child played golf in East Texas for the past three decades, you met Mr. Williams. You probably became a better person and a better golfer thanks to that meeting.

When Mr. Williams retired from the daily grind at the age of 82 a couple of years back and turned things over to Mike and Paige Williams (no relation), he promised to stay active.

Mrs. Williams told me on Monday her husband, who worked more than 40,000 rounds for the junior golf circuit in his 35 years of service, still played golf twice weekly until he was diagnosed with cancer.

Five years ago, when my newspaper came up with the idea to honor area student-athletes with a banquet called Best Preps, we decided to name the awards for various sports after East Texans who had played, coached or contributed to those sports.

I was willing to listen to arguments about who we named most of the awards after, but I put my size 15 foot down and declared the golf awards for boys and girls would become the “Dick Williams Award.”

When I called him to tell him about the award, he was proud, but said “I appreciate it, but I wish you would find someone more worthy?”

That was the only time I said “no” to Mr. Williams, and I hope Mrs. Williams doesn’t mind me making a big deal out of her husband today. It wasn’t something he would want, but he dadgum sure deserves it.

DISTRICT UNITY

According to a Tweet from Marshall head football coach and athletic director Jake Griedl, football teams in District 9-5A will wear a helmet sticker this season “as a testament that it is bigger than just a game,” and “We choose to use our platform to bring people together. Unity and equality.”

The sticker features interlocking arms of four different color shades, with a football inside featuring the district’s name.

Teams in the district include Marshall, Pine Tree, Hallsville, Jacksonville, Mount Pleasant, Nacogdoches, Texas High and Whitehouse.

THE ZONE

Some key dates to remember while keeping our fingers crossed the 2020 high school football season won’t be affected by the COVID-10 pandemic.

We’ll release the preseason #bEASTTexas Fabulous 15 football poll on Sunday, July 12. The 13th annual East Texas Preseason Dream Team will be unveiled on Sunday, July 29, and our preseason preview magazine – The Zone – will be inserted into the Longview News-Journal (for subscribers only) on Sunday, Aug. 23.