FLORENCE---Robert W. Williams Jr. will be honored by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Feb. 25, for a lifetime of service to the Florence community.
Williams, president and chief executive officer of Pee Dee Electric Cooperative Inc., of Darlington, will be presented the inaugural Distinguished Community Service Award for his significant contributions to the region’s business, industry and government.
Tom Marschel, chamber president, said the award, henceforth to be named in honor of Williams, was created by the chamber in November 2003 “to recognize an individual in the greater Florence area who has made outstanding contributions to the quality of life for citizens in our region.”
The award will be presented at a dinner at Francis Marion University’s Ervin Dining Hall. The university and the chamber, along with Carolinas Hospital System, Florence-Darlington Technical College and the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, are hosts for the event.
A video presentation narrated by Tom Kinard will highlight Williams’ career. State Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. will read a resolution from the South Carolina Senate. Marschel will present the award to Williams.
Williams is recognized as an expert in the cooperative utility industry. His visionary leadership has made Pee Dee Electric Cooperative a leader among cooperatives in South Carolina and in the nation.
He’s been with Pee Dee Electric since 1971, first as general manager, then executive vice president and now as president and CEO. From 1967 to 1971, he served a special assignment to the United States Embassy in Manila, Philippines, to develop that country’s national rural electrification program. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter asked him to return to the Philippines during the celebration of the millionth household connection in the electrification of the Philippines. The president of the Philippines presented Williams that country’s highest civilian award for his service.
In 1966, Williams was a special electrification consultant to the Shah of Iran on an assignment by the U.S. State Department. Prior to that, he was general manager and CEO of Oconee Electric Membership Corp. in Georgia.
Williams has held many positions locally and nationally in the rural electrification field, and served on the board of directors of the National Rural Electrification Cooperative Association (NRECA) in Washington, D.C., for 11 years. In 2001, he received the NRECA President’s Award given for outstanding service.
Williams is currently president of Pee Dee Electricom Inc., and president of Pee Dee Electric Service Corp. Inc.
Williams is a dedicated advocate of education and economic development for the Pee Dee region. Through his leadership, Pee Dee Electric provides numerous contributions and benefits to education at all levels in the Pee Dee.
He serves on the boards of Francis Marion University, the FMU Foundation, the School Foundation, Florence County Progress and Florence County Economic Development Partnership. He is chairman of the business and industry advisory committee of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance and serves on the board of directors of Carolinas Hospital System.
In 1995, he received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian award. He was granted honorary membership in the FMU School of Business Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma, in 1997.
In 1997, Pee Dee Electric’s Board of Trustees honored Williams for his dedication and success in the growth of the organization and for his contributions in bringing new industry and better jobs to the Pee Dee.
Williams is past president of the board of directors of Central Electric Power Cooperative Inc. and vice chairman of the S.C. Aeronautics Commission.
Williams provided leadership to create the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) to provide satellite services to the rural areas of America through the technology of large satellite antenna systems. He served on the NRTC board for 13 years and was elected president and chairman in 1990. Today, there are three satellites in orbit, providing more than 200 channels of television, entertainment and data services throughout America to more than 5 million customers. By 2010, service is projected to exceed 30 million.
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