HON. WILLIAM D. WILLIAMS, for the past fifteen years a prominent and successful lawyer of Fort Worth, came to Texas about thirty years ago, when a boy fresh from college, and gained his legal training in this state, and since then, barring an initiatory period of several years spent in all the phases and activities of ranch life, he has been practicing and has advanced to notable rank at the bar of the state and in particular of Fort Worth.
He is still only in the middle period of life’s years and work, for he was born August 26, 1857, at the town of Mount Vernon, in eastern Kentucky. His parents were Jesse C. and Mary (Collier) Williams. His father was born in Virginia, but was of a Maryland family and with all his ancestors from the latter state. He is still living in Kentucky, having spent most of his life as a merchant and also farmed for some years.
The family belonged to the Christian church and after the preliminary educational training Mr. Williams was sent to Abingdon College in Abingdon, Illinois, one of the old- established colleges of that church. He was graduated at the age of sixteen, and immediately thereafter in 1873, came to Texas and located at Seguin, in Guadalupe county. This part of the state was then given up almost entirely to cattle-raising, and was infested with numerous ‘bad men,’ who on frequent occasions and without previous ceremony or intimation made life burdensome to the respectable citizens. In Seguin Mr. Williams entered the law office of Judge Goodrich and studied diligently under the direction of that honored preceptor until his admission to the bar, which occurred before he was twenty-one years old. He eluded the regular ‘starvation period’ of a young lawyer’s career by going upon a ranch and engaged in ‘punching cows’ and the various other activities of that famous western industry, whereby he not only laid by some store of the ‘sine qua non’ so necessary to self-preservation and advancement in his career, but also acquired by this vigorous outdoor regimen, the rugged health and physique which have enabled him to prosecute his profession from that day to this with untiring energy. He first took up his practice in Austin, where he resided for eight years, and in December, 1889, came to Fort Worth, where he has maintained his office and built up a large and profitable patronage during the intervening years.
In April, 1897, he was elected to the office of city attorney, and, by succeeding elections, served most ably in that office until 1902. In that year he resigned in order to make the race for the state legislature, and was elected to represent the seventy-eighth district in that body. He has made himself an important factor in state legislation and during the sessions has devoted himself heart and soul to the interests of the state as affected by statute and legislative enactment. His most important achievement was, perhaps, his authorship of the ‘intangible tax’ law, which he prepared and had enacted. This is a very skillfully drawn and beneficial measure, and proves a means of taxing the intangible property or business of railroad companies, express companies, and other similar public utility concerns doing business in the state. Before this act became law the assessor had no means of valuing the properties of such companies, however valuable might be their concessions or business in the state. Mr. Williams has the record in the state for special service, by appointment of the governor, as judge of the district court, and no other lawyer in the commonwealth has been so often called upon this duty.
Mr. Williams is a strong Democrat in politics. He is and has been for several years treasurer of the State Bar Association. He is a high degree Mason, being a Knight Templar and a Shriner. He is also a litterateur of no men ability and has gained considerable distinction for his literary work, which he does for recreation, consisting principally of short stories contributed to the eastern magazines. Although he spent some years in connection with the rougher side of western life and has been acquainted with all sorts and conditions of men, he is himself a man of fine qualities and of broad, sympathetic attainments, open to all the influences of the high and nobler living.
Mr. Williams was married at Lockhart, Texas, December 5, 1870, to Miss Jettie Pearson.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 34-35.