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Dr. C. Fred Williams was a professor of history who chaired the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) history department through its largest expansion. Williams authored several works on Arkansas and served in many capacities at UA Little Rock; he also volunteered his services as a consultant for the Little Rock School District, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Society, the Old State House Museum, Ouachita Baptist University, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the Historic Arkansas Museum. Williams was the recipient of the Arkansas Historical Association’s lifetime achievement award.
Charles Fredrick Williams was born in Allen, Oklahoma, on December 24, 1943, to Charles H. Williams and Willie Mae Williams. He had two brothers and five sisters. Williams married Glenda Belcher in 1961, and they had one daughter. Williams earned his associate’s degree in science from Murray State Agricultural College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, in 1963. He earned his bachelor’s degree from East Central State University in 1965 and his master’s from Wichita State University in 1966.
His career at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock began in 1969 as assistant professor of history. He completed his doctorate in American history at the University of Oklahoma in 1970. Glenda Williams died in an automobile accident in 1970, and in December 1971, he married Janet Hamm. The couple had a son and daughter. Williams served as chair of the Department of History from 1973 until 1980. As chair, he hired ten new faculty members. In 1980, Williams became associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and in 1983 became the associate vice chancellor, a position he held until 1988.
In 1974 and 1975, Williams served as president of the Pulaski County Historical Society. In 1979, Williams was approached by what is now the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. A multiethnic group concerned with race relations in Arkansas, it held a meeting with Williams to enlist his help in publishing materials that highlighted minorities and women in Arkansas history, thus providing a more contemporary perspective than textbooks included at the time. Acting upon this request, Williams asked historians S. Charles Bolton, Carl H. Moneyhon, and LeRoy T. Williams to co-edit a book with him; the first edition of A Documentary History of Arkansas was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1984. His A History of Pharmacy in Arkansas was published by Heritage Press in 1984.
In 1986, Williams wrote the text for Adventure Tales of Arkansas: A Cartoon History of a Spirited People. The same year, his first pictorial history, Arkansas: An Illustrated History of the Land of Opportunity, was published by Windsor Publications of Northridge, California. An updated version titled Arkansas: Independent and Proud was published by the American Historical Press in 2002. The Arkansas Historical Association honored Williams with its lifetime achievement award in 2003. His last book was Historic Little Rock: An Illustrated History (2008).
From 2000 until 2010, Williams was executive secretary of the Agriculture History Society. At UA Little Rock, Williams was president of the University Assembly and Senate from 2004 to 2005 and acting chair of the Department of International and Second Languages from 2006 to 2007. In 2008, he served as director of the university’s Center for Arkansas History and Culture, where he was editor of the Ledbetter Monograph Series on Arkansas Culture.
During a career that spanned four decades, Williams wrote and presented numerous papers on early Arkansas history, agriculture, politics, religion, education, and healthcare. In addition, he was a volunteer teacher in the VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools) program in Little Rock. Williams co-wrote—and was lead historian on—three Teaching American History grants, which raised nearly $2 million to benefit the Little Rock Public School District. In addition to his scholarly work, he was involved with the Rotary Club of West Little Rock, Calvary Baptist Church, LifeQuest, and the Arkansas Council for the Social Studies. He also assisted former Arkansas governor Sid McMath with his memoirs and Conway County sheriff Marlin Hawkins on his autobiography.
In 2011, Williams was made professor emeritus upon his retirement. In honor of his accomplishments, the C. Fred Williams Endowment in Public History was created at UA Little Rock in January 2013, providing annual scholarships to history majors at UA Little Rock. That same year, an updated second edition of A Documentary History of Arkansas was released by the University of Arkansas Press.
Williams died on November 23, 2013, fourteen months after being diagnosed with cancer.
For additional information:
“Obituary of Dr. C. Fred Williams.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 25, 2013, p. 2B.
Cody Lynn Berry
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Last Updated 9/7/2017
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