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Forthcoming book to focus on law and order in Williamson County

In her office, Donna O'Neil edits the book "A Tennessee Sheriff, Williamson County cases 1970-1990" by former Williamson County Sheriff, Fleming Williams. In his own words using 75 to 80 case files, the 86-year old Williams documents the county's struggle to emerge as a safe, modern and inviting place to set down roots and call home during his 20 years as the county's chief law enforcement officer. Photo by Carole Robinson.
 
When Fleming Williams took over the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department in 1970, he had been in the oil business. He was drafted into service when friends circulated a petition and then convinced him to run. Once in office, with help from friends in state and federal law enforcement and several courses in law enforcement, Williams quickly learned the legal system and proceeded to make major changes in Williamson County.
 
Using his own case records and case photos, Williams tells readers, in his own words, about the Williamson County he was hired to tame in his book, “A Tennessee Sheriff, Williamson County cases from 1970 to 1990.”
 
Armed with a cardboard box filled with upwards of 80 handwritten case files and a sharp memory, Williams paints the picture of a county yearning to move forward culturally and economically but struggling with a wild nature.
 
“Everything was wide open when I took office,” he said. “You could get away with anything. It took 15 to 16 years, but we cleaned up Williamson County. I had a part of it, but there were good men working with me doing the job, too. This is not something for me – it’s for the people who live in Williamson County – it’s history.”
 
Williams reveals case after case that involved alcohol, drugs, prostitution and gambling. 
 
Even though beer could legally be sold until midnight, “we had a lot of joints opened 24 hours,” he said. 
 
There were unsolved murders, rapes, cars were burned, tractors stolen and stripped, there was cattle wrestling and 25-30 home burglaries a month, he said.
 
“When I left, there was only about seven [burglaries] a month and the population had tripled.” 
 
The Little Circle on Sunset Road, the Cadillac Inn near Nolensville and another bar in College Grove were among those “joints” that didn’t abide by the law – until Williams and his 17 deputies got the owners in their sights.
 
“I finally got [the Little Circle owner] for selling whiskey and gambling,” he said. “That closed him up.”
 
The others quickly followed.
 
With many cases, like with the rape of Mrs. Hoover, Williams credits the community with providing “good information” that led to arrests. In Mrs. Hoover’s case it was the arrest of two men and their ultimate conviction.
 
Williams also credits his good relationship with law enforcement officials in other counties and at the state and federal levels with whom he was able to share information that enabled him to solve cases, reduce crime in Williamson County and to stop criminals from outside the county from coming here to do their mischief. 
 
“Thank goodness I didn’t have to shoot anybody,” he said. “I pulled a gun 13 times – a .357 or shotgun. I had to rough them up sometimes, but I didn’t beat anyone.”
 
One of the strangest cases Williams solved was one that involved the discovery of two dead girls along I-65 near Goose Creek.
 
“They had no ID and they were tore all to pieces,” he said. 
 
It took a lot of investigating for Williams to unravel what led to their deaths and the details are all in his book, which will be released in hard cover on July 8. “A Tennessee Sheriff” will be available at Handy Hardware and directly from Fleming Williams. Watch for book signing dates at the Williamson County Archives, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and other locations.

Posted on: 6/20/2013

 
 

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