A prosecutor (and VW beater) remembered


For three decades Justin Williams, of Alexandria, drove to his job at the Federal Courthouse in a beater a banana-yellow Volkswagen bug with a backseat filled with pizza boxes and newspapers, and a convertible top he couldnt close. When that car died, he bought his housekeepers 15-year-old Toyota Corolla and told colleagues what a great deal hed scored on it.

Some days Williams would show up for court in a purple shirt and orange pants, with his monster dog, Boomer, in tow.

I told him he needed to be more appropriately dressed for my courtroom, said Henry E. Hudson, the U.S. District Court judge for the Richmond Division. But despite the dubious attire, Justin taught me more about the law than anyone I ever met.

On Sept. 7, about 200 close friends, family, judges, former FBI agents and fellow U.S. attorneys gathered on Jamieson Avenue to dedicate the $110 million U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia to their old friend and colleague, who died in 2003.

It took an act of Congress to dedicate the building in memory of the tireless prosecutor, the first time in American history a U.S. Attorneys office has been named for one of its own. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11th) and then-Sen. George Allen (R) forged the legislation that renamed the structure last week as the Justin W. Williams United States Attorneys Building.

Congress named this wing, and this is the first time this has ever occurred, said Chuck Rosenberg, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District. It shows you how the nation honored Justin and his service.

Colleagues lauded him for his professionalism and ethical leadership, and in 2005 lobbied for the Justin Williams Award, considered the highest annual award bestowed to a United States prosecutor.

Every day he got up on the right side of the bed, said Liam OGrady, the U.S. District Court judge for the Alexandria Division. He had the brightest smile of a 4-year-old.

The ceremony was filled with loving and humorous anecdotes of Williams 30-year career at the Department of Justice, based in Alexandria. Justin worked 23 hours a day. He only slept when it required him to be part of a meeting, OGrady chuckled.

I first met Justin in 1968, Hudson recalled. Back then he dated a cop, but the relationship broke up because all he wanted to do was play with her handcuffs.

One day, Judge Hudson said, Williams asked for a ride to the citys impound lot. His beloved VW had been towed because the Alexandria Police mistakenly thought it had been abandoned in the courts parking lot.

Rosenberg said if he had questions needing answers, I usually skipped the law library down the hall and popped into his office instead. Indeed, he was the life of the law in our office. … Justin loved this office and he loved the law.

Like any Federal building, at the entrance to the office hang pictures of the sitting U.S. president and current attorney general. In Alexandria, there is now a picture of Williams and his dog as well. This building is no longer bricks and mortar, Rosenberg said. This building now has a soul; it has an identity of the best weve ever had.

Susie Williams, his widow, attended the ceremony with their son Andrew, daughter Caitlin and Justin Williams sister, Helaine Williams.

Never in his wildest dreams would he imagine that this office would be named for him, Susie Williams said. This office will always be his living legacy.

Across town
The Alexandria waterfront sees its share of special boats, from NOAAs exploratory ship Thomas Jefferson, which docked there in late August, to small cruise ships, and last week, a presidential yacht.

The Sequoia Presiden-tial Yacht is a meticulously restored, 104-foot, 1925 Trumpy-designed yacht that has served presidents since Herbert Hoover. In a moment of frugality and a jab at pomp and circumstance, President Jimmy Carter ordered the yacht sold in 1978. Today it is available for private charters.

On Sept. 6, it was docked on the Alexandria waterfront, taking on guests like billionaire Sheila Johnson and Old Town mortgage broker Frank Fannon, for a reception and summer cruise on the Potomac to benefit the gubernatorial campaign of Del. Brian Moran (D-46th) of Alexandria.

Jimmy Carter never used the yacht as president and in fact ordered the Government Accounting Office to sell it, said the Sequoias owner, Gary J. Silversmith. Interestingly, though, the yacht has been booked by the Carter Library in Atlanta, so we hope to have him on board soon. Its a real timepiece.