Robert D. Williams, 63, Essex graphics artist

April 08, 1999|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Robert D. Williams, a graphics artist whose drawing of Baltimore's major downtown buildings became a promotional poster for the city, died April 1 of complications of diabetes at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was 63 and lived in Essex.

Mr. Williams' axonometric-style drawing of the metro center was the centerpiece of the mayor's booth during the 1977 City Fair. It was later reproduced and used as a promotional poster.

"In a wonderful way, he was stubborn -- he believed in what he was doing and stayed with the projects he started until they were ready," said Jim Hall, a city planner who lives in Federal Hill. "He'd be working on eight or 10 things simultaneously and then he'd call you two weeks later and he'd tell you it would be completed."

After two years with the Greater Baltimore Committee, in 1962, he joined the city Planning Department, where he drew detailed maps of the Inner Harbor renewal in the 1970s. He retired in 1979 and later worked as a technical illustrator at AAI in Timonium.

The Essex native was the son of Charles H. Williams, a Glenn L. Martin Co. aircraft designer who worked with rocket inventor Robert Goddard during World War II.

During that time, Mr. Williams, then 8, made a rocket and narrowly missed burning down the family house.

He graduated from the old Baltimore Engineering Institute and became a technical illustrator, working under rocket scientist Wernher von Braun at the Bethesda Naval Ordinance. He later obtained a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in instructional technology from Towson University.

Mr. Williams, who had taught drafting and city planning at Essex Community College, joined the Army in 1957 and served in Germany as a photographer at an installation near Frankfurt am Main. There he met Elvis Presley, then a mechanic assigned to the motor pool, who became his chauffeur.

After Mr. Presley left the Army, he made the 1960 film, "G. I. Blues," a love story featuring an American a soldier stationed in Germany and a local dancer.

"Bob was very active in the making of `G. I. Blues' as a behind-the-scenes coordinator of military personnel, an artist creating signs for the sets and an extra in many scenes," said his wife, the former Patricia M. Lessig, whom he married in 1967.

During his years as a municipal employee, Mr. Williams was editor of the Classified Municipal Employees' newspaper, the Hall Light, a monthly tabloid.

In 1983, he made a video on autism called "Autistic -- and We're Making It!" It was first screened at the Johns Hopkins University on Autism Day that year.

His paintings of Maryland's Civil War flags are on display at the Union Room of the Maryland Historical Society.

There were no funeral services.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons, Drew Robert Williams of Portland, Maine, Joel David Williams of Woodlawn and Keith Frederick Williams of Middle River; and a brother, Jay Williams of Beltsville.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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