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Dr. Robert E. Williams Jr., Towson orthodontist who had been active with the Boy Scouts, dies

Dr. Robert E. Williams Jr., a retired orthodontist who was on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and active with the Boy Scouts, died May 3 of a massive heart attack at his Towson home.

He was 73.

Robert Earl Williams Jr., the son of Dr. Robert E. Williams Sr., an orthodontist, and Dr. Jean Allen Williams, an educator, was born in Braddock, Pa., and raised in Erie, Pa.

A 1963 graduate of Fairview High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in three years from the University of Pittsburgh and obtained his dental degree, also from Pitt, in 1966.

In 1965, as a college student, Dr. Williams participated in the historic Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 54-mile civil rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., for which he received the Foot Soldier for Justice Congressional Gold Medal in 2015.

Dr. Williams completed a two-year orthodontist residency in 1970 at the University of Oregon, and from 1971 to 1977, served with the Army Dental Corps, completing tours of duty in Okinawa, Japan, and Augsburg, West Germany.

Dr. Williams, who attained the rank of major, was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for establishing the first military Children’s Dental Clinic in Europe, family members said.

In 1977, he settled in Towson in a yellow cottage that had been the caretaker’s home at Friendship, the Stevenson Lane estate that was once the home of S. Duncan Black, co-founder in 1910 with Alonzo G. Decker Sr., of the Black & Decker Manufacturing Co.

From 1983 to 2015, when he sold his practice, Dr. Williams maintained offices in Towson, Ellicott City and Bel Air.

His wife of 52 years, the former Karen Thomas, a registered nurse, was his office manager and bookkeeper.

“In his orthodontic practice, Dr. Williams applied the rigor of the scientists and the insight and touch of an artist,” his son, Gareth T. Williams of Silver Spring, wrote in a biographical profile of his father.

“He enjoyed orthodontia because he saw it as a way to help other people improve both their health and self-image. He took great satisfaction in ensuring the highest quality of his work and its lasting results,” he wrote. “His work with the Kernan Hospital cleft palate clinic extended this dedication.”

In addition to his professional career, Dr. Williams was a faculty member of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry from 1977 until his death.

As an assistant professor during the late 1970s and early 1980s, he maintained part-time status as a clinical associate professor and continued to teach weekly seminars for the remainder of his life.

“He enjoyed the challenge the clinic posed both to stay current in his techniques and pass them on to new generations of aspiring orthodontists,” he son wrote.

To sharpen his skills as a teacher, Dr. Williams earned a master’s degree in education in 1983 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“He was at the dental school teaching the day before he died,” his son said in a telephone interview.

Dr. Williams ‘ professional memberships included the American Association of Orthodontists and Mid-Atlantic Society of Orthodontists, where he had been a board member and edited its journal for 17 years.

The American Association of Orthodontists, upon learning of Dr. Williams’ death, named him the recipient of the James E. Brophy AAO Distinguished Service Award.

An Eagle Scout and recipient of the Order of the Arrow and Wood Badge, he served as assistant scoutmaster and scoutmaster of Troop 5 of the Baltimore Area Council in the late 1980s and the 1990s.

In 1988, as part of the Sister Cities exchange program with Kawasaki, Japan, Dr. Williams led a contingent of Baltimore-area scouts on a two-week tour of Japan, including a successful climb up Mount Fuji, which rises to 12,388 feet.

His son said his father was fond of quoting the Japanese proverb that says, “A wise man will climb Mount Fuji … once.”

In addition to volunteering with the Boy Scouts on the district level, he played an integral role in the move of Troop 729 to Towson Presbyterian Church, where he had been an elder and a deacon as a member for more than 35 years.

He enjoyed working with confirmands and participating in mission work that took him to children’s homes in rural Kentucky and building houses in Honduran villages.

Dr. Williams enjoyed working around his home and yard, and designed and built a treehouse for his son 40 years ago that is still being used by his grandchildren.

“He planted many trees in the shade of which he will not stand, but his touch will be felt for generations to come,” his son wrote. “He was and is deeply loved; as he himself loved deeply.”

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at his church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Williams is survived by a brother, Dave Williams of Randallstown; and two granddaughters.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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