The Bad – Wayne Williams

This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.

The Bad – Wayne Williams

African American families in Atlanta, Georgia were on edge as 28 African American children and adults were found murdered over the two year period between 1979-1981. Most of the victims were strangled or suffocated. The FBI told the police investigating the case that they were confident the killer would kill again and then dump the body in water to hide evidence.

On May 22, 1981 police staked out several bridges on the Chattahoochee River. An officer patrolling one of the bridges heard a splash while another police officer saw a 1970 Chevrolet station wagon turn around and drive off the bridge. Two days later, the body of Nathaniel Cater, 27, was found floating not far from where officers heard the splash.

The Chevrolet seen at the bridge belonged to the parents of Wayne Bertram Williams.

Convicted serial killer Wayne Williams
Convicted serial killer Wayne Williams

Williams was born in southwest Atlanta to two teachers on May 27, 1958. His parents spoiled him as he was their only child. He was interested in radio and even made his own low power radio station in his house. He started dabbling in music production and was a freelance photographer. To make money he would listen to the police scanner and either record or photograph car accidents, fire, and even a plane crash then sell the footage to local news stations.

Williams’ music clients were mostly African American youth. He recorded boys he thought were good, but none of them were good enough to make it. His parents went bankrupt supporting his career. But being the con artist he was, he tried to convince people he had some big record deals going on.

On the night he was allegedly on the bridge, he claimed he was on his way to Smyrna to audition Cheryl Johnson. However police could never find a record of the appointment or if Cheryl Johnson even existed.

As Williams was investigated by police, he would insult the police. He admitted to the media that he failed three polygraph tests, knowing the tests could not be used in trial. He was basically a jackass.

The police continued to gather evidence. They found carpet fibers and dog hair from Williams’ house on some of the victims. He resembled the composite sketch of the suspect – down to the birthmark or scar on the left cheek. Police also found a nylon cord in his car. Williams was arrested on June 21, 1981 for the murders of Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne.

Williams didn’t help things much in his trial. When he was called to the stand, he was angry and combative. On Feb. 27, 1982 Williams was found guilty of the two murders and sentenced to life in prison.

Williams claims to this day that he is innocent. There are many who believe him.


Wayne Williams. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from
Atlanta murders of 1979–1981. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from
Blanco, Juan Ignacio . (n.d.). Wayne Bertram Williams. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from


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