Billy Webster is well known throughout Putnam County as the Chairman for the County’s Board of Commissioners. He joined the BOC as the commissioner for District 4 in 2004 and then left to run for the BOC Chairman position in 2017. He won by six votes and has been serving Putnam County in that role ever since.
What many may not know about Webster is that, after he graduated with a chemistry degree from the University of Alabama, he served in the United States Air Force for 20 years from 1962 to 1982.
While working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, he was invited to the flight test wing to ride in a KC-135, a reduced gravity aircraft that follows a parabolic flight pattern to simulate a weightless environment. The flight is typically used by astronauts to practice missions without gravity. This ride is often referred to as the “Vomit Comet” because two-thirds of passengers experience airsickness and nausea.
“Everybody on that flight got sick but me,” Webster said. “About a week later, they called me and said, ‘Would you like to come over here and work for us?’”
He accepted and became a flight safety officer on the “Vomit Comet” and occasionally filled in for Frank Borman during Gemini 7 space training flights that he could not attend. He spent about a year as Frank Borman’s “body double” and was then was sent to the University of New Hampshire to get a degree in engineering.
“After I graduated, I had 11 addresses in 20 years,” he said. He did various jobs for the Air Force and travelled all over the country. Soon after he retired from the Air Force in 1982, he came to Robins Air Force Base in Macon as a civil servant and worked as a helicopter logistics manager for 17 years.
“It kept getting more challenging, and when you get more challenges, you kind of renew your interest. I loved every minute,” he said.
It was during his time as a civil servant at Robins Air Force Base that his signature mustache came to be. Sometime in 1985, he was hit by a racket during a racquetball game and suffered a pretty severe injury on his upper lip that required stitches and made shaving impossible for almost 4 months.
“Once they put the stitches in and bandaged it up, I couldn’t shave,” he said “They took out the last of the stitches and said, ‘You’re going to have a hell of a scar,’ so I decided to see where this thing goes and here we are,” Webster said. “All during my 20 years in the Air Force, I always wondered what it would be like to wear a mustache. Now I don’t remember what I look like without it.”
For now, Webster is continuing to serve the community as the BOC chairman and effecting change within the county.