John J. Williams, 83, a Delaware Republican who served 24 years in the U.S. Senate and gained such a reputation for integrity that he was known as its conscience, died of cardiopulmonary arrest Jan. 11 at Beebe Hospital in Lewes, Del.
Sen. Williams was elected to the Senate in 1947 and he retired in 1971. He was known for his quiet and tenacious investigations of public wrongdoing, and over the years his targets included the Internal Revenue Service and the Commodity Credit Corp. He also headed the investigation that led to the indictment and eventual conviction of Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, former secretary of the Senate majority and a confidant of Lyndon B. Johnson.
As strict with himself as he was with others, Sen. Williams became involved in a tussle with the U.S. comptroller general when he tried to return to the Treasury all but $300 of his annual $1,800 stationery fund. After a fair fight, the senator prevailed.
A farmer by occupation, Sen. Williams refused to accept any government aid or subsidies.
Over the years, he saw service on the Public Works, District of Columbia, Commerce, and Finance committees. At the time he retired, he chaired the Senate Republican Committee on Committees, the body that assigned Republican senators to committees.
John James Williams was born on a farm near Frankford, Del., the ninth child in a family of 11 children. After high school, he went into a chicken farming and feed and grain business with a brother. His only public office before running for the United States Senate was as a member of the Millsboro, (Del.) Town Council.
He defeated the incumbent senator, James M. Tunnell, a New Deal Democrat, 62,603 to 50,910. Sen. Williams had campaigned on a platform that was critical of what he felt was excessive Democratic interference in the economy.
In his early years on Capitol Hill, he was a member in good standing of the conservative wing of his party. He voted against foreign aid bills and supported the Taft-Hartley labor act.
By 1949 he was hitting his stride as an investigator when he found that $96 million was missing from the Commodity Credit Corp.
In 1951, he helped expose a criminal scandal in what was then the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Tax payment checks were being cashed, but the money was not being credited to taxpayers' accounts. Among the checks that went astray was one submitted by Sen. Williams.
It turned out that the money was being embezzled. About 125 tax employees were convicted on charges involving bribery, extortion, perjury and other crimes.
Sen. Williams was best known for his one-man study in the 1960s of the outside business interests of Bobby Baker. As Senate Democratic secretary, Baker was a powerful aide to Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, the Senate majority leader at that time. As a result of Sen. Williams' work, Baker was convicted of influence-peddling.
By the end of his Senate career, Sen. Williams was something of a bellwether on key issues. Eagerly sought by both sides, he was the picture of a senator who voted his conscience and thereby swayed others.
He became largely unbeatable in Delaware, where his attacks on big government and calls for honest government and fiscal restraint were well received. He was called "Senator John" and represented the state in the Senate longer than anyone else in its history.
In 1970 he announced that he was getting too old for another term and that he would retire. He left Washington and returned to the agriculture firm he and his brother had founded.
Near the end of his career he reflected on his success in uncovering wrongdoing and told reporters: "I never liked the role, strange as it may seem. I've never been able to get away from the fact that you're hurting a lot of innocent people even if you're right, and I've tried to be right. I've always had the horrible idea that sometime I might make a mistake."
Surviors include his wife, the former Elsie Steele, whom he married in 1924, and one daughter and one sister.
RUTH WISCOMB CANINE,
90, an area resident since 1950 who was active in volunteer and cultural groups and who was the widow of an Army lieutenant general, died of congestive heart failure Jan. 8 at her home in McLean.
She was a member of the Rock Spring Garden Club and the Rock Spring Congregational Church, both in Arlington. She also had been active in many volunteer groups in Northern Virginia, including Meals-on-Wheels. She had served on the board of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen's Club in Washington.
Mrs. Canine was a native of Salt Lake City and graduate of the University of Utah. In 1925, she married Army Capt. Ralph J. Canine, and accompanied him to posts in this country, Europe and Asia. Gen. Canine, a former chief of the National Security Agency, retired from active duty in 1958 and died in 1969.
Survivors include two sons, Ralph J. Jr., of Columbia, S.C., and Edwin A., of Crofton; five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.