‘Everybody loved Clifford Williams’: Exonerated Jacksonville man who spent 42 years in prison laid to rest

Jacksonville man who spent 42 years in prison for a crime he did not commit has been laid to rest.

Family and friends gathered at Mount Bethel Baptist Church to remember Clifford Williams Jr. Saturday morning.

Williams died last week. He was 80 years old. He spent less than five years as a free man after his exoneration.

While spending more than four decades in prison, Williams said his daughter Tracy Magwood was his rock.

“My dad and I were always like two peas in a pod. When he was in prison, he gave me the power of attorney when I turned 18 because he knew I always advocated for him. I always wanted to make sure whatever could be done was done for him,” Magwood said.

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Williams and his nephew, Nathan Myers, were wrongfully convicted of a murder in 1976.

They spent 42 years in prison before being cleared of all wrongdoing in 2019.

“I’ve seen this man hurt. I’ve seen this man cry. He was a lovely man. Everybody loved Clifford Williams, but the law.” Myers said. “He was like a father, not an uncle. He taught me survival. He was a good man.”

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But what hurts those who love Williams the most is the robbed time.

Most of his family never got the chance to have the relationships they deserved, stolen because of injustice.

“He didn’t get to walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t there when his grandchildren were born. So this was a time when I had my first dance. I’ve been listening to that song, butterfly kisses. Bedtime stories. All of the things that we had,” Magwood said.

Williams’ oldest son, Warren Rozier, also said he and his dad were like best friends.

“He took me to wrestling matches, all of the concerts in the Colosseum. We were like best friends, and father and son. I am still going to miss him,” Rozier said.

Williams even lost a son while wrongfully incarcerated — a son who was killed in a motorcycle crash after a prison visit. According to the family, Williams’ oldest grandson, Clifford Green, wanted to go with his dad to meet his grandfather.

But that didn’t happen.

“His dad would not let him go that day,” Magwood said. “It was hurtful for my dad and he lived so many days regretting how his son died.”

Green did not get to meet his grandfather until 2019 upon his release from prison.

“Like showing me how to be a man. I did not have my dad and now I don’t have my granddad,” Green said.

But they are grateful for the time they did have.

“We are going to honor him by doing what he wanted to do, which was prison ministry,” Magwood said.

After being exonerated in 2019, Williams also fought and beat prostate cancer. He is laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery on N. Main St.

Williams’ family says it plans to start a scholarship fund for kids whose parents are incarcerated.

An inspirational way to carry on Clifford Williams Jr,’s legacy.

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