Samuel Cole Williams

Samuel Cole Williams (January 15, 1864 – December 14, 1947) was a noted 19th and 20th century Tennessee jurist, historian, educator, and businessman.

Early lifeEdit

Samuel C. Williams was born January 15, 1864 near Humboldt, Tennessee. At the urging of family friend Horace Lurton, later a U. S. Supreme Court Justice, Williams pursued law training. He attended Vanderbilt University's School of Law and graduated in June 1884. After a few years of legal practice in Jonesborough, Tennessee Williams moved to Johnson City, Tennessee in 1892.

Williams joined politician Walter P. Brownlow in forming Watauga Light and Power Company and the Johnson City Transit Company (Johnson City Streetcar Company). In conjunction with John Cox he established the Banking and Trust Company which later became Unaka National Bank, Tennessee National Bank, and finally Hamilton National Bank. Judge Williams also had interests in Empire Chair Company and the John Sevier Hotel.

Government and public serviceEdit

In 1912 he became Chancellor of First Chancery Division of Tennessee. In 1913 he was appointed to complete a vacated seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court. The next year he was elected to the court for a four-year term. He was re-elected in 1918. He left the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve as first dean of the Lamar School of Law (also known as Emory University School of Law) at, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia from 1919 to 1924.

He was appointed to codify the laws of Tennessee in 1928 and again in 1938. His eight-volume work, Williams Annotated Code of Tennessee, commonly known as "The Williams Code", became a model for other state revisions.

Historian and writerEdit

In 1925 Judge Williams retired to his home, "Aquone", at Johnson City, Tennessee. The house, named after a Cherokee word for "resting place" was modeled after a Maryland colonial home Williams had visited. His personal library was fashioned after the design of Sir Walter Scott's study at Abbotsford House. The home is named on both the Tennessee Historical Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

In his later years he devoted much of his time to writing. His history texts and articles carried his personal, if wordy, enthusiastic style which helped to popularize local history studies. Tennessee Governor Prentice Cooper appointed him to head the rejuvenated Tennessee Historical Commission in 1941. In that position he founded publications and arranged the 1944 purchase of a Johnson City farm which became the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site. During these years Williams founded the East Tennessee Historical Society and was also in part responsible for providing the land and financing of the public library in Johnson City named in memory of his son, Mayne Williams.

During his final years he helped prepare for the Tennessee Sesquicentennial in 1946 and was a member of the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure in the Federal Courts.

Judge Williams was an avid scholar and collector of Tennessee history and gave many items to libraries and museums. His papers are found in the East Tennessee State University Archives of Appalachia, the University of Tennessee's Frank H. McClung Museum and in the Archives of Emory University.

He died December 14, 1947.


  • History of the Lost State of Franklin (1924)
  • Lieut. Henry Timberlake's Memoirs, 1756–1765 (editor, 1927)
  • Early Travels in the Tennessee Country, 1540–1800 (1928)
  • Adair's History of the American Indians (editor, 1930) (see James Adair (historian))
  • Beginnings of West Tennessee: In the Land of the Chickasaws, 1541–1841 (1930)
  • General John T. Wilder, Commander of the Lightning Brigade (1936)
  • Dawn of Tennessee Valley and Tennessee History (1937)
  • History of Johnson City and its Environs (1940)
  • Phases of Southwest Territory History (1940)
  • The Lincolns and Tennessee (1942)
  • Tennessee During the American Revolutionary War (1944)
  • Phases of the History of the Supreme Court of Tennessee (1944)
  • The Admission of Tennessee into the Union (1945)
  • William Tatham, Wataugan (1947)

See alsoEdit

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