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Williams, Daniel M.


Schooled in law, Daniel Mortimer Williams spent most of his professional life writing. Working as an editor, correspondent, columnist and magazine contributor, Williams' writing career took him from Texas and Mexico to New York City and Washington D.C. During the last thirty years of his life, Williams also worked on a biography of the American sculptor and Medieval art collector George Grey Barnard. Despite several submissions, Williams never found a publisher for his ambitious project, which in certain manuscript versions numbered more than 1,300 pages. Williams did, however, succeed in getting his articles about the artist published in the Readers Digest and the North American Review.

Born October 17, 1890, in Childress County, Texas, Williams was one of three sons of Thomas Arnold Barlow and Rebecca (Raworth) Williams. Unlike himself, Williams's brothers maintained their careers in Texas. His twin brother, David Reichard, became an architect deemed the "father of Texas modernism." The younger brother, George Raworth, became the first formally trained urologist in Dallas. Daniel did, however, begin his newspaper career in his native state. While attending the University of Texas, he served as editor of the Daily Texan, and became the first in that position to allow women on the staff. In 1917 Williams graduated with a B.A. and a degree in law. That year he also enlisted in the army and served in France for the duration of World War I. Before leaving in 1919, Williams attended the Sorbonne in Paris. He then returned to Childress County and practiced law for a year. In 1920, he returned to the University of Texas and for the next year taught English. His next job, also of one-year's duration, was as editor of a Mexican newspaper, the Tampico Tribune. In 1922 Williams took his journalistic career to New York City, working over the next decade for several newspapers, including the World Telegram, where he served as an editor and editorial writer. His work focused on social and governmental reform issues, such as civil liberties, safe food and milk regulations, bank investment and deposit protection and work programs for the unemployed. He was also instrumental in the founding of the American Newspaper Guild in New York and was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1941, Williams moved to Washington, D.C., where he first worked as a While House and State Department correspondent for the news wire service, Trans-Radio Press. From 1946 to 1947, he wrote columns for the Washington Post.

Perhaps it was Williams's attention to social issues that brought him and the American sculptor George Grey Barnard together. As a letter from Barnard reveals, he and Williams had been exchanging friendly correspondence by no later than 1934. In his two articles published in 1937, Williams championed Barnard's work, particularly the Rainbow Arch, which the artist envisioned as a monumental memorial to peace, inspired by the human suffering of the First World War. According to correspondence written less than two months before his death in April 1938, Barnard recalled his agreeing to let Williams write his biography because the writer, having been "a great friend to [the] Rainbow Arch," had lost his job. Unfortunately, Barnard felt the need to remind his friend of this agreement because he was so displeased with the manuscript Williams sent him for review. "You tried to create a pagan Zeus, a god following his own desires--reckless of all others," Barnard complained, "[I]f . . . printed, I surely would have no friends in the world." Undaunted, Williams continued working on his manuscript, offering it for comment to Barnard's son and widow, who expressed her own concerns with the work. Publishers were no more encouraging, yet Williams continued to submit his manuscript despite their rejections. His last attempt was in 1962.

In addition to his Barnard articles, Williams was published in the New Republic and the New Yorker. In 1946 he began working on a biography of Mary McLeod Bethune, an African American educator, reformer and activist during the first half of the 20th century. Like the Barnard book project, the Bethune biography was never completed. Williams remained in Washington with his wife Jean (Lockwood). They had two children, David R. and Jean. Williams died on November 1, 1969, at the age of 79.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Daniel M. Williams Biographical Collection of George Grey Barnard

Identifier: DMW
Abstract This collection documents the efforts of journalist Daniel M. Williams to refine and publish a biography of the American sculptor and collector George Grey Barnard. While the project never came to fruition, the collection represents approximately 30 years of Williams's accumulated research and writings, and consists of correspondence, including some of Barnard's personal letters to his family, as well as clippings, ephemera and photographs regarding the artist's life and career as a sculptor...
Dates: 1863-1969, undated