A private service was scheduled for Jesse Ross “J.R.” Williams, former coach and football player, who died Thursday at age 74.
Williams, a native of Corcoran, attended high school in Delano, where he was a three-year varsity stand-out. He was an all-South Yosemite League linebacker and played in the first Kern County North-South Shrine Game. He also played two years for the Bakersfield College Renegades, finishing with a 19-1 record, earning a Potato Bowl title and a Junior Rose Bowl championship. In 1959, he was named first team All American and presented the Harry Coffee Award for most valuable player.
He went on to Fresno State University, where he played for a 10-0 Bulldogs team that won the Mercy Bowel over Bowling Green 35-6. He was named all-conference as a senior in 1962.
Williams was signed by the New York Giants out of college, and was a teammate of Frank Gifford, who was also a Bakersfield boy. He was with the San Diego Chargers for a short time before playing for the Vancouver Lions in the Canadian Football League. He helped the Lions to a Gray Cup championship before retiring with a knee injury.
After his football career was finished, Williams returned to Kern County, where he taught high school and coached football at both Arvin and Highland High School in Bakersfield. He moved back to Corcoran and coached for several years, earning the Sequoia Division Valley Championship in 1989, ending a drought that had lasted almost 40 years. He was named coach of the year by the Fresno Bee after that season. He stayed on at Corcoran High School as athletic director, retiring in 1999.
Williams was inducted into the Bob Elias Kern County Hall of Fame in 2000. He was also a member of the Delano High hall of fame and the Fresno State hall of fame.
A visitation was held Tuesday at the Bledsoe Chapel in Corcoran. Private burial was to follow at the Corcoran District Cemetery.
Williams had lived in Tulare for the past 14 years
Survivors include his wife, Jean Williams, of Tulare; daughters Lorie Espinoza (and husband Jose) of Tulare, and Jeanie Williams of Ridgecrest; brothers Richard Williams (and wife Fran) of Bakersfield, and Scott of Arizona; two grandchildren Bronson and Penelope Espinoza; and numerous cousins.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of the donor’s choice.