A Local Living Legend Reflects on His Storied Career
“What for the head?” Uncle Bunky would ask the 9-year-old on his WCBI-TV-4 show “’Funtime With Uncle Bunky” back in the day. He was obviously drawing his now-legendary, famous funny cartoon animals that he was so good at.
Robert “Uncle Bunky” Williams touched many lives during his Funtime days, as well as his 28 years with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department as an investigator until his retirement on Dec. 31, 2004. In fact, he still gets messages from those he helped as an investigator, or from kids who appeared on his show through a Facebook page set up in his honor (on Facebook, enter Fun Time With Uncle Bunky in the search box. RW).
Bunky, who will turn 80 years old this August, is still active. He spends his days enjoying his two favorite pasttimes: drawing cartoons and playing golf. “I’m not any good at golf, but I’m having a blast playing it” he told me in an interview Monday evening in his home. He said his two golfing partners, Dean Green and John Paul Hollis, help him out at the golf course. Bunky and his wife of 58 years, Joyce, both suffer from Parkinson’s disease. He said that it causes him to fall from time to time. While playing golf recently, he fell and skinned his eye. Green and Hollis both were concerned about their longtime friend. He chuckled that after that incident, John Paul wanted to tee the golf ball for him. He quipped that Hollis had an ulterior motive in helping him tee the ball. “He just wanted to speed the game up, is all!”
Bunky spent four years in the Air Force (He said he was drafted and they wanted to send him to Korea. He quickly opted for the Air Force instead. RW). While in the Air Force, Bunky was a medic, drawing blood and helping perform autopsies. After his military service, he returned to Columbus to attend college (at Ole Miss, then Miss State. RW). He revealed that he never had any formal training or schooling in Art. His ability to draw came natural. “God had a plan for me,” said Bunky . “I really believe that.”
He got the call for “Funtime” in 1958. He said at the beginning, it was “Uncle Bunky & Cousin Ed” (Cousin Ed turned out to be Ed Prescott, former Lowndes County judge and three-term sheriff). “It was Uncle Bunky and Cousin Ed at first. That’ll blow his britches off (Ed Prescott) when you tell him that,” Bunky chuckled. He said that Prescott then left his show and joined the Carmel Taylor show (also on WCBI-4) as a clown. “He had his face painted and had the cigar and everything.”
On “Funtime With Uncle Bunky” Williams said he did the show for more than 20 years, five days a week, with 12 kids a day in the audience. He said he knows of at least five current Columbus doctors who appeared on the show back in those days. Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens, District Attorney Forrest Allgood and Lowndes County SO Investigator Captain Joe Young also appeared on his show as kids among many, many others. “Every kid that appeared on that show left there with a teddy bear and a Bible,” Bunky said proudly.
When Louis Harper was elected Lowndes County sheriff in 1976, he brought Bunky in as an investigator because of his uncanny ability to draw. (He would draw crime-scene reenactments or drawings of potential suspects to be used during court trials, etc). Harper originally brought Bunky in to work as a youth officer. Bunky said he ended up in narcotics. Bunky continued on at the sheriff’s department through Ed Prescott’s 12-year run as well (1988-2000). When Butch Howard was elected sheriff in 2000, he had Bunky work closely with the youth again (He said that Howard would go to programs at schools with him when Howard was Chief Deputy under Prescott. – RW).
He recalled some heart-breaking, sad times as an investigator, most involving the abuse of children. He was once called out at 2 a.m. in the morning to the hospital. A 2-year-old child had apparently been placed in hot water (by his mother) and received burns to his body. Another child had to live in a dog house till the child’s parents got home from work. “It was these types of cases that I realized that God had a plan for me in giving me the ability to draw,” said Bunky…tears beginning to show in his eyes.
In dealing with Parkinson’s disease, Bunky is keeping a positive attitude (as is his wife, Joyce. – RW), and a sense of humor. Speaking about the disease, Bunky quipped, “Joyce and I are gonna have matching wheel chairs.”
We, at The Packet, are honored to present Bunky’s cartoons in the coming issues.
Uncle Bunky, born and raised in Columbus, is a real treasure for our area. The lives he has touched and helped shape are endless, but can be seen in the measure of those he has been associated with over the years. His storied career is a living testament for that plan he says that God has for us.