Lewis Stanton Williams (1893-1970)
Artist and veteran of three wars, Lewis Stanton Williams was born on October 22, 1893 in Corunna, Michigan. His parents, who worked in the church, frequently relocated the family. In 1907 the Williams family moved to Capetown, South Africa, where a young Lewis began his formal training in art. As his artistic style developed, Williams found inspiration in the culture and landscape of South Africa. His surviving paintings from this time include a dramatic view of the harbor at Cape Point and a portrait of a Zulu African Chief ready for battle. Williams returned to the United States in 1914 to study art at the Corcoran School of Art, part of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Williams enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I and began training at the Officer Candidate School at Camp Gordon, Georgia in 1917. In 1921, while on Active Reserve status, he became an art professor at Emmanuel Missionary College in Berrien Springs, Michigan (today, Andrews University). He also served as a design consultant, holding patents to several lines of furniture which the college manufactured and sold. As part of his continuing military duties, he served during the summers as Camp Commander of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Orlando Park, Illinois.
In 1940 Williams was recalled for active duty and stationed at Fort Custer, Michigan. There, he rose up the ranks from Company Commander, to Battalion Commander, to Executive Officer of the Reception Center with the rank of Major. During his free time, he continued to paint. One such painting, which depicts a lone sentry standing duty during a snow storm, was later included in a national tour of soldier art sponsored by Life Magazine. Williams was soon dispatched to England, where he helped train U.S. troops in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. Just a few weeks after D-Day, he came ashore himself as Team Commander in charge of a shipload of troops. He then led his unit through France and into Germany.
Soon after the German surrender, Williams was selected for service with the Allied Military Government (AMG) as a Military Government Officer for Kassel, Germany. He also served in a similar position for the Office of Military Government for Landkreis-Stadtkreis Marburg. In Marburg, he supervised the restitution process at the Marburg Central Collecting Point, which contained works of art discovered by the Monuments Men in salt mines around the town of Bad Wildungen, among other places. Together with Monuments Man Lt. Theodore Heinrich, Williams worked to identify looted works of art and other cultural objects and return each one to the country from which it had been stolen. Following his service with the MFAA, Williams was selected as Military Governor of Frankenberg Kreis. In this position, he assumed control of all governing operations, including presiding as a judge during trials. His organizational success was such that the local government was turned over to authorities an entire year earlier than originally anticipated. He returned to the United States in 1947.
Following the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Williams was sent to Hokkaido, Japan to train the Japanese self-defense force. In 1951 he was attached as Team Commander of the United Nations Civil Assistance Command. His work included the administration of aid to over one million refugees and orphans, whose lives had been devastated by Chinese Communist forces. In recognition of his selfless service to those displaced by war, Williams was awarded the Bronze Star and promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Williams retired to a quiet life in St. Joseph, Michigan in 1954. As an active member of the Berrien Artist Guild, he traveled the region exhibiting his paintings at art fairs. He took special inspiration from return trips to Japan with his two sons.
Lewis Williams died in 1970. Today, most of his paintings remain with family members, where they are treasured by his five children, nine grandchildren, and numerous close relatives.*
*The Foundation wishes to express thanks to Eleanor Williams Beatty, daughter of Lt. Col. Williams, for her contribution to this biographical profile.