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Weekly 150: Billy O. Williams

Carroll County’s Poet Laureate

By Jason Martin
jmartin@mckenziebanner.com
Posted 12/28/21

Literature and poetry may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But in Carroll County, most are familiar with the poetic musing of Billy O. Williams.

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Weekly 150: Billy O. Williams

Carroll County’s Poet Laureate

Posted

Literature and poetry may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But in Carroll County, most are familiar with the poetic musing of Billy O. Williams.

Billy O. Williams was born February 26, 1922 at Newbill’s Cross Roads in Carroll County, Tennessee. He was the youngest son of Oliver Martin (1877–1952) and Annie Laurie Williamson Williams (1881–1974). His father was a grocer and his mother helped her father John M. Williamson (1847–1925) with the “Uncle Johnny Williams Show”. The show featured music, sleight of hand, punch and Judy Marionette troop and monologues.

Billy attended school at New Zion in the Big Buck community before graduating from McLemoresville High School. He later attended Bethel College in McKenzie.

During Wold War II, he served three-and-a-half years in the Army Air Corp. When he returned stateside, he began working at the Milan Arsenal and at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Most of his adult life was spent as a manufacturer’s representative in the furniture industry for the Memphis Furniture Company.

The Williams family came from North Carolina about 1844. Billy’s great-great-grandfather, Eliphalet Williams and his wife Ann Wilson with their seven children moved to Henderson County, Tennessee. The story goes, the family traveled by ox pulled wagons and on horse back, crossing through a gap in the mountains north of the Great Smoky Mountains. They settle near Beech River about seven miles from Lexington. Poe Alexander Williams (1820–1912), the eldest son of Eliphalet, and his wife, Deborah Gilmore, traded a skillet, lid, rifle and three quilts to the Indians for 102 acres of land on what is now the north end of Beech Lake. Hartwell Taylor Williams (1847–1944), son of Poe Alexander Williams married Martha Ann Fesmire (1851–1946), daughter of John A. Fesmire (1822–1906), and moved with their family to McLemoresville, Tennessee in 1895.

Billy married Nonie Lucille Rogers (1921–1974) in 1942. The marriage produced five children; Patricia Ann, Philip, Elizabeth, Judith and Peggy. With the death of Nonie, Billy married Nora Ann (Dolly) Dollhopf Winters, a teacher in the Huntingdon School System. She encouraged Billy’s efforts to write and publish his poetry. His writings soon developed into more than a hobby as it became part of Billy O. Williams. His poetry was nostalgic, historic , philosophic and humerus. His works lead to him being named the associate poet laureate of Tennessee and the poet laureate of Carroll County.

On August 30, 1985, Billy was killed in an automobile accident on Highway 70. He is buried in McLemoresville Cemetery.

Chigger
They say the Lord made all things good,
then sat down in the shade.
But there are some things crawling ‘round,
I ain’t so sure God made.
 
Why have a little creature
that loves our Southern Clime.
We’d share him with our Northern friends 
most gladly any time.
 
He’s a little bitty bugger,
only one of his small kind.
Too bad, he’ll only live
below the Mason-Dixon Line.
 
If you’ve ever picked blackberries
in the summer when it’s hot,
And you’ve met this little guy before,
you’ll soon know what you’ve got.
 
He’ll get around your waistline
and in between your thighs,
And keepin’ you awake all night
is where he’ll specialize.
 
About the stroke of midnight
when you’re mad enough to stomp,
That’s when the old war really starts,
you’ll scratch and he’ll chomp.
 
The only way to stop him,
is with grease of pork or mutton.
You daub it on your sit down place
and ‘round your belly button.
 
The Lord laid down to take a nap,
at least that’s what I figger,
Then the devil slipped into his shop
and made the dad’blame chigger!
 
Sundown
I went out on a hillside
and watched the sun go down;
Folks asked me why I do such simple
things or no renown.
The sun comes up each morning
and sets when day is done;
Takes lots of things to make a day,
sunset is only one.
But did you stop to think about
the folks who cannot say,
That I got up this morning
and made it though the day.
There are lots of folks who rose today
a’feeling good as me,
But something ‘fore the day was done,
they saw Eternity.
And there are those who cannot see;
their eyes are lame and blind,
And when we’re watching pretty things
we should think of their kind.
Each evening when the sun goes down,
I pause along the way
And thank the Lord that I am one
who lived another day.

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