The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Williams (Howard S.) Papers
Collection Number: M3
Volume: 1.8 cu. ft.
Howard S. Williams, the son of William S. and Mary Elizabeth Williams, was born i Columbia, Tennessee on July 16, 1878. When he was eight years old his family moved to Anniston, Alabama. At the age of eighteen he worked as a reporter for the Anniston Hot Blast, a weekly newspaper. After serving in the Army during the Spanish-American War, Williams returned to Anniston and became the cit editor and a part owner of the Hot Blast. Later he helped to organize the Anniston Star.
During the next ten to twelve years, williams worked for the Birmingham Age-Herald and the Birmingham News, became city editor of the Monterey, Mexico News, organized the Torreon, Mexico Star, and worked for the Associated Press in Mexico City and Atlanta.
In 1913 he joined the staff of the Jackson Daily News in Jackson, Mississippi. During the planning stages of the Mississippi Centennial Exposition, Williams served as its publicity director. then in 1917 he moved to Hattiesburg as the secretary of the Commercial Club, the predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce. By the fall of that year he and several other men bought the Hattiesburg Daily Herald. Williams was majority stockholder of the group and served as the editor of the newspaper. The name was changed to the Hattiesburg American and it commenced publication on October 1, 1917.
In October 1922 the Evangelist Gypsy Smith, Jr. came to Hattiesburg to hold a series of revival meetings. Soon Howard Williams became a convert and began changing his way of life. He sold his interests in the Hattiesburg American, and in August 1923 he began preaching. After the purchase of a large gospel tent, his transition to the life of a traveling evangelist was complete. Over the net thirty years he held hundreds of revival meetings in twenty states and broadcast his sermons over a mobile radio station -- one of only five such radio licenses every authorized in the U.S.
In May 1925 he gained nationwide notoriety by bringing peace to Herrin, Illinois. "Bloody" Herrin was a coal mining community that had gained national attention because of numerous deaths resulting from labor unrest and mob violence. Through his rhetoric and perseverance, Williams persuaded the warring factions to put aside their differences and reunite the community.
In addition to being known as a newspaper man and an evangelist, Howard Williams was a founder of the Jackson Country Club, the Hattiesburg Country Club, and the Hattiesburg Rotary Club. He also was a member of the Knights Templar of Mississippi, the Interdenominational Association of Evangelists, and was an active Mason. However, the accomplishment of which he may have been the proudest was his ordination to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church on January 17, 1956 at the age of seventy-seven.
On June 6, 1904 he married the former Emma Ray Smith of Meridian, Mississippi. They had three children, Howard S., Jr., Alfred Keaton, and Helen S., who married M. Shields Spiars. Mr. Williams died in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on September 5, 1960.
The Papers of Howard S. Williams contain information which documents his career as a traveling evangelist for more than thirty years. The collection includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, sermons, promotional material, broadsides and photographs.
The Williams Papers contain little information regarding his newspaper career or the first forty-four years of his life. Instead, the collection focuses upon his career as an evangelist during the last thirty-eight years of his life. The correspondence covers the period 1918-1960 and includes family correspondence, letters of introduction, and general correspondence. The general correspondence sheds light upon his relationships with religious and civic leaders in the areas where he held his revivals.
The mounted newspaper clippings (1916-1960) comprise more than one-third of the collection and chronicle Williams' itinerant revival campaigns. The also provide an overview of his style of preaching and insight into the subjects he considered to be most important. The few sermons included in the collection are primarily for the period 1956-1960 when Williams was associated with the Petal Presbyterian Church. The promotional materials in the collection include a variety of broadsides, handbills, and leaflets.
In addition, the collection includes a small quantity of material relating to his civic and fraternal interests. It also contains a folder of correspondence, reports, and programs regarding Mrs. Williams' involvement in the United Spanish War Veterans Auxiliary.
Provenance: Porter, Ann Russell (Mrs. R. V. Porter)
Given By: Transferred from Mississippiana
Volume: 3 pages
Form of Material: A three-page handwritten original poem by Ann Russell Porter (Mrs. R. V. Porter), titled "Down the Sawdust Aisle." The undated poem consists of 17 stanzas.
Ann Porter was born in McHenry, Mississippi in 1904, and died in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1963. A collection of her poetry was published in 1952 under the title, White Gold, but "Down the Sawdust Aisle" is not included in the publication. This item has been placed in M3, Box 2, Folder 17.