Former Teamsters Union president Roy Lee Williams, who served three years in prison for bribery and acknowledged that his union was under the influence of organized crime, died Friday at his farm home here. He was 74, and suffered from emphysema and heart ailments.
Williams, a protege of former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, who with Dave Beck was the third Teamsters leader in 25 years to be imprisoned, was international president of the union from 1981 to 1983.
He was forced to resign after he and four co-defendants were convicted in December, 1982, of trying to bribe former U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada to influence trucking deregulation. Cannon was not charged in the case.
Williams served three years of a 10-year sentence before he was released from federal prison in September.
A family spokesman said a doctor was called to the Williams house about 70 miles southeast of Kansas City about 5 a.m. when Williams experienced trouble breathing. The spokesman said Williams did not want to go to the hospital at that time and went back to sleep.
Dr. Mark Vogt said he returned to the house with paramedics after Williams became acutely ill but he could not be revived. Williams died of complications of emphysema, Vogt said.
Throughout his career with the Teamsters, Williams had connections with individuals considered by law enforcement officials to be tied to organized crime, including Allen Dorfman, a Chicago insurance executive who was convicted with Williams. Dorfman was gunned down gangland-style outside a suburban Chicago restaurant Jan. 20, 1983, while appealing his conviction.
Teamster headquarters in Washington had no immediate comment Friday on Williams' death.
No Kind Words
Earlier this month, William J. McCarthy, president of the Teamsters, had no kind words for either Williams or Jackie Presser, Williams successor, when he testified before Congress: "One was a cheat and one was a liar and both were mixed up with La Cosa Nostra by their own admissions. I didn't care for either one of them," he said.
Williams claimed that he was set up in the attempted bribery case.
In an interview early this year, Williams said: "I am still just an old truck driver at heart. It's over now and I am glad of it. I still have to meet my maker. But I can still say I didn't do nothing wrong."
Several years ago, Williams testified at a casino money-skimming trial in Kansas City that he had received payments from Nick Civella, the late Kansas City crime boss, for helping mob figures obtain a $60-million loan from a union pension fund. Williams said in an interview later that he did so only after his family was threatened and after Hoffa advised him to do it.
In his testimony, which he gave in an attempt to have his sentence reduced, Williams said he received payoffs of $1,500 a month from Civella for seven years when he was a local labor leader. He said Civella played a key role in his election to the union's international presidency.
Williams also testified by videotape in a federal court trial in New York against mob figures accused of fixing his election as Teamsters president, and that of Presser, who died last July. Three co-defendants were acquitted of that charge in May, 1988, but convicted of unrelated charges.
Williams is survived by two daughters and a grandson.