Reed McColloch Williams, prominent Long Beach maritime attorney and former Harbor Commissioner, died peacefully at his Belmont Heights home of sixty-two years on Wednesday, November 13, 2019. He was just short of his 93rd birthday. Born in Pasadena on December 18, 1926, to Francis Earle Williams and Pauline Shaw Williams, young Reed’s early years included several moves due to his father’s work in highway construction in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Years later, Reed regaled his own children with the story of his father celebrating the Fourth of July in Arizona one year by dropping sticks of dynamite from the Lee’s Ferry Bridge over the Colorado River, 500 feet below, to the delight of Reed and his two brothers. Stories of falls from pepper trees and riding his bicycle through the windshield of an oncoming car were mind-boggling to his children. Despite causing a brief coma and long recuperation in a wheelchair, this accident neglected to put a damper on Reed’s eternal search for more trouble. His father installed wheelchair ramps, which Reed rolled down at great speed, to the endless dismay of his poor mother. Reed’s family finally settled in the Arlington neighborhood of Riverside, California, where Reed made many life-long friends, and, being a bit of a trouble-maker, earned the moniker “least likely to succeed” from many of his teachers and all the vice-principals. After graduating from Riverside Poly High School in 1944, Reed attended Riverside City College for a year before transferring to the California Maritime Academy (where he later served on the Board of Governors), graduating with a BS in Navigation and Seamanship in 1947, followed by time at sea with the Merchant Marine. He then moved on to UC Berkeley where old Riverside friends introduced him to Harriet Neufeld. They were married in 1950. In the fall of 1951 he entered Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, receiving his JD in 1954, shortly after the birth of their first son. Residing in Berkeley and being joined by a second son in 1955, Reed started his legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice in San Francisco, where he began what would become his life-long career in maritime law. In 1957, the San Francisco maritime law firm Graham, James & Rolf, decided to open a second office based on a hunch that the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles might become a significant shipping center (Los Angeles/Long Beach is now the largest port in the country). GJ&R hired Reed to open their new office in Long Beach, and he and Harriet packed up the family to head south where they found the home he would love and remain in for the rest of his long life. They moved in two weeks before the birth of their daughter in 1958, and added two more sons to the family in 1960 and 1963. When, at the birth of their youngest son, they realized he looked exactly like their oldest, Reed said to Harriet, “I think we’re repeating ourselves,” and they quit after five. Reed’s career led to friendships covering the globe. One of his early cases involved the collision of the cruise ship SS ORIANA with aircraft carrier USS KEARSARGE, in heavy fog outside the entrance to Long Beach Harbor. This led to a decades-long relationship with The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) and Princess Cruises, and grew into great friendships with officers, crew, and management alike. He became a pillar in the California, and national, maritime law communities. Because of his prominent role in the workings of the Port of Long Beach, Reed and his family were invited to ride on a pilot boat that accompanied the Queen Mary into the harbor as it ended its final voyage and moved to its permanent home in Long Beach on December 9, 1967. Other clients led him to Japan, and some of his most memorable and enjoyable business trips. He quickly fell in love with the culture and the people, who bestowed upon their quiet 6’3″ American friend the honorific, “Reedo-san.” Reed loved his weekends, spending them lounging in the back yard with a good book and an entire pitcher of iced tea at his side. At holiday parties, when good old “Standards” were being played, he’d bring out his ebony “bones” (or improvise with a pair of tablespoons) and rhythmically enhance the music as well as entertain and astonish his cohorts. Then once a year, for one week in July, he would pack his family into the station wagon and drive to The Lair of the Golden Bear, Cal’s alumni family camp in the Sierras, for a week of fun and relaxation. After nearly 50 years, Reed retired from his law practice to pursue a new career at the golf course. He joined Candlewood Country Club in Whittier, driving up the 605 nearly every day to play with the many friends he made there. As much as golfing, he enjoyed jousting with the club’s Board of Directors, as he did all he could to make sure that those at the top did right by those they were elected to serve. When a broken hip hastened his retirement from the golf course, Reed resigned himself to a quieter life at home where he spent his time reading, gardening, or watching CNN, Animal Planet, or whatever sporting event caught his fancy, summer being his favorite time of year, watching his beloved Dodgers. Perhaps it was a broken heart following his Dodgers’ early exit from the playoffs this fall, but Reed went to sleep in his favorite chair on the night of November 12th and simply never woke up on the 13th. He wasn’t sick a day. Reed McColloch Williams is survived by his five children: Jeff (Patty), Tim (Jane Leslie), Kit Hess (John), Dan (Rhita), and Bruce (Lesle); eleven grandchildren: Julie, Justin, Austin, Kevin, Kay, John, Connor, Kendall, Blake, Sarah, Ryan; three great-granddaughters, and one great-grandson (and counting). A celebration of Reed’s life will be announced at a later date. Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be made to Common Cause.
Published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Dec. 8, 2019