Bruce Williams/Submitted photo

Founder of local group tried to improve city

Bruce Williams was so serious about Springfield’s Peacekeepers organization that members could be fined for showing up at a meeting with the wrong shirt on.

Williams died earlier this week after leading the Springfield chapter of the Peacekeepers for several years. City officials, the NAACP and friends all credited him with dedicating most of his life to improving the city’s neighborhoods. Williams led the local chapter of the Peacekeepers Global Initiative, a nonprofit organization founded in Columbus that is dedicated to making communities safer.

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“He was very serious about the mission of the Peacekeepers, said Wali Muhammad, a close friend and one of the group’s founding members. “We used to have an inside joke that he ate, breathed and lived Peacekeepers. That sums up Bruce’s personality, it sums up his emotion and his passion for helping young people and the overall community.”

The local chapter of the group was founded in 2011, largely as a reaction to a shooting that occurred earlier that year, Muhammad said. In the ensuing years, Williams developed strong relationships with staff in the Springfield Police Division and the Springfield City School District. Members of the Peacekeepers can often be seen outside Perrin Woods Elementary School making sure students get to school safelty each morning.

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The group also tried to prevent serious violence before it occurred, and tried to develop relationships with area students to provide mentoring.

“Bruce was an amazing organizer and very committed to the Peacekeepers,” said Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland. “He became a major voice in the community and was always interested in supporting our police department. At the same time he was an advisor and critic at times in support of African Americans in the community.”

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Denise Williams, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, said she didn’t always have the same vision for the city as Williams. But he still supported her organization and tried to offer his time or financial support whenever it was needed.

“I have met a lot of leaders since I’ve been in Springfield,” Williams said. “But I’ve never met such a hero, a dedicated person like Bruce, ever. He loved this city and he would do anything for it.”

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Williams, who had retired from a career at Honda, took the leadership role early on after the group was founded. Muhammad said the group’s founding in many ways could be traced back to when both he and Williams attended the Million Man March in 1995. Those who attended were encouraged to return to their communities and join organizations that were trying to make a difference.

“That was the catalyst that really drove us to do what we did,” Muhammad said. “We were already doing things behind the scenes. But when that incident happened it sort of amplified what we were doing,” he said of the shooting.

On Most Saturdays, Williams could be found hanging out in a friend’s garage where he and others met to talk about the community. That was as close to a hobby as Williams had, Muhammad joked.

“The Peacekeepers was it,” Muhammad said. “When he grabbed onto the Peacekeepers that was what he slept and breathed. If we showed up to a meeting without a Peacekeepers shirt on we were assessed a fine. That’s how dedicated he was to the mission and the image and the cause of the Peacekeepers.’

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