Col. Thomas Owen “T.O.” Williams III, 80, of Blacksburg, Virginia, died March 10, 2018.

A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Williams was a member of the Corps of Cadets and led the Highty-Tighties as drum major in 1959, his senior year.

He earned a degree in business administration and commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as a pilot. He served for 27 years, and his command positions included flying tours during the Vietnam War, as well as deputy commander for operations of the 1st Special Operations Wing in Hurlburt Field, Florida; the senior U.S defense representative in Khartoun, Sudan; and commander at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

He retired with the rank of colonel in 1986 and he and his wife, the late Frances Shealor Williams, returned to Blacksburg. Having proven himself to be a highly skilled combat pilot and leader, Williams applied his talents to fundraising and service to others.

Williams worked as director of personnel for the Montgomery County Public Schools, as director of programs in the office of University Development at Virginia Tech, as associate director for the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, and as director of development for the Virginia Tech Alumni and Conference Center Campaign, where he oversaw fundraising for the Holtzman Alumni Center and Skelton Conference Center.

Additionally, he held leadership positions with Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, the Blacksburg Rotary Club, the German Club, the Blacksburg Sports Club, the United Way, and the Corps of Cadets.

Williams’ efforts were critical to the survival of the corps during the early 1990s, when enrollment dipped to a few hundred cadets. Williams became involved with the corps staff and alumni to raise money for Emerging Leader Scholarships for cadets, which helped to reverse the declining enrollment and ensured that the corps would survive and grow. 

He would remain active with the corps alumni, eventually serving as chairman and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni board of directors from 2005-09, later being named chairman emeritus.

“T.O.’s success can be attributed to his outgoing personality, his strength of character, his infectious love of Virginia Tech and the corps, and his innate ability to make everyone feel special when talking to him,” said Lt. Col. Gary Lerch ’72, also a chairman emeritus for the corps alumni board. “T.O.’s passing leaves us with sadness and a sense of loss, but we are also comforted by a richness of memories, jokes, stories, and sage advice.”

Funeral services were March 16 in Blacksburg.

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