Tommy Dan Williams, age 88, was born Oct. 30, 1924, at Choctaw, Ark., and died Jan. 6, 2013, at Fairfield, Calif. TD’s parents were William Henry and Melba Pearl Jones Williams. (His parents would’ve been pleased to know their three children celebrated at least 60 years of marriage with spouses.) Tom was united 60 years to Oleta Simmons until her death in June 2007. Tom and Oleta left behind two sons, Mark Anthony Williams of Fairfield, Calif., and Nathen Howard Williams (Maria) of Gilroy, Calif.; grandchildren Thomas Taft and Michael Justin; sister Mary Ruth Williams (Elmie) Webb of Smackover, Ark.; and sister-in-law Winnie Story Williams of Clinton, Ark. Preceding TD in death was his brother, Billy Rex Williams. Many other family of Williams-Simmons are also left to carry on.
Tommy Dan Williams was not drafted into serving during World War II. He helped his family in surviving on their rural farm. His older brother and he spent much of their youth hunting in Arkansas woods. They moved to California, later holding a Northern California record in the 1950s for killing 13 bears in one season. Hunting was a passion of both brothers. Having “deaf” parents, Tom and Bill learned to “sign” at an early age. This came in very useful in remote areas of California when signing hunting strategy to each other when game was spotted.
Tom’s father was a well-known umpire for baseball games around Van Buren County, so playing ball came early to Tom and he could have gone pro. Scouts from Chicago came to watch him play in 1939, wanting him to sign. Being 15 years old, Tom didn’t want to leave his dad unless he could go to Chicago with him. W.H. Williams held a good job at Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock and couldn’t do this, so Tom turned down this chance for a potential baseball career. Older memories confirmed he could bat and place a ball anywhere in a baseball field, and also throw perfectly straight and quickly. It was understood by teammates to keep their “head’s up” when TD got hold of the ball. Tom might pretend to throw to first or second, but at the last moment throw home to put the runner out every time! His brother often said Tommy Dan mainly played second baseman and was so quick that if a runner even slightly raised a foot off the base, Tom tagged him out. Tom and Bill played baseball in Van Buren County and later in California minor leagues for a few years.
Tommy Dan worked for Sheldon Oil Co. in Fairfield, then with Clark Trucking in Sacramento as an owner/operator until his retirement. He and Oleta raised both sons in the West Sacramento area. TD is also credited with helping save a young girl from drowning at Old Piney swimming hole back before 1941.