Timothy Alden Williams ’54

Timothy Alden Williams, 84, of Charlotte, North Carolina, died Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

The family provided some of the following information: Alden was born Nov. 16, 1932.He married Joyce Schuller Williams on June 3, 1962, in Buffalo, New York.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1960. Alden was a member of the First Congregational Church of Manhattan.

He attended A.B. Davidson College and got his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina. Alden was a professor of political science at Kansas State University from 1967 to 1994.

One of the smartest and most audacious things Alden’s son ever did was to ask his father, a few years ago, to write his own obituary, since no one else could do it so well. Find it at http://taldenwilliams.blogspot.com/ (or below).

Alden is survived by his wife, Joyce Williams, of Claremont, California, a daughter, Heather Williams, of Claremont, California, and a son, Evan Williams, of Hong Kong.

Services will be June 24, 2017 at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina.

One Reply to “Timothy Alden Williams ’54”

  1. Timothy Alden Williams, reporter and teacher, died wistfully on February 24, 2017 in Hendersonville, North Carolina after a brief quarrel with the calendar. He was 84.

    Williams was variously called Alden (family and classroom) or Timothy (Army and newsroom). He said having two names is “mnemonically mnifty” when meeting old friends in unfamiliar circumstances. In either case, he was born November 16, 1932 in Charlotte, NC, to Irena Louise Foreman, a poet and teacher, and John Payne Williams, an economics professor at Davidson College.

    Williams attended Lower Merion public schools in suburban Philadelphia and was graduated in history from Davidson College. He was commissioned in the Army Infantry and served as platoon leader and, thanks to forgiving NCOs, as company commander in the Third Division at Fort Benning.

    Williams transferred to counterespionage in Berlin. His protean doings there are secret, boring, or not fit telling in mixed company.

    After the Army, he parlayed experience on four daily newspapers into reporting for United Press as it became UP International in Chicago. Big town/small staff yielded opportunities to cover people like radiography pioneer Emil Grubbé, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson, and John Kennedy.

    Williams’ most vivid images came, however, from stories he heard from Robert (Bobby) Loughran. Loughran, a newspaper UP veteran when he covered the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929.

    Williams learned, as generations before him, that the best news stories wouldn’t work as fiction. He happily wrote little pieces of history like these:

    SOMEWHERE, WI January 15 (UPI)—Street cleaning today was slow as molasses in January.

    A tanker truck overturned and spilled 6,000 gallons of the black syrup on Main Street.

    SOMEWHERE ELSE, IL (UPI)—- Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey? his wife pleaded on the telephone.

    William Bailey, a volunteer fireman, arrived home in time to extinguish a grease fire in their two bedroom bungalow.

    He enjoyed rewriting to put colleagues’ fine lines up top, as in this piece about deaf and blind children at the Shrine Circus:

    Chicago (UPI) – The deaf children laughed first because they could see.

    Then their blind playmates laughed, and the circus was the most exciting place in the world.

    It wasn’t just the annual Shrine Circus. It was an afternoon away from class for more than 200 youngsters…

    The partially deaf and the blind wore earphones to “see” the action, but the headsets didn’t get in the way of peanuts and cotton candy. The blind children couldn’t run up and down the aisle, but no one said they had to sit all the way back in their seats.

    The deaf children couldn’t hear the lions roar or the dogs bark or the music for prancing horses. But they could shudder and shriek and clap for the clowns, and fear for the pretty girl on the elephant…

    The blind children were led to the lion tamer’s cage. They asked whether his gun was loaded. They paced off the distance lions would jump from stand to stand. The lion tamer offered his leather whip to a child who was born blind. “Yes, yes!” he cried.

    The clowns were luckier than people who sat near the children. Grease paint masked their eyes.

    His fondest beat at UPI was his gifted and beautiful colleague, Joyce Elaine Schuller. They collaborated on two adored and devoted children, Evan Charles and Heather Lee.

    Their marriage began at Chapel Hill, NC, midway to a doctorate in political science. They spent two years in the Mershon program at Ohio State University and a year teaching in Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies. Thirty years later, he found himself as emeritus professor of political science at a middle western land grant school.

    Williams specialized in what states do in the name of security. He defined collective or personal “security” as a dynamic popular (or individual) expectation of relative constitutional integrity. His field ignored it. He quantified it. Nobody cared. He rephrased it as “How much folks feel yawned.” Williams consigned it to his obituary.

    Williams wasn’t a scholar, but he loved students and loved learning with them and from them. He asked each new student his or her “home of the heart.” He cherished replies like “Where light is.” He wept at a reply like, “No home, no place, no people.”

    He invited questions, the less comfortable the better. A cheeky graduate student asked him, “Professor, what are you really interested in?” An older undergraduate in U.S. foreign policy asked, “How does a person get involved without getting beat up?” Williams spent most of his career answering them.

    Williams rarely mentioned Nobel and Pulitzer awards, having earned neither one. He nominated himself for the Berklee-Lassus Tutorial in Euphonium-Trombone-Baritone Horn, but withdrew when he remembered he couldn’t play a lick on the euphonium. He did receive an American Legion medal in ninth grade, a secret he kept until very late in life when he told his barber.

    He liked the banjo a lot. He never played the banjo in a Presbyterian church, where he was baptized, or in a Congregational, Methodist, Unitarian, or Quaker meeting, all of which he found uplifting, albeit in need of banjos.

    When he finally retired to his native North Carolina, tremors silenced his banjo. But one man’s tremor is another man’s trope. He liked limericks, he said, because they’re fun to write…and because they’re the only art form, besides puns and dark verse who highest praise is “That’s terrible.” For example, from “Cool Prophets”:

    Joshua fought the battle of Jericho
    With Canaan brought low, Israel’s good to go.
    His other cool stunts
    (He parted the sea once)
    Were old news. Moses pulled them off years befo’.

    A feminist icon named Jezebel
    Was tossed out a window in Jezre’el
    For her worship of Baal
    She was last heard to wail
    “I shouldn’a led Jews down the road to hell.”

    Scholastics don’t care for Maimonides,
    They don’t dig his contrary negateeves.
    Preaching what God is not,
    Just look what it got
    Him: M.D., LLB., but no Ph.D.’s.

    Lots of kin and kith succeed him. They know who and how precious they are, and they all mind Mammy Yokum: “Good is better than evil because it’s nicer.”

    Williams liked flowers, but not to celebrate his death. The beloved, unexpected, and fascinating people in his life were their own hillside of blooms. In lieu of flowers, he would prefer that anyone who gives a hoot do at least one thing that they would not otherwise have done. A hoot is a good start.

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