I lost a dear friend this week, one who I never personally met but who — because of his deep commitment to improving Kentucky government and encouraging others with similar goals — took me under his considerably younger wing.
We met through Twitter and spent many hours on the phone. Me, questioning myself and what I had to contribute; him, urging me on and — losing patience with my endless self-doubt — exhorting me with “great sports quotations” (“There are no short cuts. If you want to do something special, there's a price to pay. – Tom Thibodeau”), chiding me with his off-color humor, and sending me “motivational” tunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL3nFxSoApE
A steady flow of messages, exhortations, and phone calls from “Right as Rain Williams” — in the midst of his own illness — saw me through my Mother’s death in 2020 and my first legislative session in 2021.
We could not have been more different. He was as bold and experienced as I was timid and naive. His life had been, as he described it, epic. Mine had been, at best, mundane. He was a Republican whose tolerance for Republicans was regularly tested. I was a Democrat who regularly tested the patience of the Democratic attorneys general I served.
But we shared a commitment to effecting positive change in government. His derived from the tragic loss of two sisters to opioids. Mine derived from a career that revealed the cancer of government secrecy.
In the end, it was cancer that took Ricky Lee Williams from his family, his friends, and those who relied on his impressive knowledge, good counsel, and indefatigable spirit. He had convinced me that he could beat the odds of his late stage lung cancer diagnosis.
As I told his wife — a woman he so clearly adored — cancer may have won the battle, but the victory is Ricky Lee’s in the legacy he leaves his family, his friends, and those — like me — who learned from his example to “do right” as a “service of love.”