Williams remembered for kindness, integrity

K.V. Williams

ENID, Okla. — "With a moonshining father, K.V. grew up knowing shame, poverty and a will to succeed. Eighty-two years later, he is a multi-millionaire with businesses ranging from convenient stores to restaurants to radio stations. He's a local-regional sensation."

Those words from Wade Burleson's "Future Vision" book describe the life of K.V. Williams, who died Monday. A celebration of life will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at Emmanuel Enid with Burleson officiating. Burial will follow at Davenport Cemetery under the direction of Ladusau-Evans Funeral Home.

Williams' image was that of a grandfatherly type leader. He definitely was to grandson Alex, the third-generation family business owner.

Alex Williams still has a handwritten letter from his grandfather that he received three years ago. The content brings a smile to his face every time he reads it.

"You could always count on grandpa to lift your spirit," Alex said. "He ended each visit or phone call by telling you how proud of you he was and that he loved and prayed for you. He was the greatest example of how to be a providing husband, encouraging father, loving grandpa and friend in those in need."

That spirit allowed him to overcome a difficult childhood.

"He overcame more than most people endure in their lifetime," Alex said. "He learned at a young age that determination was key to success."

Alex said his grandfather taught him the importance of work ethic and integrity.

"He worked hard to build a successful business, treated everyone as though they were family and gave graciously. More importantly, he served the Lord with everything that he had, and he is in a better place today."

He loved to help others in need, Alex said, but preferred to do it anonymously.

"He did more than most will know," Alex said. "He blessed others abundantly over the course of his 90 years. He would encourage every person that he encountered to work hard and follow their dreams."

Williams enjoyed joking about work and politics.

"He had the greatest sense of humor you would find in a grandfather," Alex said. "Even after he was retired and unable to work, he would call and ask if he had any paid time off saved up. He would always keep you on your feet and laughing."

His legacy, Alex said, will be "how graciously, respectfully and lovingly that he treated everyone in his life."

Williams' friends and associates remember him as a compassionate and caring person who lived to serve people.

Tom Evans, president of Encompass Financial Services, has been doing evaluations of Williams' business since the early days of Williams and Larry Hammer's partnerships. Evans did an evaluation of the duo's Jiffy Trip store in Cherokee when he was in his early 20s.

"What a prince of a guy," Evans said. "He always treated me with respect and that I knew what I was doing. He was a kind-hearted person. He was quick with a smile and a laugh."

Evans described Williams as first an encourager.

"He wanted you to succeed, he wanted everyone to succeed," Evans said. "I never heard him say a bad word about someone. He was respectful of people. You could sense the love he had for his family and was proud of their individual success."

Evans saw Williams' business empire grow through the years, but Williams never changed.

"He never forgot where he came from," he said. "He never put an air of superiority. He appreciated people who worked hard and treated everyone with respect."

Williams was "fun to work for," Evans said, because he always saw the positive, even in bad times.

"He saw the good in people," Evans said. "If things weren't going well, he would said we would get through this. He persevered through the good times and the bad times. He believed in hiring good people and letting them do their thing."

Evans was impressed with how Williams and his son Kyle and grandson Alex were able to be so successful in small markets where the convenience store might be the business in town.

"It was fun to see what they were going to do next," Evans said. "They weren't afraid of growth. They would find a town with a void and sell it. Who would think of having a Jiffy Trip in Carmen or Longdale? They were the first to open on Sundays. It would be the only place you could get gas or milk ... they truly hit that market when it was first coming out."

Alan Klepper and J. Curtis Huckleberry both had good memories of Williams as long-time broadcasters at KGWA, which the Williams and Hammer families brought in 1993. Both were with the station before the two families brought the station from Alan Page.

"From the beginning, K.V. has always been the grandfather figure," Klepper said. "Every time I saw him, he was telling me how good I was doing and how much he liked my show. You never heard a negative word out of his mouth."

Huckleberry said Williams was "always kind and gracious to me ... I didn't know anyone who interacted with K.V. that didn't find it anything about delightful. He was a wonderful man."

Hucklebery said he never saw Williams get crossways with anyone.

"You could trust him and Kyle to operate in the right way," Huckleberry said. "You didn't have to worry about something going on. If they had an issue, they would bring it to you. If not, you carried on."

Under Williams' ownership, Klepper said "he never felt like I was going to work ... I was going to serve." That attitude, he said, would serve them well in the radio business.

Klepper's favorite memory was when Williams would get out and play his guitar and tell stories of how he once toured with country bands.

"He was a good guitar player," he said. "A lot of people didn't know that. He was an easy man to love. He would listen to you. He is going to be sorely missed."

Williams' biggest legacy is how son Kyle and grandson Alex are running the business.

"You can tell a lot about a man's character by his kids and grandkids," Klepper said. "I hadn't seen K.V. in months, but if you look around the building, K.V. is still here. He was always in the background, but he was just the wise man who was there as an encourager."

Burleson called Williams "one of a kind." He lost an eye at 5 and was the son of an imprisoned bootlegger in southeastern Oklahoma but rose to be the head of a multi-faceted company, Hammer Williams Co.

"K.V. was the kind of man who always appreciated what he had because he remembered so vividly when he had nothing," Burleson said. "Very few people know of the overwhelming generosity of K.V. Williams. And in my lifetime of ministering among Christian people, K.V.'s generosity is at the top."

Burleson's favorite memories were hearing how Williams started Dairy Boy in Fairview after a tragic accident; how he established the Jiffy Trip franchise; how he got his pilot's license despite having one eye; how much he loved his children, and bore the pain of having a son die in childhood, and how that transformed his life; and his conversion to Christ at a small Baptist church out of state.

Burleson said Williams' legacy will live on with his son Kyle and grandson Alex.

"Kyle is the man he is today because of the lessons he learned from his father," Burleson said. "Though Enid has lost a great man in the death of K.V. Williams, Enid's future is bright through the leadership of his son."

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Campbell is a former sports writer and current part-time writer for the News & Eagle, enidnews@enidnews.com.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Kevin? Send an email to enidnews@enidnews.com.

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Graduate of Oklahoma City John Marshall (1972) and University of Oklahoma. Been at News & Eagle since June 19, 1978. Previously worked at Oklahoma Journal, Midland, Texas Reporter & Telegram, Norman Transcript, Elk City Daily News

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