Williams, Guinn Terrell (1871–1948)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: March 19, 2019

Guinn Terrell Williams, financier, rancher, and congressman, the son of William Washington and Minerva Jane (Thompson) Williams, was born on April 22, 1871, on his family's farm in Calhoun County, Mississippi. In 1876 his family moved to a farm near Nocona in Montague County, Texas, and shortly thereafter to the area of Decatur. There Williams attended the public schools; following his graduation from high school he was a public school teacher and worked on his father's farm. In 1890 he studied business administration at Transylvania College in Kentucky. He then returned to Decatur, where in 1893 he married Minnie Leatherwood. The Williamses had three daughters and one son. Williams's first venture in business was as a dealer in cattle and mules. His success in the livestock business enabled him to pursue a career in banking. He served as a cashier of the State National Bank in Fort Worth and used this experience to organize the City National Bank of Decatur. He was the bank's vice president until 1926. Between 1916 and 1926 Williams organized and was president of the First National Bank of Mineral Wells, the First State Bank of Perrin, the Bridgeport State Bank, the Paradise State Bank, and the Artesia, New Mexico, National Bank. A lifelong Democrat, Williams was active in county and state politics. He began his political career at the age of twenty-seven, when he was elected Wise county clerk. He served as clerk for four years, 1898 to 1902. For the next seventeen years he concentrated on his livestock and banking business. Although he did not seek public office during this time, Williams remained an interested bystander. At the urging of his friends in 1919 he announced his intention to run for the Texas Senate seat representing Wise, Montague, and Denton counties. He ran unopposed and served in the legislature from 1920 to 1922. During his tenure he headed an investigation of the states penal institutions that resulted in a number of prison reforms. He also helped gain the release of more than 300 prisoners convicted of first offenses by obtaining jobs for them. He resigned from the Senate in 1922, following his successful campaign for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in a special election held because of the death of Lucian W. Parrish.

Williams served as the representative of the Thirteenth District for a decade, sitting on the Committee on Insular Affairs and on the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department. He was chairman of the Committee on Territories and in that capacity introduced a bill to grant independence to the Philippines. Although the bill failed, Williams's interest in the Pacific islands did not go unnoticed; today one of the main streets in Manila is named for the Texas congressman. Williams also argued for statehood for Hawaii. His other interests while in the House included oil, agriculture, and stock raising. Ill health forced Williams to resign from Congress in 1932. He retired to San Angelo, Texas. Following his service in Congress he worked with the regional Agricultural Credit Association and later became president of the Texas Production Credit Corporation. He also was a president of the Texas Goat Raisers Association, the Texas Wool and Mohair Company, and the seventh district of the Texas Bankers Association. Throughout his life Williams was active in community affairs. He worked for the Methodist churches of Decatur and San Angelo, was a commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Texas, and was a grand master of the Masonic order (thirty-second degree). His volunteer work with the Masons included setting up a special educational fund that annually enabled six to ten male graduates of the Masonic Orphanage in Fort Worth to attend college. Williams's health remained fragile throughout the 1940s, forcing him to withdraw from his business activities in the late 1940s. On January 9, 1948, he died at his home in San Angelo. He was interred at Decatur.

Dallas Morning News, January 10, 1948. Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David Minor, “Williams, Guinn Terrell,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-guinn-terrell.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 19, 2019