Al F. Williams. Whether as a lawyer, as a business man or in the circles of the republican party, Al F. Williams is a recognized leader in civic affairs in Cherokee County. His interests have been so many that while some may know him best as a lawyer, others would think of him as one of the most virile personalities in republican politics in the state, and still others would recognize his prominent relations with the business growth and development of his home city.
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Born in Appleton City, St. Clair County, Missouri, July 10, 1876, Mr. Williams is of Welsh descent, though his ancestors immigrated to Pennsylvania in colonial days, and afterward became pioneers into Illinois. His father, L. A. Williams, was born in Southern Illinois in 1850, grew up there, when a young man went to Missouri, lived in Parsons, Kansas, for three years, from 1874, then at Appleton City, Missouri, until 1888, at Lamar, Missouri, until 1899, and then came to Columbus, Kansas, where he was engaged in the grocery business until his death in May, 1901. A republican in politics, he filled a position in the city council of Lamar for several terms, and in every community where he lived took an active part in civic affairs. Fraternally he was identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Woodmen of the World. Jennie J. Wylie, who married L. A. Williams, was born in Kansas in 1849, and is still living with her son, Al F. Williams, at Columbus. Her children were two in number. The daughter Edith, is the wife of C. W. Van Zandt, eashier of the Columbus State Bank, and they have one daughter, Ailene, born in 1911.
Al F. Williams spent most of his early life in the State of Missouri, attending the public schools of Appleton City and Lamar and graduating from the high school of Lamar in 1894. For one year he taught school in Barton County, Missouri, and then traveled by way of an old-fashioned prairie schooner to Mountain Grove, Wright County, Missouri, where he established the Mountain Advertiser and conducted that publication until the fall of the same year. Returning then to Lamar, he entered the law office of Thurman & Wray, and diligently pursued his studies up to October, 1896.
Reared as a republican, he became a factor in politics before he had reached his majority. During the McKinley campaign of 1896 he made many speeches in Barton and Jasper counties, Missouri, and in Cherokee County, Kansas.
It was no doubt the acquaintance he formed in Cherokee County during that time that led to his taking up his residence at Columbus, where he finished his law studies in the office of C. D. Ashley, and was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1897.
Since his admission to the bar Mr. Williams has conducted a large civil and criminal practice. His standing as a lawyer is well indicated by the fact that he is local attorney for the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad Company, for the Kansas City Southern Railway Company, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, for the Mayer Coal Company, the Central Coal and Coke Company, the Long Bell Lumber Company and the Clemens Coal Company.
His part as a citizen has been not less important than his activities as a lawyer. For the past twenty years he has identified himself actively with every movement for the upbuilding of Columbus. He assisted in getting all the railroads, and has been one of the prominent men in the Commercial Club.
Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish-American war Mr. Williams enlisted, May 2, 1898, in Company F of the Twenty-second Kansas Regiment. He was first lieutenant of his company, and ninety days after his enlistment was made acting quartermaster of the regiment upon death of Quartermaster Lieutenant Lamb. The regiment was commanded by Col. H. C. Lindsey. From Topeka it went to Camp Alger in Virginia, marched through Thoroughfare Gap and camped on the old battlefield of Bull Run or Manasas, and spent the last sixty days in Camp Meade, Pennsylvania. The regiment was mustered out in November, 1898, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. With that exception Mr. Williams has been in active practice at Columbus since his admission to the bar.
For two terms he served as city attorney, and administered the office of county attorney of Cherokee County with great efficiency for two terms, from 1902 to 1906. He had already gained a splendid reputation as a criminal lawyer, and was able to render a great service to the county during the term he was official prosecutor.
Mr. Williams is treasurer of the Republican State Committee, is treasurer of the Congressional Committee, is chairman of the Republican County Central Committee, and was recently a candidate for the nomination for attorney general of the state against Mr. Fred S. Jackson. He entered that contest without hope of success, and it was a gratifying tribute to his reputation and personalities that he polled 40,000 votes. He was also candidate for nomination for judge of the Eleventh Judicial District, and though he made no campaign, he lost the nomination by the narrow margin of forty-five votes. In March, 1915, Mr. Williams was elected at the Kansas State Republican Convention one of the Big Four delegates from Kansas, and in that capacity he attended the National Convention in Chicago, where he was assigned to membership on the committee of rules and order of business.
A strong believer in fraternalism, Mr. Williams has been again and again honored in the various orders in which he is a member. He is a past Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias of the state, is past chancellor commander of Columbus Lodge No. 12 of that order, belongs to the Pythian Sisters, to the D. O. K. K., to the Uniform Rank and the Insurance Department of the Knights of Pythian. He is a member of the Kansas Grand Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and is past exalted ruler of Lodge No. 677, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, at Galena. Other fraternities of which he is a member are Lodge No. 387, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Camp No. 72, Woodmen of the World, the Rebekahs and the Anti-Horse Thief Association. He is on the executive committee of the Columbus Commercial Club, and is the only citizen of Columbus who has membership in the Pittsburg Country Club. As president of the Old Settlers Reunion Association he brought about the most successful meeting of that organization ever held in the reunion of August, 1916.
Mr. Williams is president of the Columbus Building & Loan Association, is president of the Western Cigar and Tobacco Company, a wholesale organization, is president of the local Chautauqua Association, and has a large amount of property in and about Columbus. His offices are in the Bliss Building at the southeast corner of the square, and he is president of the company that owns the Cigar Building. His own home is at 516 West Walnut Street. Becently Mr. Williams platted an addition at the north side of Columbus situated on the street car line, and these lots are being sold for residence purposes. Besides other real estate in Columbus he owns a farm of seventy-five acres seven miles southeast of the town.
In 1905, at Columbus, Mr. Williams married Miss Kate Weisenbarker, of Pittsburg, Kansas. They have one daughter, June, born June 9, 1913.