Liberia has lost an iconic aviator! Richelieu Archibald Williams was such a passionate man. He wanted safe and secure skies for his homeland. Not many, particularly quack elements in the industry – essentially obsessed with shortcut methods wanted Archie Williams out of the way. He was such a great fighter who stood firmly for what he believed in. He was indeed a man of valor! Archie resisted all attempts to compromise his principles. He was intuitively a sensitive man! Archie could detect charlatans posing as aviation investors. While he might not have tried to judge a book by its cover, he had a discerning mind.
Even outside of Civil Aviation, he remained troubled about the looming safety and security issues in the industry. As a serving Ambassador, Archie was worried about the fate of a sector’s falling standards he worked so assertively to elevate through hard work and dedication.
Archie Williams was unarguably a trusted ally and confidante of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Jokingly, she attempted to fire him more than a thousand times. Madam Sirleaf knew Archie like the back of her palm as the Brits would say and did not hesitate to entrust him with various tasks – even at short notice. Archie was a man of precision! He would readily get the job done. His DNA carried efficiency, dexterity, proficiency, and unimaginable wit. He was a listening manager yet a disciplinarian. He knew how to effectively utilize diverse talents to obtain desired results.
He was a man who got things done. No assignment was too great or huge for Archie Williams! Like Mary Broh, he would behave like a New York cop! He shut Weasua Airways down. He called it a flying coffin. Madam Sirleaf listened to no one in the aviation sector but ‘Archie!’ She had so much respect and credibility in his judgment regarding the sector. Whatever Archie advised, was final about the airport’s safety and security.
He inherited a virtually ‘little known Liberia Civil Aviation Authority’ comically described by the legendary Tom Kamara amid running battles between the CAA and the almighty New Democrat. Richelieu Archie Williams will indisputably be remembered as the man who preparedly fought many or perhaps endless battles. In his reckoning, ‘politics and aviation should not mix.’ That was his message to his big sister, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
He saw, recognized, and ran the CAA as a policing entity. Rich Williams always believed that no amount of politics should interfere with the safety and security of aviation. Aeroplanes, he argued do not pack in the air. Therefore, if we all had to professionally, passionately, and responsibly play our respective roles, safety and security would never become a lingering compromise.
For violators, he was the most disliked person. But he remained unbothered! He always wanted the right thing done. He was a fastidious aviator. He carefully and cautiously examined every detail. His argument was always anchored on credibility, trust, and integrity. He was not a perfect person but had strong convictions. He was a great motivator and inspirer.
He owed it to his dad, the Rev Dr. John Bolton Williams who predeceased him. Rev. J. Bolton Williams was a pedagogic figure. Archie was a ‘workaholic!’ He introduced a time clock at the CAA and acknowledged consistent punctuality. He was a good man; and a bittersweet. He was prepared to break a few bones, crack a number of heads – so remorsefully to get the job done. He started the Civil Aviation industry from nowhere to an admirably acceptable level. He dismantled and de-registered illegally registered aircraft on Liberia’s registry. An attempt was made on his life at his previously occupied Du-Port residence. Thank God he was out of the country.
Rich Williams was persistently keen on meeting the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices, and he rigorously and wittingly upheld the Liberia Civil Aviation Regulations. He diplomatically wrestled and returned the Roberts Flight Information Region (RFIR) to its original base at Charlesville, Margibi County. Restored Liberia’s voting rights and Membership to ICAO, the continental and regional bodies. Archie was a force and a powerful voice to reckon with in the Banjul Accord Group.
Like the police; when there was chaos, everyone would run for protection; when violations or infractions occurred – they call the police names. Mind you, the police are always on the side of the law. Seemingly feared and respected by many in the sector, Archie was ostensibly a ‘bulldozer.’ he would do whatever it took to get the job done and in real-time. A man of so many battles; some he won; others he lost; but he never gave up. Archie was always preparing for another battle. He would say – ‘we might lose the battle but not the war.’ A long-time friend would fondly call him ‘Hercules.’
He sacked a bunch of folks he inherited from what was then the Bureau of Civil Aviation under the Ministry of Transport at the time. He asked everyone to reapply and state precisely how they could be relevant to the industry. It was a moment of dress-right-dress! In the end, he let go of folks who were simply painting their fingernails and unnecessarily collecting paychecks. A small but efficient staff was assembled. It was the dawn of a new day for the sector.
Archie started to build a small, youthfully enterprising, and efficient team of engineers, economists, air traffic controllers, aviation security, and documentation specialists. He was always interested in maximum utility. Whenever the airport got it wrong, it was Archie Williams that became the miracle-working fixer. He was an aviation war general who did not leave his lieutenants in the trenches. He was consistently on the frontline – making sure the obtainable version of success became a foregone conclusion.
As a nation, we have lost a patriot, a revolutionary giant, an agent of change, a leader, an iconic persona, a legendary figure, and a man of vision – who was always willing to give effortlessly for the greater good of his country. Comrade Richelieu Archie Williams, you fought a good fight! yes! The battle was never to the swift but he who endures to the bitter end. Thank you for your service to your country and people. You will be matchlessly missed – even by adversaries.
Ekena Nyankun Juagbe-Droh Wesley Contributing Writer
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