It is with sadness that the RRCA announces the loss of one of its founding members and Hall of Fame inductee, Garnett ‘Gar’ Williams. Williams passed away on January 16, 2023.
Williams, born January 30, 1933, began running in his senior year in college in Augustana College, Ill., as a miler and two-miler on the track team. His peak racing years (1955 to late 1960’s) had some disappointments (e.g., never making an Olympic team) and some decent performances including Nat. AAU Marathon champion in 1965.
He was president of the D.C. Road Runners Club (DCRRC) from 1969-73. During that time, the DCRRC began holding regularly scheduled business meetings, adding new racing sites, adopting a race-director’s checklist, sponsoring clinics, and more.
Williams was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the December 2023 Road Race Management Race Directors Meeting.
Phil Stewart, President of Road Race Management, said, “Gar is an unsung hero and far too few know of his importance.”
Before and at the dawn of the 1970s Running Boom, Williams quietly molded leaders and helped build the foundation and structure for the sport’s success at the Road Runners Club of America during his time as president.
Without Gar’s enormous contributions to the sport in the 70’s, the running boom may never have happened. His tireless efforts resulted in the creation of many RRCA clubs that recruited new runners and put on numerous races.
Williams devoted countless hours to building the DCRRC into one of the country’s largest and most successful clubs at a time when long-distance running was in its infancy.
In 1973, he became President of the RRCA and worked tirelessly to inspire many others to help, and a corps of leaders for the sport was born. Along the way, he also recruited sponsors and established the famed Credit Union Cherry Blossom race, which is now one of the country’s premier races.
Early in his term, Williams saw the need for a “How To” compendium of information and administrative guidelines for club administrators. So, he compiled and edited the RRCA Handbook. Nothing like it had ever existed, and its hundreds of pages were of great help to the growing number of clubs and their leaders.
To help cope with the traditional problem of finances, Gar started an RRCA marketing program in cooperation with Track and Field News. This program provided a steady source of income to the RRCA. Another new source of funds, inaugurated at the 1976 convention, was the sale of expo booths at the RRCA annual meeting.
Through his leadership, a new benefit was obtained for local clubs: tax-exempt status. Under a group exemption with the IRS, the RRCA was able to grant 501(c) (3) status to clubs desiring it (and qualifying).
William’s enormous impact cannot be overstated. Many of his initiatives instituted at the RRCA remain today. At his last annual meeting as president in 1976, he revised the annual meeting format to change sites from Boston [in connection with the Marathon] to a different city each year, a practice that remains in place to this day.