John Sharp Williams (July 30, 1854 – September 27, 1932) was a prominent American politician in the Democratic Party from the 1890s through the 1920s, and served as the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives from 1903 to 1908.
Williams was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but raised in Yazoo County, Mississippi, after he was orphaned during the American Civil War. After studying at five different universities (including two in Europe), he received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1876. After a brief return to Memphis (where he married Elizabeth Dial Webb in 1877), Williams returned to Yazoo County, where from 1878 to 1893 he ran the family plantation and kept a law practice.
Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1893, Williams soon became a leader of the Democratic minority, renowned for his speaking skill and wit. Like most Southern Democrats of the day, he was a proponent of coining silver and an opponent of high tariffs; unlike them, he refused to use race-baiting to build political popularity. In 1906 when Great Britain launched HMS Dreadnought, Congressman Williams introduced a bill to change the name of USS Michigan to USS Skeered O' Nothin' as a challenge to the prestigious English.
During his time as ranking Democrat in the Republican-controlled House, Williams was given the privilege of choosing the Democrats assigned to committees by the House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon (by the rules of the House, Cannon was entitled to make all appointments himself), giving him tremendous power within the minority party. In gratitude, Williams was known to omit Democrats whom Cannon found particularly objectionable from committee assignments. Recognizing his status vis-à-vis Cannon, Williams jokingly described his relative political impotence in the Cannon-dominated Committee on Rules, "I am invited to the seances but I am never consulted about the spiritualistic appearances."
By beating one of Mississippi's leading race-baiters, James K. Vardaman, Williams moved to the United States Senate in 1911. He became one of Woodrow Wilson's strongest supporters, from Wilson's nomination for the Presidency in 1912 through the losing battle to ratify American participation in the League of Nations in 1920. During his time as a senator, he also served as a chairman of the Committee to Establish a University of the United States. Senator Williams once claimed on the floor of the Senate (and it was duly entered in the Congressional Record) that no nation in proportion to its size had contributed more to the development of the United States than had the Welsh.
After retiring from the Senate in 1923, Williams returned to his family plantation, where he spent the last decade of his life.
Other articles related to "john":
... John Williams (1731–1799), member of the North Carolina House of Commons 1777–1778, Delegate to the Continental Congress from North Carolina 1778–1779, North Carolina Superior Court Judge ... First cousin of John Williams ... First cousin of John Williams ...
Famous quotes containing the words williams, john and/or sharp:
“All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness!”
—Tennessee Williams (19141983)
“I have a Vision of the Future, chum.
The workers flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score.”
—Sir John Betjeman (19061984)
“Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
I could not count the cost
of all your faces, your moods
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed,
my jewel-fingered lady....”
—Anne Sexton (19281974)