Florala loses driving force in community

Published 12:01 am Friday, October 8, 2010

The man who was the driving force behind Florala’s Lake Jackson State Park project will not get the opportunity to see its completion.

William H. “Billy” McDaniel passed away Wed., Oct. 6, from a massive stroke. He was 83.

During his adult years, McDaniel faithfully served the Florala community as a businessman and civic leader, giving freely of his time for the betterment of the city.

McDaniel earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Auburn University but elected to return to Florala, where he owned McDaniel’s Motor Company before retiring.

In 2008, he retired as chairman of the Florala Utilities Board after 12 years of service.

“What success I had as a mayor was because of Billy McDaniel,” said Glen Zorn, former Florala mayor and current assistant commissioner of agriculture. “He was right beside me the whole time. To say that he was a community leader is an understatement. He did everything from furnish little league uniforms to being the vision behind one of the biggest projects this city has ever seen – the Florala Lake project.

“Florala is a better community because of him,” Zorn said.

Current Utilities Board Chairman Marvin Williford said, “Everyone around here, at one time or another, had some kind of dealings with him – whether it was buying a car and or installing a water meter. He was a very influential person and one who instilled confidence in me. He will be greatly missed.”

In 2009, McDaniel said in an interview, “The last 10 years or so, I began to think about how (to) benefit the city and how we could get people to use the lake property, well not just as a lake, but as a whole package.

“I fully expect the wave not to stop when this project is over…It was an idea I never gave up on,” he said.

Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said he couldn’t agree more.

“Obviously, he was behind the drive to get the new building on the lake,” Williamson said. “For that, he is a great asset to the community, but when you take into account his willingness to sacrificially give up his free time to serve the community, Florala can never say how eternally grateful we are for his dedication.

“He will certainly be missed,” he said. “I hate that he won’t get to see his project finished. I know he would have been proud.”

Funeral services will be held on Sat., Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. from the Florala First United Methodist Church. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service.