Eight Bells: John A Williams

Published on April 18th, 2018

John A Williams, 75, the enthusiastic owner of the J Class Ranger, passed away suddenly on April 16 (1943-2018).

Born into a family of modest means (he once told a business writer that “we grew poor as church mice”), Williams grew to be a pillar of his hometown of Atlanta (GA), contributing to the growth of the city and added to its imposing skyline.

John A Williams

Over the course of his career, Williams directed and coordinated the development, construction, and management of more than $15 billion in real estate developments across the nation. Approximately $5.5 billion of this activity has focused on multifamily housing, and the rest was in property such as hotels, condominiums and offices.

He studied at Georgia Tech, Atlanta’s public institute of technology, and he has been most generous with the institutions that have helped him succeed and the community that allowed him to thrive. He is also part owner of the Atlanta Falcons, the hometown football team.

Williams was a leading light in the J Class for many years. His vision and passion for Ranger, the J Class, and its long history was instrumental in the formation of the J Class Association and the consequent renaissance the class is enjoying presently.

After being inspired by seeing Velsehda and Endeavour racing in the Caribbean in the late 1990s, he chartered Endeavour to race in Antigua. That was the catalyst for his decision to commission the build of Ranger, the first J Class yacht to be built since the 1930s. Construction started at the Danish Yacht Boatyard in early 2002.

He raced and cruised Ranger extensively in the Caribbean, Europe, and all around the world with considerable success.

John’s long serving ‘admiral of the fleet’ Dan Jackson notes: “As far as yachting goes, John started about 30 years ago and worked his way up from a 50ft sloop to building Atlanta (36.9m), Georgia (48.5m), and then Ranger, which we launched in 2003.

“He was never happier than when on the boat with a full race crew mixing it up with other J boats. As far as significant wins, he was always proud of the wins in Sardinia at the Rolex Maxi Cup and the “clean sweep” that we had in St Tropez in 2014, winning all of the races. He loved having his family and the race crew (his second family) around him, enjoying the boat.”

Williams is survived by his wife Nancy; three children, Jay, Sarah Brook, and Parker, and two grandchildren, Jack and Harrison.


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