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Doloroso on Thursday, July 20, 2017, a musician’s friend has completed the finale to his earthly life.

Thomas "Sonny" Williams was a friend to all musicians within a 40-mile radius of Orangeburg and beyond. He was the owner and operator of Williams Music store in Orangeburg for 35 years. Williams was assisted by his wife Patricia, son Tommy and employee Mike Amos.

During the 35 years of operation, Williams Music was the primary location where musicians could purchase musical instruments, supplies, sheet music, music education advice and repairs. The nearest competitor was just around the corner in the name of Hector’s Music.

Sonny was a special friend to the band and choir directors in the surrounding counties. On many occasions, when parades were held in Orangeburg, Sonny would allow band directors as well as students to pick up such items as reeds, drum heads, sticks, mallets and sometimes instruments in emergency situations. Most importantly, Sonny would credit this service until a purchase order was received. That was the kind of compassionate man that he was.

Williams was a most capable and knowledgeable music educator to the musicians he served. He was exceedingly thrilled when he shared his musical knowledge to the customer. When a musical question came up, if he didn’t know the answer, he would simply say, “I’ll get you an answer.” And he would.

Over the years, Sonny provided his musical services to band directors such as "Pop" Gentry of Orangeburg High, J.B. Hunt of Wilkinson High, Ken Creekmore of St. Matthews High, Reginald Thomasson of South Carolina State University, Sidney Young of Claflin University, choir directors Fredrick Ulmer of Orangeburg High and Sheneice D. Smith of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High, and many others.

Musicians such as Pete Minger, a trumpet player who had to have the "Rudy Muck" mouthpiece, and saxophonist "Skip" Pearson would buy nothing else but the #3 Vandoren reeds. Harry Palmer used 7a drum sticks and of course the Zildjian cymbals. And Theodore Esaw needed his Fender guitars and strings. Sonny provided his outstanding service to all of them so they could play the perfect "gig."

Both Sonny and his wife Pat and staff played a vital role in cultivating the friendly environment for all customers with a special emphasis on the musicians they served. They were genuine in their service to all.

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While Sonny has transitioned from this life on earth, I can see him in heaven trying to sell string instruments to David and just maybe, just maybe, he will be the one to sell Gabriel the trumpet that will be played on the last day of life that our Lord and Savior would have given us.

And knowing Sonny, that would be what he would do, developing an enduring friendship with the musicians in heaven.

Fiermente, I can truly say, Thomas "Sonny" Williams was a musician’s friend.

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Richard Reid is president of the Orangeburg Historical and Genealogical Society.

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