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John J. Williams (politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John J. Williams
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
January 3, 1947 – December 31, 1970
Preceded byJames Tunnell
Succeeded byBill Roth
Personal details
John James Williams

(1904-05-17)May 17, 1904
Frankford, Delaware, U.S.
DiedJanuary 11, 1988(1988-01-11) (aged 83)
Lewes, Delaware, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Elsie Steele
ResidenceMillsboro, Delaware

John James "Whispering Willie"[1] Williams (May 17, 1904 – January 11, 1988) was an American businessman and politician from Millsboro, Delaware. He was a member of the Republican Party and served four terms as U.S. senator from Delaware from 1947 to 1970.

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John is super competitive. Very focused. Laser focused. He really focuses simplistically on what needs to be accomplished. But John's the kind of guy that's always wanted to win the right way. He still maintained all those other qualities that just make him a fine human being. You gotta to be creative. You gotta be imaginative about it. You gotta break the mold so to speak, and that's what business is all about. I learned those skills in South Central L.A. You know, finding a way and believing in myself. How many places in the world can you have the opportunity to go to fantastic schools, work for a fantastic company and have the kind of career that he's had? It's a great American story. (music) NARRATOR: Alumnus John Harris, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé Waters, exemplifies the ideal qualities of a 21st century leader. To his colleagues within the Nestlé Group of companies, he is a trusted friend and role model, who epitomizes the company’s values and principles. Prior to serving in his current post, John was responsible for Nestlé Purina’s operations in Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa, and before that, John held various leadership positions with the Carnation Company, and later Friskies Petcare, both part of the Nestlé family. HARRIS: The reason why I stayed for 38 years was because of the opportunity. You are not going to find a company that offers you more opportunity than Nestlé. ALFORD: I think John's biggest impact is his focus on performance. From the day I meet John until today, and that is roughly thirty years, he talks about performance whenever he talks about business. And he had that impact here, domestically, and I think, importantly he's had that impact globally, too. You gotta remember we're a Swiss-owned company and a hundred and fifty years of experience. And I think John is one of the first two, three, or four Americans that have ever been on that executive board. I think what John has been able to do is bring an American business perspective to a European global company. NARRATOR: John was named Chairman of Nestlé Waters in December 2007 and one year later he was appointed CEO as well. John is responsible for overseeing over 30,000 employees and a portfolio of 67 unique brands. Nestlé is the world's largest bottler of water, with production in nearly 40 countries and annual sales in excess of 8.2 billion dollars. John recognizes his company’s responsibility as a corporate citizen. Nestlé Waters leads the industry in addressing global and region-specific environmental concerns and other societal issues relating to water management and hydration. In keeping with Nestlé’s vision and training philosophy, Nestlé Waters offers a range of employee educational programs in core skills, and management and leadership development. ALFORD: Mentoring is important to John, I think, on many levels. He has helped lots of people along the way in their career. He realizes the company is going to do better, the better people that we have going forward. And I think he realizes that for society, too. REID: Is there anything you could pick from your life that you could to say to a young person today that they could use to nurture that kind of self confidence? HARRIS: You can, if you choose to. You just have to choose to. You can be a businessman. You can be a doctor. But you have to choose to, and oftentimes we forget to tell our young people that, hey, you gotta want to and then you gotta work at it. BENTLEY: He really feels like it's his responsibility to develop the next generation of business leaders. We established a scholarship at Crenshaw High School, his alma mater. He's looking to establish scholarships other places, so he's really using the resources that he has gained over the years to help young people be the very best that they can be. NARRATOR: In 2008, John was highlighted as one of the world’s emerging black leaders in Ebony Magazine’s feature “Twenty Rising Stars,” and in 2009 he was named to Black Enterprise Magazine’s “100 Most Powerful in Corporate America”. BENTLEY: For years John talked about how Cal State Northridge helped him become the person that he really is. He talked about the relationships he developed, the professors he had, and the fact that they believed in him gave him the confidence to be the success he is today. RHODES: John's lesson to our students is that you have to always honor your potential, and there's no limit to what you can accomplish if you allow yourself to continue to be receptive to opportunities and to always pursue excellence. ALFORD: John, all of us here at Nestlé want to say congratulations first and importantly that we're gonna donate to the Cal State Northridge scholarship fund in your name. Hopefully, it's gonna start the next John Harris on their career path. So, well done, my friend. I can't wait to shake your hand afterwards, and there isn't a more deserving guy. Congratulations! (music)


Early life and family

Williams was born on a farm near Frankford, Sussex County, Delaware, the ninth of eleven children. In 1922, he moved to Millsboro, where he and his brother Preston established the Millsboro Feed Company, a livestock and poultry feed business. John Williams married Elsie Steele in 1924; they remained married until his death 64 years later. In 1946, he served on the Millsboro Town Council.

United States Senate

Williams was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1946, defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator James M. Tunnell. During this term, he served in the Republican majority in the 80th Congress, but was in the minority in the 81st and 82nd Congresses. He was elected to a second term in 1952, defeating Democrat Alexis I. du Pont Bayard, and once again served in the Republican majority in the 83rd Congress, but returned to the minority in the 84th and 85th Congresses. Williams was elected to a third term in 1958 and a fourth term in 1964, both times defeating Democrat Elbert N. Carvel, who at the time of the 1964 election was Governor of Delaware. During these terms Williams served in the Republican minority in the 86th through the 91st Congresses. In all, he served for 24 years, from January 3, 1947 until December 31, 1970, when he resigned just before the end of his fourth term. He served during the administrations of U.S. presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. Williams was Delaware's first four-term U.S. senator.

In the Senate, Williams established himself as an opponent of wasteful government bureaucracy. A proponent of free markets, he objected to President Truman's continuation of many New Deal and World War II policies. Williams supported tax cuts, opposed the continuation of price controls, and suggested the federal budget could be balanced by slashing one million federal jobs he felt were unnecessary after the Great Depression and World War II.

From 1947 through 1948, Williams worked to root out corruption in the Internal Revenue Service, exposing the illegal activities of two hundred employees of the Treasury Department. In October 1963, at a time when President Kennedy was pondering the future of his vice president, Lyndon Johnson, Williams exposed corruption in the office of U.S. Senate aide Bobby Baker, Johnson's protégé. Williams voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1967, he helped defeat a proposed rule change that would have eliminated the filibuster, a tool that had been of great use to him in exposing government waste and misconduct. In 1968, unable to defeat the tax increase proposed by President Johnson, Williams worked with Democratic U.S. Senator George Smathers of Florida to simultaneously cut federal spending by $60 billion.

Williams, as well as his Senate colleague Prescott Bush of Connecticut, was considered a possible running mate for Republican presidential nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, but removed himself from consideration. He was also considered for a spot on the Republican ticket in 1964 and as a possible replacement for Spiro Agnew when he resigned as vice president of the United States in 1973. Williams was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1948 and 1956.

In 1965, Williams began pressing for a law that would set a mandatory retirement age of 65 for all elected officials. Though mandatory retirement was never enacted, Williams announced in 1969 that he would not seek a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. On December 31, 1970, he resigned from the Senate just before the end of his term, allowing his protégé, newly elected Republican William V. Roth, Jr., to gain additional seniority in his new class of U.S. senators.

In September 1966, Williams assailed the anti-inflation program of the Johnson administration as a "piece-meal approach" to a larger issue and advocated for a five percent across the board tax hike as well as Congress resuming a leadership role on the subject of enacting "necessary remedies to stave off financial collapse that may engulf us".[2]

Death and legacy

Williams died in a hospital in Lewes, Delaware and was buried in Millsboro Cemetery, at Millsboro. He was a member of the Methodist Church, the Freemasons, and the Shriners. During his career in the U.S. Senate, Williams was called the "Lonewolf Investigator," "Watchdog of the Treasury," "Honest John," "Mr. Integrity," and most often, "the Conscience of the Senate." The section of Delaware Route 24 between Millsboro and Midway is named the John J. Williams Highway in his honor.


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. U.S. Senators are popularly elected and take office January 3 for a six-year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office Notes
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington January 3, 1947 January 3, 1953
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington January 3, 1953 January 3, 1959
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington January 3, 1959 January 3, 1965
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington January 3, 1965 December 31, 1970
United States Congress service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1947–1949 80th U.S. Senate Republican Harry S. Truman class 1
1949–1951 81st U.S. Senate Democratic Harry S. Truman class 1
1951–1953 82nd U.S. Senate Democratic Harry S. Truman class 1
1953–1955 83rd U.S. Senate Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower class 1
1955–1957 84th U.S. Senate Democratic Dwight D. Eisenhower class 1
1957–1959 85th U.S. Senate Democratic Dwight D. Eisenhower class 1
1959–1961 86th U.S. Senate Democratic Dwight D. Eisenhower class 1
1961–1963 87th U.S. Senate Democratic John F. Kennedy class 1
1963–1965 88th U.S. Senate Democratic John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
class 1
1965–1967 89th U.S. Senate Democratic Lyndon B. Johnson class 1
1967–1969 90th U.S. Senate Democratic Lyndon B. Johnson class 1
1969–1971 91st U.S. Senate Democratic Richard M. Nixon class 1
Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1946 U.S. Senator John J. Williams Republican 62,603 55% James M. Tunnell Democratic 50,910 45%
1952 U.S. Senator John J. Williams Republican 93,020 55% Alexis I. du Pont Bayard Democratic 77,685 45%
1958 U.S. Senator John J. Williams Republican 82,280 53% Elbert N. Carvel Democratic 72,152 47%
1964 U.S. Senator John J. Williams Republican 103,782 52% Elbert N. Carvel Democratic 96,850 48%


  1. ^ THE BUDGET: Money, Anyone?, Time Magazine
  2. ^ "'Piecemeal approach'". The Bulletin. September 14, 1966.


  • Caro, Robert A. (2012). The Passage of Power, vol. 4 of The Years of Lyndon Johnson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 282–94. ISBN 978-0-679-40507-8.
  • Carter, Richard B. (2001). Clearing New Ground, The Life of John G. Townsend, Jr. Wilmington, Delaware: The Delaware Heritage Press. ISBN 0-924117-20-6.
  • Martin, Roger (1997). Elbert N. Carvel. Wilmington, Delaware: Delaware Heritage Press. ISBN 0-924117-08-7.
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2000). Honest John Williams. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press.


External links

Political offices
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
James M. Tunnell
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Delaware
Served alongside: C. Douglass Buck, J. Allen Frear, Jr., J. Caleb Boggs
Succeeded by
William V. Roth, Jr.
This page was last edited on 22 September 2019, at 12:42
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