Willie Junior Williamson's rambling days ended yesterday the moment he stepped off a bus that brought him home from a south Virginia prison.
"I'm a settled man now. I don't want to be moving around," said the 65-year-old District resident who had spent much of his life traveling the Southeast, picking up odd jobs and eluding police who wanted him for a 1946 jail escape.
Williamson, who was captured in August, was released from prison yesterday after Gov. L. Douglas Wilder granted him a conditional pardon on Tuesday. His release came with the understanding that he go on probation for three years and not wander more than 20 miles from his Northwest Washington row house.
Stepping off a Greyhound that began its journey in Richmond near the Chesterfield County Work Release Unit, Williamson's first order of business yesterday was to take his 30-year-old sweetheart into his arms and try to make up for five lost months. "I love you forever. My Brenda, my girl," Williamson told Brenda Bibb, small trails of tears spilling from the corners of his eyes.
When Wilder granted Williamson's pardon he said Williamson's $169 burglary conviction in 1945 would not have landed him in jail under today's sentencing standards. Williamson was sentenced to eight years for stealing a suit, a bottle of liquor and a radio from a Norfolk general store, according to state officials.
In total, he will have served 14 months of that sentence: about five months in 1990 and nine months in 1946 before he gave a guard $20 for a clean set of clothes and his freedom.
The FBI traced Williamson through a set of fingerprints he gave for a job application. Federal marshals knocked on Williamson's door early one August morning and took him into custody, wrapping up a mostly forgotten manhunt.
Williamson returned to his home yesterday buoyed, he said, mostly by thoughts of Bibb.
"Oh, what a day. I got my birthday and Brenda. Oh, I love you forever," Williamson told Bibb, cuddling in the back seat of a car bound for their home.
Bibb invited family and a handful of friends over last night for a combination Christmas, reunion and birthday bash for Williamson. Williamson said he turned 65 yesterday, though Virginia corrections officials said court records list his birthday in February.
Williamson said he has a surprise Christmas present for Bibb: his house.
As soon as he gets matters squared away, he said, he is going to add her name to the deed of the house he bought with savings from a delivery job with the now-defunct Washington Star Evening News.
Williamson spent most of yesterday traveling from one government building to the next, signing probation forms and recovering personal items from the D.C. police, before he could kick up his feet in his living room and savor a beer. "I'm going to lay in, be cool and get myself together," he said.
Bibb said before her boyfriend's arrival that her "Christmas present is having him home again."
She also said she has little worry about Williamson's penchant for travel, knowing that his parole was granted only on the condition that he not violate any laws between now and Christmas Day 1993 and not leave the Washington area without permission of his parole officer.
"I know he won't get in any trouble right now. I don't have to worry about that," Bibb said. "Besides, he isn't going too far if I have anything to say about it."