September 27, 2012
William Eugene Williams, Jr., age 91, died on Monday, September 24, 2012, at Baptist Hospital in Columbus, MS. Services were held at Memorial Funeral Home on Wednesday, September 26, with Revs. David Strain and Chad Watkins officiating. Interment followed in the Friendship Cemetery. W. E. was born to William Eugene and Mattie Nance Williams on April 6, 1921, in Hattiesburg, MS. He graduated from Greenville High School in 1938 and Mississippi State University in 1942 with a degree in physics. The day before he graduated from MSU, he met Celeste Swoope of Columbus and immediately said, “You are going to marry me!” Jokingly she said, “Tonight?” Four months later, on September 28, they were married, and their life together ended four days before the celebration of their seventieth wedding anniversary. Not only did W. E., an only child, gain a wife, he gained thirteen brothers and sisters as well! He and Celeste were blessed with two sons, Douglas Eugene and Preston DeWitt. He joined the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Washington, D. C., where he was engaged in electronic circuit design for proximity fuzes that were used in bombs, rockets, and mortars. From 1944 to 1946 he served in the U. S. Army and helped in the liberation of the Philippines. After World War II ended, he rejoined the NBS in the Electronic Instrumentation Section. There he designed a variety of special-purpose instruments to measure pressure, liquid levels, vibration, and oil film thickness, as well as pulse generators and temperature control equipment. He later engaged in the design of aircraft flight simulators, especially having responsibility for simulated radar and electronic countermeasures systems. Beginning in 1959, with the creation of NASA, W. E. joined the space program and was responsible for the design and development of the nose cone telemetry system for the Jupiter missiles, for the first reentry tests, and a missile radar fuze. He was on the data controls when America’s first monkey was sent into space. He was proud to have worked with Wernher Van Braun and to have met Charles Lindbergh. He retired from NASA in 1980 as the Program Manager for Mission Operations, with responsibility for the operation of the Satellite Tracking Data Network program control centers, orbit/attitude computations, and data processing activities for the agency. He worked with Vitro Corporation on Navy Radar systems until he fully retired in 1986. He and his precious “Boo” lived in the Washington, D. C. area until they returned to Columbus in 2006. He was a member of Main Street Presbyterian Church and lived at the Trinity Retirement Apartments when he was not at his house on the bluffs of Tibbee Creek. W. E. was preceded in death by his parents and James Prowell Swoope, his brother-in-law. He is survived by his wife, Celeste “Boo”; his son, Doug, and grandson, Bryce; his son, Preston, and his wife Tricia, and their two sons, John and William; his beloved Swoope family: L. F. “Teeny” Swoope (Nancy), Elizabeth Swoope Reid Wiseman, Thomas K. “Dake” Swoope (Allene), William M Swoope (Willetta), Edward A. Swoope, Frank G. Swoope (Carolyn), Warren D. “Oop” Swoope (Jan), Walter “Penny” W. Swoope (Bettye), Eleanor S. Hairston (Nick), Charles M. Swoope (Shirley), Lucy “Boopie” Swoope Beard (David), and Burton C. Swoope (Tanya); one cousin; and a great many nieces and nephews; and a number of great nieces and great nephews. Pall bearers were his grandsons, Bryce Williams, John Williams, and William Williams; his nephews, Trip Hairston, Jim Swoope, David Beard, Jr., Field Swoope, Robert Glenn, Jr., and Thomas Glenn. Memorials may be sent to Main Street Presbyterian Church or Palmer Home.