Obituary of William Daniel McWilliams III
William Daniel McWilliams III “Bill” flew beyond earthly bounds to touch the face of God on May 10, 2023. Bill is proceeded in death by his parents, William and Kathleen McWilliams II; sister, Mary Kay McWilliams; wife, Veronica Eileen McWilliams; grandson, Nathan James McWilliams. Survivors include his wife, Anna Bates; daughters: Katie Mendenhall (Larry) and Mary Ann Villet (Mike); son, Bill McWilliams IV (Shari), and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Born in Brownsville, Texas on July 23, 1933, raised and educated in small towns by his parents and rural schools throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Bill was appointed by the third congressional district of Colorado to United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. As a West Point Plebe (freshman Cadet) during an intense, first noon meal in the Cadet Dining Hall, Plebes were required to formally introduce themselves. Proudly, per Academy script, Bill introduced himself. “Sir, my name is New Cadet McWilliams, and my home is in Wagon Wheel Gap, Colorado.” Across the table a fellow Plebe, who obviously came from a larger city, burst out in laughter spitting food across the table in the process. Bill’s classmate never finished his noon or dinner meals that day. He did become one of Bill’s closest friends at the Academy.
As a U.S.A.F. fighter pilot, Bill spent 13 hours one day in Oct-62 in the cockpit of an underpowered, nearly obsolete, F-84F Thunderstreak, loaded with ordinance waiting for the command to attack Fidel’s Cuba. Fortunately, that command never came. As a pilot instructor-trainer training Air Force Bill got in trouble in his hometown of Wagon Wheel Gap, after “buzzing” his Father’s guest ranch in a T-38 Talon trainer jet. Bill flew 128 close air support sorties flying an F-4C from Cam Ranh Bay air base Vietnam. At Homestead AFB, FL he safely landed an F-4E Phantom after one of its engines Caught fire. Days before Bill retired from the Air Force, he piloted his final flight as an air fighter pilot in an F-15C strike Eagle, fitting in all the aerobatic maneuvers the forty-three-minute flight allotted him.
After his last flight as Vice Wing commander of Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV, Col. Bill McWilliams was greeted with a thick stream of water from a fire hose his wife, Ronnie, could barely keep hold of. Unsurprisingly, Ronnie beamed with satisfaction and laughed playfully while wrestling the recoil of the fire hose.
After retiring from the Air Force and serving professionally in various commercial Engineering positions, Bill, achieved another personal goal, by becoming an author and military historian. Bill authored four major military titles and told the true stories of his country’s heroes in: “Sunday in Hell,” Pearl Harbor minute by minute; “On Hallowed Ground,” the last battle for Pork Chop Hill; “Scrimmage for War,” a story of Pearl Harbor, football, and World War II. A 1986 ESPN movie special titled “Code Breakers” was based on his book “A Return to Glory: The Untold Story of Honor, Dishonor and Triumph at the United States Military Academy, 1950-53”.
Bill was accomplished, poised, self-confident, modest, and kind. Thanks to Bill, our family was able to visit Gettysburg, PA., the Smithsonian Museum, Disney Land in Anaheim, CA., go on ski trips in Colorado and see “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC among other adventures. Bill had a great sense of humor. After hearing the name of the 60’s rock band the “The Strawberry Alarm Clocks” Bill asked us if we had ever heard of a lesser-known band “The Watermelon Diving Boards.” Ronnie would beg us not to laugh for fear of encouraging Dad when he would casually walk in front the family car, after filling the car’s gas tank, and then leap straight up, kicking his feet in opposite directions and landing softly, feet together, with a smile. During a family trout fishing trip, Bill’s children watched in shock as he carried Ronnie across Leopard Creek in Colorado with Mom kicking and screaming the whole time. The ordeal ended in family laughter and Ronnie enjoying catching trout the rest of the day.
Beyond your accomplishments father, your family will never forget your loving kindness and the quality time you spent with us. We are eternally grateful to you. You will forever be missed.
Funeral mass will be celebrated at 11 AM on Friday, July 7th at Holy Apostles Catholic Church, 6300 N. Meridian Rd. in Meridian.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be sent to ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place Memphis, TN 38105.