Born: December 11, 1930, Gordon, Georgia, United States
Died: January 14, 1990, Savannah, Georgia, United States
Buried: Ramah Baptist Church Cemetery, Gordon, Wilkinson County, Georgia, USA, Plot: Next to mother, Blanche Brooks Williams
Siblings: Dorothy Williams Kingery
Lived: Mercer House, 421-425 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401, USA (32.07125, -81.0954)
541, 543 and 545 East Congress Street
Hampton Lillibridge House, 507 E Saint Julian Street, Savannah, GA 31401
Habersham's Pink House, 23 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401
Armstrong House, 447 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401
The Mercer House, now called the Mercer-Williams House Museum, is located at 429 Bull Street and stands at the southwest end of Monterey Square, in Savannah, Georgia.
Address: 421-425 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401, USA (32.07125, -81.0954)
Type: Museum (open to public)
Design by John S. Norris (1804-1876)
The house was the scene of the shooting death of Jim Williams' assistant, Danny Lewis Hansford, a story that is retold in the 1994 John Berendt book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The house is currently owned by Dorothy Kingery, Williams' sister, and is open to the public for tours. Designed for General Hugh Weedon Mercer (great-grandfather of the songwriter Johnny Mercer) construction of the house began in 1860. Interrupted by the American Civil War, it was finally completed around 1868 by the new owner, John Wilder. For a period in the XX century, the building was used as the Savannah Shriners Alee Temple. It then lay vacant for a decade until in 1969 when Jim Williams, one of Savannah’s earliest and most dedicated private restorationists, bought the house and restored it. Before Hansford's death, the house had already been the scene of two deaths. In 1913 a previous owner tripped over the second floor banister, fractured his hip, and suffered a concussion, dying three days later. In 1969, a boy chasing pigeons on the roof fell over the edge and impaled himself on the iron fence below.
Who: James Arthur "Jim" Williams (December 11, 1930 – January 14, 1990)
James Arthur Williams was the only person in the state of Georgia ever to be tried four times for the same crime. Following the May 2, 1981 shooting death of assistant Danny Lewis Hansford in his Savannah home, Mercer House, Williams was charged with murder and tried four times. He was found not guilty at the final trial. Born in Gordon, Georgia, Williams was a noted Savannah, Georgia antiques dealer and historic preservationist who played an active role in the preservation of Savannah's historic district. In 1955, at the age of 24, he bought and restored his first three houses located at 541, 543 and 545 East Congress Street. Over the next 35 years, he would restore more than 50 homes in Savannah as well as the lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina. Notable Savannah houses he restored include: Odingsell House, Merault House, Hampton Lillibridge House (507 E Saint Julian Street, Savannah, GA 31401), Habersham's Pink House (23 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401), Armstrong House (447 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401) and Mercer House. At the time of the purchase, the Mercer House had been vacant for almost a decade since its former occupants, the Shriners organization, had used the building for their Alee Temple. Over the course of two years, Williams painstakingly restored the house. After the restoration, it became his personal residence and he ran his antiques restoration business out of the carriage house located behind the mansion. Williams died in 1990 and is buried at Ramah First Baptist Church (502 Ramah Dr, Palmetto, GA 30268), next to his mother, Blanche Brooks Williams. Danny Lewis "Billy Hanson" Hansford was Savannah's most popular male escort of the late 1970's and early '80's. Hansford, famed for his muscular build by both male and female clients, was often seen in his "trademark" white t-shirt and jeans. At the time of his death he was 21 years old. He is buried at Greenwich Cemetery (330 Greenwich Rd, Savannah, GA 31404).
by Elisa Rolle
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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