Class  of  1932

W.  Bryant   Williams

Obituary  and   Honors


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P-I patriarch Bryant Williams dies

Former Paris Post-Intelligencer editor/publisher Bryant Williams died Thursday at age 95.

Williams was the patriarch of the family that has owned The P-I for more than 80 years.

He was the publisher of The P-I from 1967 through 1981.

He had worked at the newspaper for his father, Percy Williams, who purchased the paper in 1927. In his early years, he worked in many departments, including advertising, bookkeeping and circulation, even in his high school years.

He interrupted his work to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II, earning the Bronze Star.

Williams worked at The P-I after the war, then left to work for The Daily Herald in Columbia from 1956-59. When he returned to Paris, he worked as a news reporter for several years before succeeding his father as editor/publisher in 1967.

He passed the torch to his son Bill in 1981.

Bryant Williams’ wife, the former Julia Sensing, preceded him in death on June 7, 2008.

McEvoy Funeral Home will be in charge of arrangements. More details will appear in Friday’s P-I.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


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Patriarch of P-I family dies

W. Bryant Williams

Bryant Williams, longtime publisher, guided newspaper for nearly 20 years
Published: Friday, July 24, 2009 12:42 PM CDT
W. Bryant Williams, editor emeritus of The Post-Intelligencer, died at his home Thursday afternoon at age 95.

His funeral will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church with burial in Memorial Cemetery. Officiating will be the Revs. Jenna Goggins, the church pastor, and Doug Scott, who grew up in the church.

Pallbearers will be grandsons-in-law Jim Barnett and Doug Ray; and great-grandsons Jeremy Maxwell, Daniel Williams, Matthew Williams and Adam Ray.

Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Rotary Club.

Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Saturday at McEvoy Funeral Home and after 1 p.m. Sunday at the church.

Williams followed his father as editor and publisher of The P-I. He grew up in the family business, went to work full-time upon graduation from high school and, except for Army service in World War II and four years spent with a newspaper in Columbia, he worked at The P-I until his retirement in 1978 at the age of 64.

He was succeeded as editor and publisher by his son, Bill, now retired; and later by his grandson, Michael, the current editor and publisher.

Bryant Williams was publisher of the newspaper from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1978, the two periods separated by his work in Columbia.

Born in the Birmingham suburb of Ensley, Ala., on June 30, 1914, he was the second of seven children of W. Percy and Lucy Cowan Williams. The family moved to Paris from Alabama in 1927; he graduated from Grove High School in 1932.

After retirement, his “Post Mortems” columns of local history served as the basis for a tape-recorded walking tour of downtown Paris. The columns were published in booklet form in three volumes by the Henry County Historical Society.

He enlisted in the Army in 1943, won a lieutenant’s commission and served in Europe as an anti-aircraft platoon leader with Patton’s Third Army. He won the Bronze Star for meritorious service.

He was a civic leader, serving variously as president of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Lions and Rotary clubs. He was a charter member of the Elks Lodge and of the Young Business Men’s Club, the Chamber of Commerce forerunner. He helped organize the Food Bank, the Sports Hall of Fame, the People for Progress city beautification group, the Salvation Army service unit and the Rotary scholarship program.

He shared the Chamber of Commerce “person of the year” award with two others in 1964 for their work in industrial development. In 1997 he received both the city’s Marquis de Paris award and the DAR Community Service Award. The Betsy Ross Foundation of Allegro Fine Foods named a scholarship for him.

Williams served as president of the Tennessee Press Association in 1970-71 and was recognized for distinguished service with the Governor’s committee for the Employment of the Handicapped.

First Presbyterian Church recognized him for 50 years of service as a church elder in 1992, and at his death he was the longest-serving elder in the congregation’s history. He joined the church at age 12, held many offices in it and was ordained as a deacon as well as an elder.

He was married in 1933 to his high school sweetheart, the former Julia Sensing. She died in June 2008, three months before the couple would have observed their 75th wedding anniversary.

He is also survived by a brother, the Rev. Ernest (LaVerne) Williams of Hutchinson, Kan., and two sisters, Eunice Clark of Fulton, Ky., and Jeane Herrmann of Lisle, Ill.

Other survivors are a daughter-in-law, Bill's wife, Anne; three granddaughters: Cindy Barnett of Murray, Julie Ray of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joan Stevens of Paris; a granddaughter-in-law, Michael's wife, Evonne; 11 great-grandchilden; and two great-great-grandchildren.

, July 24, 2009

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Post Script

My dad epitomized 'greatest generation'

Dan Brokaw called the people of Bryant Williams’ time “the greatest generation.” And for good reason.

They were toughened by the Great Depression, which taught them that it’s possible to survive on very little.

They fought and won the most terrible war in the history of mankind, which taught them that great purposes are worth great struggles.

Those two lessons, how to exist in great adversity and how to achieve victory against improbable odds, served Bryant Williams well.

Despite the pressures of running a newspaper that knew nothing about a 40-hour week, he threw himself into the service of the community that had been his home since boyhood. That litany of activity is detailed elsewhere in this edition.

But life is not described by such things. Being president of this group and recipient of that honor is fine, but the title of “greatest” requires more.

In the life of Bryant Williams, that “something more” quality was once pinpointed by his nephew, Jimmy Williams: Integrity.

My father was a man you could depend on. Once he took on an obligation you could rest assured that the job would be done. If he said a thing was so, it was so.

Those broad shoulders sometimes bore the brunt of family problems, where he was looked up to as the elder brother, the uncrowned chief of the clan.

His was not a brute strength, though, for he had a tender heart. When he perceived that he might have offended someone, which inevitably happens from time to time in the newspaper business, it bothered him. He spent sleepless nights agonizing over what might have been done, and I admire him for that sensitivity.

About five years ago, I told him he was the man I wanted to be when I grow up, and I meant it.

I feel sorry for new friends who only saw him as an enfeebled old man. It must be difficult for them to comprehend how he could be among the greatest. But believe me, he was.

There walked a lion.

Bill Williams is editor emeritus of The Post-Intelligencer.

Friday, July 24, 2009


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Bryant was a true gentleman


To the editor:

It was a hot August day and a young politician was traveling through the
countryside campaigning.

He stopped at a small country store somewhat like Bernice Rainey’s store at
Jones Mill. An old man was sitting on a bench in front of the store whittling.

The young politician gave the old man his campaign card. The old man never
looked up, but he did read the card.

He said, “I don’t believe I’ve heard of you, son.” This made the young
politician angry, him being somewhat arrogant and self-centered.

He said, “You mean sir, you have never heard of me? I have represented you in
this state for the past four years.”

The old man looked up and said, “Son, I don’t know how famous you have become,
but the weather will always determine how many people attend your funeral.”

I knew Bryant Williams for more than 60 years. He was a “gentle” man, a man of
integrity, a true gentleman. The weather certainly would not determine how many
would attend Mr. Bryant Williams’ funeral.

He was a part of our greatest generation. He met his final deadline with grace
and dignity.

Goodbye, Bryant.

Joe Hendrix

1239 W. Wood St.


Monday, July 27, 2009 ~ The Paris Post-Intelligencer


              Bryant was a preacher's teacher




When I was a child growing up, I had four brothers.

I heard stories about the days when they were growing up, and felt that I had missed out on all the fun. I was the “baby,” seventh in line.

The four of them were like gods to me, with nearly superhuman strength and knowledge, and a mythology from the ancient times before I was born. I looked up to them from my merely earthly station in life.

One by one, death has taken them. Percy, named after my father, died of a heart attack just after his retirement at age 65. Jim died with a brain tumor at age 70. Lee died at 85 from prostate cancer.

And now Bryant, who reached age 95 and proved to be a tough nut for death to crack, is gone.

Bryant finished high school when I was less than a year old. As far back as I can remember, he was an adult — married and living away from our house. So I don’t have any memories of him as my “big brother,” as I do of the two who were nearer to me in age.

Bryant was nevertheless one of my heroes. In World War II, he was as distinguished an officer as any of them. And after the war, he was the one who stayed in Paris as business manager of The Post-Intelligencer, when our father was editor and publisher.

After my own stint in the army during the Korean War, with no heroism involved, I came back to take a place on The P-I staff. Instead of operating a type-setting machine, as I had done before, I spent some time servicing advertising clients and then began writing the news.

It was Bryant who was my teacher, and I have no doubt that I gave him some anxious moments as a pupil. He advanced me to the position of city editor, with responsibility for deciding what to put on the front of the paper, how big a headline each item deserved and laying out the front page.

After nine years, I left to prepare for entering the ministry. And in both college and seminary, I was able to pull down top grades because I had learned at a P-I news desk how to decide what was important and how to communicate the essence of a story in a way that a reader could comprehend.

Bryant was my model, instructor and judge during those nine years. Every sermon I preach to this day, after 44 years of ordained ministry, bears the marks of what I learned from him.

If anyone hears a Bible story from my lips today with clarity, and experiences the encounter with the living God that the writer intended, it is because I was trained to recognize the gist of a story and to tell it plainly in common language.

Of course, the Holy Spirit is the one who is entitled to the credit, but none of us would be able to serve Him without the earthly teachers we have had.

Bryant had left Paris for a four-year period. I like to think that my decision to enter the ministry had something to do with panicking my father into calling Bryant back to the newspaper as editor and publisher in 1961.

My father was, in all honesty, an easily irritated man, and found it difficult to stay retired without looking over his son’s shoulder.

The two of them found some rough spots in their relationship, partly because both of them were so capable.

Both of them had accurate — I could say brilliant — instincts about what the newspaper needed, but they belonged to two different eras in the history of the business and the nation.

Bryant understood a new generation’s way of dealing with employees, suppliers and customers. And he took the risk of investing in new production technologies, replacing machines made in the 1800s.

On one visit to Paris, I experienced the shock of seeing a typesetting machine like I had operated in my youth, polished up and sitting in the front office as a historical exhibit.

It was a visible declaration, if I needed one, that times had changed. I no longer had a trade to fall back on.

My father’s mantle as patriarch of his large family and of The P-I fell upon Bryant’s shoulders. The only one of the seven of us remaining in Paris, he and Julia moved into our parents’ home, improved and beautified it, and watched over our far-flung tribe.

His son Bill and grandson Michael have taken their turns at the helm of The P-I, and no doubt have fuller stories than I to tell. The whole community, and perhaps especially the First Presbyterian Church, have felt his impact.

But I can’t let this week go by without expressing my admiration and thanksgiving.

Thanks, Bryant!

The Rev. C. Ernest Williams is a Paris native and retired Presbyterian pastor now living in Kansas. He can be reached by e-mail at

Monday, August 3, 2009
~ The Paris Post-Intelligencer



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Reprinted from the Paris Post-Intelligencer
Paris, Tennessee
Used by permission