View Full Version : Arland Dean Williams Jr. 9.23.39 - 1.13.82

01-13-2019, 05:34 PM
Williams was a passenger aboard Air Florida Flight 90, which crashed on take-off in Washington, D.C., on January 13, 1982, killing 74 people. One of six people to initially survive the crash, he helped the other five escape the sinking plane before he himself drowned.

President Ronald Reagan Commencement Address May 15, 1993
But for me, there is one name that will always come to mind whenever I think of The Citadel and the Corps of Cadets. It is a name that appears in no military histories; its owner won no glory on the field of battle.

No, his moment of truth came not in combat, but on a snow-driven, peacetime day in the nation's capital in January of 1982. That is the day that the civilian airliner, on which he was a passenger, crashed into a Washington bridge, then plunged into the rough waters of the icy Potomac. He survived the impact of the crash and found himself with a small group of other survivors struggling to stay afloat in the near-frozen river. And then, suddenly, there was hope—a park police helicopter appeared overhead, trailing a lifeline to the outstretched hands below, a lifeline that could carry but a few of the victims to the safety of the shore. News cameramen, watching helplessly, recorded the scene as the man in the water repeatedly handed the rope to the others, refusing to save himself until the first one, then two, then three and four, and finally five of his fellow passengers had been rescued.

But when the helicopter returned for one final trip, the trip that would rescue the man who had passed the rope, it was too late. He had slipped at last beneath the waves with the sinking wreckage—the only one of 79 fatalities in the disaster who lost his life after the accident itself.

For months thereafter, we knew him only as the "unknown hero." And then an exhaustive Coast Guard investigation conclusively established his identity. Many of you here today know his name as well as I do, for his portrait now hangs with honor—as it indeed should—on this very campus; the campus where he once walked, as you have, through the Summerall Gate and along the Avenue of Remembrance. He was a young first classman with a crisp uniform and a confident stride on a bright spring morning, full of hopes and plans for the future. He never dreamed that his life's supreme challenge would come in its final moments, some 25 years later, adrift in the bone-chilling waters of an ice-strewn river and surrounded by others who desperately needed help.

But when the challenge came, he was ready. His name was Arland D. Williams, Jr., The Citadel Class of 1957. He brought honor to his alma mater, and honor to his nation. I was never more proud as president than on that day in June 1983 when his parents and his children joined me in the Oval Office—for then I was able, on behalf of the nation, to pay posthumous honor to him. Greater love, as the Bible tells us, hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend.

I have spoken of Arland Williams in part to honor him anew in your presence, here at this special institution that helped mold his character. It is the same institution that has now put its final imprint on you, the graduating seniors of its 150th year. But I have also retold his story because I believe it has something important to teach to you as graduates about the challenges that life inevitably seems to present — and about what it is that prepares us to meet them.

01-13-2019, 05:44 PM
Greater love hath no man...

Johnny C!
01-13-2019, 05:45 PM
I remember the event & I thought about it on my two trip to
DC while looking at the river there.

Thanks for posting this.