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Former Aide Unseats Longtime Tuskegee Mayor

September 18, 1996

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (AP) _ Ronald Williams was Mayor Johnny Ford’s trusted aide for 22 years, until they had falling out two years ago over Ford’s decision to seek a seventh term.

Williams denied Ford that seventh term on Tuesday by trouncing him in a runoff. Williams got 2,845 votes to Ford’s 1,035, improving on his finish in the Aug. 27 election by 1,020 votes.

``I am at peace,″ Ford said. ``I’ll have more time to spend with my family.″

In last month’s election, Williams finished 50 votes shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Afterward, Ford said he had evidence of drug use by Williams and repeatedly reminded voters of his former aide’s 1977 conviction for bribing a state senator. Ford later said he regretted the comments.

Williams denied using drugs. As for the bribery conviction, he said he simply wanted residents to be able to vote on whether to have a dog track. He served four months on work release and later applied to have his rights restored.

``My greatest weakness was my longtime association with the mayor,″ said Williams after his victory.

Nonetheless, he said there’d be a role for Ford in his administration, if he asks.

``We’re not going to have a problem. It’s over and through. He’s taken his shots and I’ve taken them,″ Williams said.

In 1972, Ford became one of the first blacks in Alabama to unseat a white mayor. He earned a legion of fans with his energetic efforts to improve conditions in the town where black hero Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute.

But his support eroded in recent years as businesses left town and crime increased.

In 1994, Williams left the administration, saying Ford had broken a promise not seek another term. Ford denied making such a promise.

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