D.M. Williams, 88, died Saturday.
Longboat Key lost one of its colorful and behind-the-scenes generous souls with the death Saturday night of D.M. Williams, 88.
Williams was the general manager of the Casa del Mar Resort for 32 years. Perhaps one of the best ways to describe him is what may seem like a cliche: He was truly one of a kind.
And in a good, good way.
If you knew Williams, he quickly could endear himself to you with his rural-Texas twang; wide, toothy smile; and Texas-size laugh. Williams truly believed “A smile goes a long way,” he told the Longboat Observer in 2006.
Williams never forgot or shook his West Texas roots. He grew up on a farm in Patricia, Texas, 75 miles from the New Mexico border and poor as can be as the youngest of 11 siblings with a single mother. When people asked him what “D.M.” stood for, he would say his mother just ran out of names.
Williams’ upbringing clearly made an impression on him: It gave him a big heart for those in need.
For more than a decade, the organizers of the St. Jude Gourmet Luncheon and now the Kiwanis Lawn Party on Longboat Key could count on Williams each year to raise $10,000 to $12,000 and make sizable personal contributions himself.
Likewise, thanks to Williams, Casa del Mar often hosted families whose children had terminal cancer.
Williams also was a stalwart supporter of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, its annual Fourth of July Freedom Fest and whatever he felt was good for the town. He wasn’t bashful about writing letters to the editor expressing his concerns whenever he felt the Town Commission was heading in the wrong direction.
The one issue that burned his chaps was condo owners who rented their units to vacationers and didn’t pay the county bed tax, which Casa del Mar’s owners were required to do. He often advocated the town needed to get tough on those scofflaws.
But two things delighted Williams more than anything: his Cripple Creek Cloggers troupe and his prized cotton plant.
Williams traveled the world with 17 other cloggers, decked out in their pink satin jackets, often bringing joy to residents of retirement homes.
Williams became best known on Longboat Key for being a five-time record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records for growing the world’s tallest cotton plant.
On July 15, 2011, Williams hosted a measuring ceremony, where he set the record that still stands today. The accompanying editorial appeared in that week’s edition. It’s a tribute worth reprinting on the death of a good friend, patriot and citizen of Longboat Key.