Randy Yohe Published

Woody Williams Lies-In-State At Capitol Rotunda; Admiring Public Pays Respects


A celebration of an American hero’s life took place this holiday weekend, as the body of World War II Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams would lie in state at the Capitol rotunda.

Charleston’s Cathy Ellison came to pay her respects. Ellison is with the US Naval Sea Cadets, a community service youth organization for young men and women ages 10-17.

“They go to boot camp, just like regular soldiers,” Ellison said. “They earn rank. And if they’re successful in the program, which 90 percent of them are, when they choose to join the military…if they do so, then they go in at a higher pay rank.”

Ellison’s sea cadets outfit is the Hershel “Woody” Williams Division.

“We reached out to him and said, ‘Would you like to partner with us,’” Ellison said. “I have a lovely picture of him just this June, rolling up the banner. It was wonderful. And he was extremely happy and excited.”

Ellison said the legacy her division’s namesake leaves is literally and figuratively monumental.

“Not just from the monuments he puts up but the scholarships that he provides the things that his foundation does,” Ellison said. “There was only one Woody, there will ever only be one Woody and anybody who had the honor to meet him and know him was touched.”

Community service was embedded in every fiber of Williams’ being.

As his body lay in state, his American flag draped casket had a red carpet in front of it, but there was also an open space in the viewing area and a few short rows of chairs. The atmosphere was both respectful and casual – people from all walks of life telling stories, meeting old and new friends, reflecting and remembering. People like Deanna Wayt from Moundsville, a member of the Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard.

”It was very nice to meet his grandchildren,” Wayt said. “They were very personable and appreciative of all who came out. You can tell he made a good family. My father served on the honor guard for over 10 years before he passed away. He was good friends with Woody Williams and along with a lot of the members of the honor guard, they knew him well.”

Allan Miller retired from the Marine Corps after 21 years of active duty. Miller came from Bruceton Mills to say “Oorah,” marine slang for farewell, to a fallen brother.

“It’s important to pay respects to what Williams did, a Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima, and he’s a great, great person,” Miller said. “I met him a few years ago at a Marine Corps league function. He was a good man, a generous individual.”

A United States Marine Honor Guard stood watch 24/7, even when there was no public or private viewing. The humble icon’s fellow marines were stationed – at attention – at the head and foot of Woody Williams casket.