First Lt. Thomas Joseph Williams Jr., 26, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel Cole, 41, of Knoxville died Saturday when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior crashed near Caryville’s Exit 141 on Interstate 75 around 5:30 p.m., according to the Tennessee National Guard.

The men served with the 230th Air Cavalry Squadron, Troop C, based at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville. They were conducting a routine training flight, Guard officials said.

Harpeth Hills Funeral Home

Thomas Joseph Williams, Jr. was born January 31, 1985, in Nashville to Thomas Joseph Williams, Sr. and Lynne Tune Williams. In addition to loving parents, Thomas has two loving sisters Ann-Marie and Mary Jo Williams. Thomas’ love of his life for the past 5 years is Nikki Schmidt, who was his fiancé, confidant and best friend.

Thomas touched the lives of so many through all aspects of this life – family, friends, fraternity and military. His ambition and personality affected each person he came across, and he left a lasting legacy in every life he entered.

Thomas was a pilot and a proud patriot. He was an Aviation Officer of OH-58D(R) and Platoon Leader in C/1/230th ACS with the Tennessee Army National Guard at the McGee Tyson Aviation Flight Facility outside of Knoxville.

Thomas was owner and president of Southeast Investment Group, which he started in 2009 in Knoxville, specializing in real estate sales and investments as well as construction and project management. Thomas was especially proud and loved restoring and renovating older and historic homes, particularly the Victorian houses in the World’s Fair Park area in Knoxville.

He was an affiliate broker at ERA Top Producers Real Estate in Knoxville and also was a Project Manager at A & L Construction. As a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Thomas became a real estate agent, affiliate broker and advisor with Coldwell Banker Wallace and Wallace in Knoxville.

Thomas graduated from Hillwood High School in Nashville in 2003 and entered the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, where he graduated in December 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Geography with concentrations in Military Science, business, urban development and land use and planning. During his freshman year at UT, Thomas joined Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and remained active in the organization.

As a cadet, Thomas served with the U.S. Army Reserve and TNARNG, C TRP/1/230th ACS. Thomas was commissioned as a 2LT Tennessee Army National Guard after completing the UT ROTC program. He returned to the UT Army ROTC program in 2011 as an assistant professor of Military Science.

After being commissioned, Thomas became Officer Strength Manager and Interim Company Commander of Det 2 HHT/1/230th ACS. In February 2008, he moved into Liaison Officer of the Det 2 HHT/1/230th ACS. He also completed a Leadership Training Course at Fort Knox, Ky., and a Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

In March 2009, he left for Officer Training. He completed Basic Officer Leadership Course II at Ft. Benning, Ga., and Aviation Officer Basic Course OH-58D(R) at Ft. Rucker, Ala. In November 2010, he returned to serve as Aviation Officer and Platoon Leader at Det 2 HHT/1/230th ACS at Alcoa.

At Ft. Rucker in 2009 and 2010, Thomas completed HOST – Helicopter Overwater Survival Training; DUNKER-N9; HEEDS -Helicopter Emergency Egress Device System; SERE – Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape; Level C Full Spectrum; and U. S. Army Armor School Cavalry Leader Course.

In Lieu of flowers memorials can be made to The 1st Lt. Thomas Williams, Jr. Memorial Fund @ CedarStone Bank, P.O. Box 724, Lebanon TN, 37088

Submit more information on this veteran →