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Pat Williams (Montana politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pat Williams
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byRick Hill
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byMax Baucus
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of the Montana House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
John Patrick Williams

(1937-10-30) October 30, 1937 (age 83)
Helena, Montana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Carol Williams
ChildrenGriff Williams
Whitney Williams
Alma materUniversity of Montana, Missoula
William Jewell College
University of Denver

John Patrick Williams (born October 30, 1937) is an American Democratic legislator who represented Montana in the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 1997.

Williams attended the University of Montana in Missoula, William Jewell College and the University of Denver, Colorado, earning a B.A. In 1961–1969 he was a member of the National Guard in Colorado and Montana and was a teacher in Butte, Montana. His cousin was Robert "Evel" Knievel, a legendary American daredevil and showman.

Political career

In 1966 Williams was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in District 23 of Silver Bow County, winning reelection in 1968. During the years 1969–1971 he served as the executive assistant to Montana Representative John Melcher. Williams was a member of the Governor's Employment and Training Council from 1972 to 1978 and served on the Montana Reapportionment Commission from 1972 to 1973.

In 1974 Williams ran an unsuccessful primary election campaign against future Senator Max Baucus for the Democratic Party nomination for Montana's U.S. House 1st District Representative. Baucus would win the November elections defeating Republican Dick Shoup. In 1978 Williams ran a successful primary campaign against Dorothy Bradley to win the Democratic nomination for the 1st District of Montana. In November Williams defeated Republican Jim Waltermire in one of Montana's largest door-to-door campaigns, and winning 57% percent of the vote, getting elected to the 96th U.S. Congress.

National Endowment for the Arts Controversy

Pat Williams was a vocal champion for Federal Arts Funding and has been credited for saving the National Endowment for the Arts.[1] Williams garnered national attention during the Culture Wars of the late 1980's and early 1990's for his staunch advocacy of the NEA. John Frohnmayer, who served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts during that tumultuous era, said “(Williams) was a tireless and fearless supporter of the arts,” and that he, "risked his political career in doing so.” [1]

In September of 1987 the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, received a grant of $75,000 from the NEA to support the seventh annual Awards in the Visual Arts program. One of the works selected was photographer Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ. [2] Nearly a year later, in July 1988, the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) received an NEA grant and used it to fund a retrospective exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe's work which included some graphic sexual imagery. The furor over the Serrano and Mapplethorpe images began when Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, of the conservative American Family Association, saw the catalogue containing Serrano’s photograph. Spurred by the AFA and other conservative groups prominent Republican leaders in both the House and Senate urged that immediate action be taken against the Endowment. Thousands of citizens across the country flooded Congress with protests. [2] Williams chaired the House Education and Labor’s Postsecondary Education subcommittee which oversaw the reauthorization of the Endowment. On May 17, 1990, Wildmon threatened to send copies of works by Mapplethorpe to voters in Williams’s district.[3] A month later, Rev. Pat Robertson took out a full page newspaper ad addressed to members of Congress that read, “Do you also want to face the voters with the charge that you are wasting their hard earned money to promote sodomy, child pornography and attacks on Jesus Christ?... There is one way to find out. Vote for the NEA appropriation just like Pat Williams, John Frohnmayer, and the gay and lesbian task force want. And make my day.”[4]

Congressional criticism of the NEA was spearheaded by Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY).[2] Senator Alphonse M. D'Amato, the New York Republican, tore up a copy of a catalogue featuring Piss Christ on the floor of the Senate.[5] Later, on July 26, 1989, Helms offered an amendment to prevent federal support for "obscene and indecent" art.[6] Aware of the NEA's desperate situation, and the impossibility of pulling together a core of support for a straight, five-year reauthorization, Representative Williams worked throughout the summer to formulate a compromise bill. In October, he announced that he and Representative Coleman had devised legislation, the Williams-Coleman compromise, which would alter the structure of the Endowment's grant making procedure.[7] leave the obscenity determination to the supreme court; increase the percentage of NEA funding for state and local arts agencies; provide for increased public access to the arts through increased funding for rural and inner city areas and arts education.[4] After fierce debate, the language embodied in the Williams-Coleman substitute prevailed. During the House-Senate conference on the Interior appropriations bill, the Williams-Coleman language prevailed over the Hatch and Helms Amendments and subsequently became law. [8]

His support for the NEA led him to be branded as “Porno Pat” by his opponents, and sign-carrying protesters confronted him at airports in both Washington, D.C., and Montana. [9]

Since leaving the House of Representatives in 1997, Williams has continued to voice his support for the arts wherever he can, regularly spending time in Helena, Montana where he speaks with members of the state Legislature about arts policy and funding. In 2010, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer honored Williams with the Governor’s Arts Award for his efforts in saving National Endowment for the Arts.[1] In 2017, reflecting on his time in Congress, Williams said “the opportunity to defend freedom of expression in a meaningful way” was on of the “great thrills” he had in the Congress. When asked about President Trump’s threats to defund the agency once again, Williams said, “art can flourish without politics. The reverse is not true. Art reflects the diversity and pluralism of our society, which is free. And freedom is our bulwark against tyranny.” [9]


In 1980 Williams won reelection against Jack McDonald with 61% of the vote; in 1982 against Bob Davies with 60%; in 1984 against Gary Carlson with 67%; in 1986 against Don Allen with 62%, 1988 against Jim Fenlason with 61%; in 1990 against Brad Johnson. In 1992 Montana lost its second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, leaving Williams to campaign against fellow incumbent Ron Marlenee.

Williams narrowly won with 50% of the vote. In 1994 he was elected to his ninth and final term, defeating Cy Jamison with 49% of the votes. He chose not to run for reelection in 1996, and Republican Rick Hill defeated Bill Yellowtail to become Montana's new U.S. Representative that year. As of 2020, Williams is the last Democrat to represent Montana in the U.S. House.

Recent history

Williams is Senior Fellow and Regional Policy associate at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West and he serves on the Boards of Directors for the National Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges,[10] the National Association of Job Corps, and The President's Advisory Commission for Tribal Colleges.

Williams was on the board of directors of the Student Loan Marketing Association, the now disbanded GSE subsidiary of U.S.A. Education (Sallie Mae). Williams also writes newspaper columns on occasion.[11]

Nominated for a seat on the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education in 2012 by then-governor Brian Schweitzer, Williams endured opposition to his pending confirmation. It arose due to publication of an out-of-context statement made to a New York Times reporter regarding a half dozen players on the University of Montana football team who recently ran afoul of the law. He referred just to those six as "thugs," but his statement was taken as referring to the entire team and program.[12] The cause for confusion was due to Williams' continued attempts to clarify his statements. He was first quoted by ESPN saying, "Montana recruits thugs". His clarification to a half dozen players did not come until his confirmation hearing. By that point the damage had been done. His confirmation to the Board of Regents was blasted to the Senate floor and the Republican-majority Senate rejected his appointment.[citation needed]

Williams is a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Missoulian, JOE NICKELL of the. "Six receive Governor's Arts Awards: Pat Williams honored for saving National Endowment for the Arts". Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  2. ^ a b c Bauerlein, Mark; Grantham, Ellen (2009). National Endowment for the Arts : A History, 1965–2008 (PDF). Washington D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts. pp. 89–119.
  3. ^ "The Mapplethorpe Censorship Controversy". Political Research Associates. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  4. ^ a b Kresse, Mary Ellen (January 1, 1991). "Turmoil at the National Endowment for the Arts: Can Federally Funded Act Sur unded Act Survive the "Mapplethorpe Contr e the "Mapplethorpe Controversy" ?". Buffalo Law Review: 44 – via Digital Commons.
  5. ^ "Comments on A. Serrano (U.S. Senate)". Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  6. ^ Honan, William H. (1989-08-16). "Artist Who Outraged Congress Lives Amid Christian Symbols". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  7. ^ 136 CONG. REc. H9448-53 (daily ed. October 11, 1990).
  8. ^ Parachini, Changed NEA Likely Even Without Content Rules, L.A. Times, Oct. 29, 1990
  9. ^ a b "'Bulletproof': NEA will survive Trump's proposed cuts, former lawmaker says". AP NEWS. 2017-03-17. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  10. ^ "AGB". Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  11. ^ "Montana's not so 'red' after all". Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  12. ^ Johnson, Charles. Brouhaha over regent's confirmation hits Senate, Billings Gazette; accessed March 21, 2013.
  13. ^ "Rep. Pat Williams joins the ReFormers Caucus". Issue One. Retrieved 2017-06-02.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Max Baucus
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's 1st congressional district

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's At-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Rick Hill
This page was last edited on 29 March 2021, at 07:27
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