Flags across the state are being flown at half-staff in memory of a Baton Rouge lawmaker who died unexpectedly this week, following complications from knee surgery.
Democratic state Rep. Alfred Williams died Tuesday after nearly a week in the hospital suffering severe knee pains, according to his longtime friend East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden.
“It’s just a difficult time for all of us right now,” Holden said. “He will be sorely missed by a lot of people — not only here in Baton Rouge, but in other cities.”
Arrangements are expected to be announced in the coming days.
On Wednesday, state leaders and Williams’ legislative colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — responded to the news of Williams’ death with an outpouring of condolences. A bright red and yellow flower arrangement was placed at his District 61 desk on the House floor.
“During his time as a representative and throughout his career, Alfred was a spirited and thoughtful leader who reached across party lines to serve the community he so loved,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement. “At the Capitol, he worked to pass legislation that made a real difference for the people of Louisiana and he will be sorely missed by all of us.”
Williams, who had served in the state Legislature since 2011, was 64. He previously served as assistant chief administrative officer for Holden and was a former member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
Holden said he and Williams, who previously was his law partner, grew up together in Baton Rouge. “It wasn’t just a friendship; we were a family unit,” he said.
From their time fishing to unexpected trips to watch LSU and Southern University play out of state, Holden said he has many fond memories of Williams.
“When you virtually grow up with someone like that, this whole day has just been me saying ‘This can’t be real,’ ” he said, describing Williams as a funny, loyal, spontaneous person who cared deeply about others.
Holden said he last saw Williams in the hospital on Saturday. “He felt a little more upbeat and then the next thing you know, it just started going down and he passed,” Holden said.
State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Monroe Democrat and chairwoman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, described Williams as someone dedicated to guiding important legislation. “He was also simply a wonderful person who treated everyone with respect and kindness,” she said.
Williams had recently demanded the state launch a full investigation into how the state Department of Children and Family Services handled the case of a 15-year-old special needs child who was found by police, weighing just 47 pounds.
At the Capitol, Williams pushed the Legislature to redistrict the Baton Rouge City Court to ensure more racial parity, leading to a compromise that created two majority-black districts, two majority-white districts and one at-large seat.
“Rep. Williams was the kind of leader we could all admire and look up to, and every day in the session he fought for his constituents and worked to uphold Louisiana family values. He will be deeply missed,” said New Orleans Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who chairs the state Democratic Party.
Williams didn’t shy away from discussing his past, and his previous struggles with alcohol and drug abuse were well known. During his unsuccessful attempt to unseat 19th Judicial District Judge Trudy White last year, he said he was 28 years sober.
“He had to fight off some demons, but he was big enough to admit he needed help fighting the demons,” Holden said. “I just pray to God that those who knew him will never forget him for all of the great things he’s done.”