The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, honored the memory and life contributions of former University of Mississippi and Buffalo Bills standout defensive player Robert “Gentle Ben,” Williams of Yazoo City.
Williams the first African American to play football at Ole Miss - with presentation of Senate Concurrent Resolution 573, to Williams’ wife of 44 years, Linda Williams.
Williams was a standout player at Yazoo City High School, where he was a two-year letterman and was the 1971 Team Captain. Williams also captained the North team in the 1972 Mississippi High School All-Star game.
He graduated from Yazoo City High School in 1972, then became one of the first African American student-athletes to sign a football scholarship at Ole Miss, where he was a four-year letterman and the first African American Ole Miss football player to earn All-American honors.
He was a three-time first team All-SEC selection and member of Ole Miss' Football Team of the Century. He was the first African American student to be elected by the student body for what is now known as "Mr. Ole Miss.”
Williams earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and in 1976, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the NFL Draft.
He spent his entire 10-year NFL career with the Bills, during which he played in 147 games. He was selected for the Pro Bowl in 1983 and named to the Bill's Silver Anniversary team.
After retiring from football, Williams founded LYNCO Construction Company in Jackson and was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Williams was inducted into the Ole Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
He received the Distinguished American Award from the Ole Miss Chapter of the National Football Foundation in 1991. He was named an SEC Legend in 2002, and among his greatest honors was having the foyer located in the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center named The Williams-Reed Football Foyer.