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Hoyt Williams Sr. poses for a portrait while holding a photo of himself and a photo of his wife and himself Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 at his home in Trion, Ga. Williams served in the Army for about three years, beginning in February 1943.

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The guy with the goods: WWII draftee spends life helping others get what they need

TRION, Ga. — Seventy-five years later, Hoyt Williams doesn't remember much about the letter telling him he had been drafted for World War II. But he recalls the first line.

"Greetings," the author wrote.

It struck Williams as an odd way to announce that a man was going off to war. Williams was 19 back then, in February 1943. He had recently graduated from high school, gotten married and prepared for the next stage of his life in Trion, a small community built around a cotton mill.

Since he was a boy, he had worked at his father's grocery store, Hoyt's Supermarket, on the edges of Trion. Asked recently how he felt about getting drafted, Williams was subdued, all these decades later.

Bio:

Name: Hoyt Williams Sr.

Age: 93

Home: Trion, Ga.

Military branch and rank: U.S. Army, tech sergeant

"The war was already in progress," he said. "I was selected to go. And I went. We all did back then, most of us."

In a way, Williams' work in the Army during World War II was a continuation of his duties as a teenager and young man: He tried to help other people get the stuff they needed. This would also be a theme of Williams' life after the war.

The Army assigned Williams to work as an engineer supply technician. After his induction in Atlanta, he shipped off to Europe and was stationed in England, France, Belgium and Germany for about 2 1/2 years. He worked in a supply house, receiving the goods that higher-ups felt were necessary to win World War II.

In turn, he gave the supplies to the right people. He hooked them up with bulldozers and cranes, as well as supplies to draw maps. He compared the supply house to his father's grocery store, except with customers looking for big machines instead of bread.

"They crossed rivers on bridges that they drew from us," he said of his fellow servicemen. "And they made maps from materials that they drew from us."

He said he's never thought whether he had a favorite part of being in the military. He said he missed his wife. About 30 months after getting drafted, he left Europe, wound up in the Philippines. He believed he was going to do the same work there. But four days after he landed, the war ended. He doesn't remember exactly how he learned.

But he returned to Trion, to his father's grocery store. His dad retired in 1948, and Williams took over the store, running it and other local businesses with his wife, Hazel, for 38 years. Williams also served on the county's water authority, the Trion Board of Education and the town council. He also served as mayor for one term.

When his time in local politics ended, he said he wanted to keep working. He walked into the local Walmart and applied. He's been there ever since, helping people get the stuff they need to do the jobs they need.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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