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The Honorable John Benson Williams of Kansas City, Missouri, 69, retired Judge of the Kansas City Missouri Municipal Court, died suddenly from a massive pulmonary embolism Saturday, November 25, 2017. A Memorial Mass will be held at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, 2 E. 75th Street, Kansas City, MO on Thursday November, 30, 2017 at 4:00 p.m., with a Visitation with Family and Life Celebration to follow at 5:30, at the Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway. Please no flowers: instead a contribution in honor of Johns life work may be made to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill., PO Box 62596, Baltimore, MD 21264 or www.nami.org/donate. John was born in Kansas City, Missouri on March 24, 1948. He attended St. Elizabeth Catholic School, and was a member of the great class of Rockhurst High School of 1966. During his early years he also managed a thriving career as a multi-talented performer, with stints on a local seasonal television show, print ads in the Western Auto catalog, roles in Starlight productions, and for those of us of a certain age, a recurring commercial at area drive-ins, luring us all to the concession stand for "Intermission Time!" Playing guitar with his talented brother Billy on drums in bands during high school (the Little Lites, the Royal Tones) and at dances and parties helped him pay his own way through college and later law school. He somehow squeezed in a year as a postal carrier too. At RHS, he and his debate partner John Immele were responsible for winning the state title in debate, an accolade he carried proudly (and deservedly) his entire life. He married his first wife Deidre Pierron (now of Sunnyvale, CA) and daughter Linda was born in 1968. He earned his Bachelors Degree in Economics from University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1970, where he continued his debate winning ways, and met many of the dear friends he still has to this day, including Phil Cardarella and Katheryn Shields. In 1971 he began his professional political career working as chief aide (and ear whisperer) for Mayor Charles B. Wheeler, after being his assistant alongside Jerry Jette during the mayoral campaign, putting to work political skills he learned from home and family. After a year in politics, John decided a law degree was the thing, and returned to UMKC Law School, graduating in 2 years in order to stay abreast of his younger brother Billy, who was also at UMKC Law. They graduated together in 1973. John worked as a Kansas City Missouri City Assistant City Prosecutor from 1974-1978, where he was the Trial Director, and then in private practice for several years from 1978-1982. He spent several years preparing taxes for Bob Haley Tax Services. John continued working on political campaigns in the Kansas City area, including as the candidate in two special elections to fill house seats in the Missouri House of Representatives, which he lost, but loved nevertheless. He was appointed to the Missouri Judicial Nominating Commission 1980-83, and a member of the Committee for County Progress Board of Directors. John co-authored chapters on "Counties" and "Special Districts" for the Missouri Local Government Law Missouri Bar CLE deskbook. His political involvement continued as the local chairman of Morris Udalls campaign for U.S. President in 1976 and in 1988 as the Missouri field coordinator for Michael Dukakis for President. In 1982 when Bill Waris ran for Jackson County Executive, John was instrumental in his victory. John was appointed County Counselor in 1983, and served two terms in that capacity, until 1991, when he returned to private practice. During his time at Jackson County he was immensely proud of his role in the negotiations of the contracts which extended the leases on the stadiums, keeping his beloved Royals and Chiefs in KC for 25 more years. John was appointed Judge of the Kansas City Municipal Division of the Jackson County Circuit Court on May 4, 1995. He served an unprecedented seven terms as Presiding Judge from 1996-1997 and 2000-2004. In 2002, the first in the country mental health specialty court was being developed and funded in Kansas City Municipal Court and John was asked by then-Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields to preside over it, a position he held from 2002 until his retirement. The KCMO Mental Health Court, an innovative, collaborative partnership between the justice and mental health systems that diverts people with mental health issues from the criminal system into treatment instead, has received numerous awards and is a model for specialty courts nation-wide under Johns direction. He received the National Association for the Mentally Ill of Greater Kansas Citys Community Service Award in November 2002. He was recognized for his Community leadership by the Jackson County Mental Health Court Commission in June of 2006, and also in that year, he received the Judicial Recognition Award from the Association of Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City for his work with the Mental Health Court. John was an active and valued member of the American Judges Association, where he had many dear friends around the country, and attended their conferences often twice each year. He served on the Board of Governors of the AJA from 1998-2006, and again from 2009 until his death. He was tapped by multiple presidents to act on their Executive Committees, acknowledging his special insider knowledge of the organization and his unique political skill set. As in so many other arenas, John was always happier being the "kingmaker", not the "king." John was a member of the Missouri Bar Association, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, the American Judges Association, Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association, the National Institute of Municipal Law Officers, the Missouri Trial Lawyers Association and the American Trial Lawyers Association. He was admitted to the Missouri Supreme Court; United States District Court; Western District of Missouri; United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; and Supreme Court of the United States. John retired from the bench in July, 2015, after 20 years of dedicated and honorable service. He had begun an enjoyable retirement of increased travel, a lot more reading, some consulting work, and a little bit of sleeping in. Things John loved, in no particular order: his pontoon boat on Longview Lake; the buddies at J.J.s every afternoon; "The Rank Dudes"; sunset over the Lake of the Ozarks; being right; softball at Tower Park; the Royals and the Chiefs; making lists; playing the piano for the family at gatherings, or just for himself; the breeze off the ocean under the palapa on the beach in Puerto Vallarta; a "spirited" debate with anyone (Larry Sells); watching the stars; an evening out with his wife Molly and pals Bob & Margene; being on a cruise ship; his family, especially his brother Billy; keeping everything "just in case"; sitting under the holly tree watching the neighbors walk by; planning the next trip; knowing that Molly was always right next to him. By far his greatest love and that of which he was most proud was his girls. Although separated in age by thirty years, his daughters Linda (Sissy Marie) and Natalie (Sissy Jeanne) are best friends, loyal daddys girls, his toughest debate opponents, his finest singing partners, and his roughest and most honest critics. They share his passion for the Royals, his fabulous dancing ability, his amazing vocabulary, his tiny ears, and his love for ridiculous puns. They will have Dad stories for the rest of their lives, and will never stop missing him, and will never have a greater fan. He leaves too soon his wife, his partner, his travel companion, his "kid", his best friend: Molly. They were married in 1995, after much persuasion on both parts, at one time or another. Their daughter Natalie was born in November of 1998. Their marriage was a true adventure, and she is bereft without him by her side to talk to, walk with, play with, dance with, argue with, fly off with, and get old with. John was preceded in death by his father O.B. Williams, his brother William Randall Williams, and his cousin Jimmy Heilman. He is survived by his wife, Molly Williams and daughter Natalie of the home, daughter Linda Williams Taylor and her husband David; mother, Dorothy Williams, sisters, Mary Jeanne Byrd and husband Mike, Darlene Piane; nieces and nephews Austin Williams, Michelle (Matt) Stephens and Melissa Williams; Rob (Erin), Jeff (Megan), Kenny (Kelly) Byrd and Cindy (Matt) Brennan; Lucian Piane, Denise (Nick) Troy and Karen Piane; aunt and uncle Shirley and Roy Heilman; cousins, Billy (Shelly) Heilman, Tommy (Maggie) Heilman, and Jeannie (Jim) Richardson; numerous great-nieces and nephews; mother-in-law Adele Korth and father-in-law Bill Korth (JJ); brother-in-law Christopher Korth (Lori) and his children; and friends too many to count. Look at the moon John!
SERVICES Memorial Mass
Thursday, November 30, 2017 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
St. Elizabeth Catholic Church 2 E 75th Street Kansas City, Missouri 64114
Thursday, November 30, 2017 5:30 PM
Uptown Theater 3700 Broadway Blvd Kansas City, Missouri 64111
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