A native of Norfolk, Virginia, he joined the Navy immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and attended Officer's Candidate School at Notre Dame University. During his naval career, he served as a deck and engine officer on several destroyers and completed his naval service as a Lieutenant. Upon his return to Norfolk, his father, Anders Williams, persuaded him to work at the Anders Williams & Co. "just for a while." Rolf remained there for 50 years.
In 1958, he founded Marine Oil Service, now the largest distributor of marine lubricants along the US East Coast. Marine Oil Service has the distinction of christening and putting into service the first double-hulled harbor tank ship built in the United States. In 1960, he formed the Anders Williams Ship Agency, which became the largest vessel agency in the port during the 1980's. In 1981, he established Port City Trucking, which still services major Southeast US ports.
For many years as a member of the Harbor Club, he would gather at lunch with leaders in the shipping industry and discuss the day's events. This cooperation helped to forge the Port of Hampton Roads into what it is today. For more than 50 years, he was a member of the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club and was a former member of the Norfolk-Navy Assembly, Navy League, and the Norfolk Rotary Club.
He was a founding member of the Town Point Club, Norwegian Lady Foundation, Norfolk Sister Cities Association, Sertoma Club, Norfolk Seaman's Friend Society, and the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Sons of Norway.
He received numerous awards during a distinguished career including the Hampton Roads Maritime Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2000, the Society of Maritime Industries "Man of the Year" Award in 1998, and the Propeller Club Outstanding Maritime Professionalism Award in 1995. He was past president of the Hampton Roads Maritime Association, the Hampton Roads Shipping Association, the Propeller Club of the Port of Norfolk and the Ship Suppliers Association of the United States. He was a marine surveyor for Scandinavian Marine Claims and Det Norske Veritas. He served on the Norfolk Advisory Board of Heritage Bank and Trust.
In recognition of his many years of service to the maritime industry and his devotion to the Hampton Roads community, an endowed scholarship was established at Old Dominion University to promote the education of future leaders for the maritime community.