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Riverside Loses A Beloved Native Son, McCoy Williams

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By Lita Pezant

McCoy Williams, a lifelong Riverside native, died at home last Sunday, March 2, 2008, after suffering a long illness.  Mr. Williams was 72.

Born in Riverside, CA on February 3, 1936, the oldest son of Trivel Williams and his wife Bernice McCoy, he attended Riverside area schools, and graduated from Riverside Poly High School, having been a star athlete and captain of the school's swim team. 

FIRST PLACE- McCoy Williams is shown here after receiving his First Place CIF medal, earned in 1954, from Nick Tavaglione on February 6, 2008, in a much-appreciated effort to correct a 54-year-old wrong. “Coy” is scheduled to be inducted in the Riverside Sports Hall of Fame at the annual banquet this May. Left to right Gary Taylor, Vice President of the Riverside Sports Hall of Fame: McCoy Williams; Nick Tavaglione; Rich Stallder, former coach at North High School.

McCoy married his high school sweetheart, Nora Bryant in 1957, and the couple raised and nurtured five children.  McCoy earned a Bachelors Degree from California Baptist College (now Cal Baptist University), and found an early affinity and career path for helping people, particularly youth.

After college he started his career as a counselor for Riverside County Juvenile Hall, and then became a probation officer.  He went on to serve 10 years as the Director of Housing Services for the University of California, Riverside from the late 60's through the 1970's.  During that time he was well known for enhancing student's living environments, and gave special attention to married students and their unique family housing needs. Referred to often as "Coy", he was well known and respected both on campus and in the general community for his compassion and support for students, and his tact and diplomacy during politically charged times.

McCoy and his wife Nora, befriended many students.   Many of them have continued to stay in contact with the Williams family and involve them in their lives and the lives of their children throughout the years. He and Nora also cared for dozens of children in their home, and also served as foster parents for many years. After leaving the University, McCoy worked as a State of California parole agent, retiring in 1994 after suffering a stroke. Never one to quit, he fought back and recovered almost completely from the effects of the stroke.

Always active in the community, Mr. Williams also ran for Riverside City Council in 1968, was a life member of the Riverside branch of the NAACP, and was active in various health organizations.  Known as a person who could talk to people on both sides of an issue to help to find solutions, McCoy was a founding member of the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) in Riverside, along with DeVaughn Armstrong, and worked closely with the national OIC leader Rev. Leon Sullivan to strengthen the job training and education organization.  Educator Waudier Rucker-Hughes served as the OIC Executive Director for many years and stated, "McCoy was one of the lynchpins, he was at the forefront of addressing the needs of the community.  His mantra was 'Don't talk about it, Be about it!" because he was an activist, not a complainer.  He had a way of doing things that garnered him respect from politicians as well as from the community.  Even through his illness, he occupied every bit of the space he was in and had a commanding presence even if he did not open his mouth.  Many in this community owe their start to his efforts.  He sat on one of the original Equal Opportunities boards here in Riverside."  

"McCoy was part of the city's leadership team, along with Barnett Grier and George Williams, that put Riverside on the map for being one of the first city's in the nation to implement voluntary desegregation, including busing," added Rucker-Hughes. 

McCoy Williams
McCoy Williams loved to play golf and poker with a passion.  But his true love was swimming.  Back in 1954, while captain of the Riverside Poly High School swim team, McCoy won First Place in the 50-yard free-style, during a CIF statewide swim meet competition.  For some unexplained reason, McCoy received a "paper medal" and a letter stating that he would receive his medal later. 

Earlier this month, on February 6, 2008, 54 years after his championship win, McCoy finally received a CIF First Place medal, due in part to the efforts of life-long friends Dell Roberts and Doriella Anderson.  To commemorate this special honor conferred 54 years after his championship efforts, prominent Riverside businessman and Riverside Sport Hall of Fame President Nick Tavaglione, accompanied Rich Stallder, the former coach at North High School, and Gary Taylor, the Hall of Fame membership chair, to McCoy's home to actually place the coveted medal in McCoy's hands.

According to family members, it was an "emotional and bittersweet moment" that McCoy cherished.  Mr. Tavaglione also handed McCoy his own Hall of Fame medal, assuring McCoy that he could keep it until after McCoy received his own engraved induction medal at the Hall of Fame annual banquet scheduled for May of this year.  According to Vice President Suzanne Ashley, "We are so proud that he was able to receive his medal after so many years of wanting and imagining it, and were proud to play a part in his receiving this honor."

McCoy leaves to cherish his memory, his wife Nora Williams and their children, son McCoy Williams, Jr. of Corona, CA; and daughters Cay Williams, Shelley Smith (Michael), Kimberly Williams, all of Riverside; and Maya Williams of Atlanta, GA.  Mr. Williams was a loving grandfather to Randi, Georgina, Felix, Aaron, Ryan, and to great grandson Brandon.

He was preceded in death by his brother Trivel Williams and his sister Carol Bullock, and is survived by his sisters LaVell Byrd of Oakland, CA, and Lora (Curtis) Davis of San Diego, CA, and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.  He is also survived by host of friends, including very special life-long friends, Marshall and Doriella Anderson, Pete Anderson, Glenn King, and Dell Roberts all of Riverside, CA, and Jack and Mona Reed of Corona, CA who gave their faithful friendship and support through all challenges.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, March 9, from 5 p.m to 8 p.m., at Miller-Jones Mortuary and Crematory, located at 23618 Sunnymeade Blvd. in Moreno Valley, CA. 92553. Memorial Services for McCoy Williams will be held the next day, on Monday, March 10, 2008, at 11:00 a.m. also at Miller-Jones, (951) 485-4542.  Repast will be announced at the service. Friends may consider donating to the American Cancer Society.

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