Sammy D. Williams
January 11, 1934 - January 10, 2021
Just when you thought you knew Sam Williams, you will soon find out that he truly was “The Most Interesting Man in The World!” The following is a story about Sam Williams as a standard obituary certainly would not do him justice and I assure you he would haunt me forever if I submitted anything less than to share with his friends and family a bit of the story about the making of Sam Williams.
Sam was born in Holly Springs, Arkansas and later moved to Kountze, Texas. He suffered some unusual adversities growing up that actually gave him an incredible desire to do more than anyone thought he could physically accomplish. As a young boy he ran across a bed of coals and the bottoms of both of his feet were severely burned and scarred. The damage created walking issues for the rest of his life, but he hid it well! Sam later came down with a respiratory infection so rare that he spent over 2 years in and out of what he called, “Sanatoriums for the physically challenged”! He was later cured but said it was his first claim to being famous as it was written about in medical journals!
Sam went to Kountze High School and later attended Sam Houston State University. He loved drafting and drawing buildings of all kinds and found that he also loved teaching. Needless to say he was involved in the Theater Department, Drama Department, and every art program the school had to offer. Sam could not feed his creative self enough and began studying all kinds of crafting projects that could be done on a budget. Making complete costumes and set designs consumed him but he said that it was what he could go to sleep dreaming about and then create it the next day.
The following are some descriptors of what Sammy D. Williams experienced and accomplished over his 86 years on this Earth! Thank you to Dale Andrews and Soni Martin, two of his dearest friends for filling in the early career adventures of Sam Williams.
Art Teacher at Ft. Hood, Texas / US Civilian Art Specialist (US Army) Fort McClellan , Alabama as the Installation Arts and Crafts Director / Viet Nam as the Administrator of the Army Arts and Crafts Recreation Program - his primary role was to make available for a soldier to have a near normal situation where they could enjoy and pursue their creative pursuits. At this time he had risen to the highest level as Area South Viet Nam Arts and Craft Staff Director. Sam said he had accomplished what he felt was one of his highest personal achievements by developing transportable photo labs that could be located in forward areas with helicopters. The soldiers loved them and they were used by everyone!
As Viet Nam was winding down troops and supporting civilian employees were being rotated out of country. Sammy decided to take a position in Panama as the Command Staff Arts and Crafts Director, supervising 16 Arts and Craft Facilities on the Atlantic and Pacific Areas. This assignment would prove to be one of the most challenging jobs in his career!
Dale Andrews, one of Sam’s dearest friends, is the one who has shared this narration about Sam and his career in the US Army Arts and Crafts Programs. It was in Panama that the two met and literally became immersed in one of the largest undertakings of their lives. Dale referred to the fact that they were facing a three headed monster that had to be completed in just a few months. Hard to believe what the challenges were at that time and how these two facilitated getting so much done.
The pending Panama Canal Treaty that the U.S. Senate was negotiating was pivotal in the changes. The reduction of 11 military bases would leave only two Army Arts and Crafts Facilities in the Atlantic area and one larger one in the Pacific Area. Literally they only had 14 days upon the completion of the Treaty and changes to complete this first part. The second head of this monster was over one million dollars to pay for the renovations and expansions of the three remaining facilities. Again this would be a time crunch after the Treaty was signed. Finally the last head of the monster, which Dale described as the most difficult was the requirement that the U.S. Army create a new universal standard for ordering equipment. If the items were to be requested from one part of the country it would be a standard item that would be used across the globe with no compromise. The Table of Distributions and Allowances had been created and Sam and Dale were right in the middle of it when dealing with the Arts and Crafts for the entire military. Sam was in Panama for almost 3 years and literally fell in love with the culture and his job, but he longed for something state side. A home and a partner was to be in his future.
Ft. Bragg, North Carolina would be Sam’s next destination. Sam had been the Director of Arts and Crafts Centers around the world on military bases. They were supported by the Department of Defense in the division of Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Depending on their locations around the world, the facilities supported active military and their dependents. All classes were free and the facilities were amazing! This would be where his other dear friend, Soni Martin, came in with her accounts of Sam and his adventures at Ft. Bragg, NC.
Fort Bragg was a huge arts and crafts arena for Sam to really jump into. The giant building had wood working, photo lab, ceramic studios, arts and crafts studios, a resale store, 3 auto shops and 2 music shops and Sam was in charge over all of the personnel and programs. Sam was no stranger to Arrowmont or Penland, amazing schools for artists from all over the world. It was at Ft. Bragg that Sam met a very handsome young potter who had a knack for teaching and was just as laid back as Sam was high energy. Bill Hildebrand came into Sam’s life and heart!
Sam and Bill remained with the U.S. Army Arts and Recreations Program for a number of years and it afforded them some amazing opportunities. The European Recreational Association was Sam’s new position and they lived in Wurzburg, Germany as well as in Frankfort at V Corps. Sam and Bill spent two years serving the Arts and Crafts programs of the U.S. Army but longed for deeper roots. So back to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, they went.
So once again the two set up home in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and resumed their love of their crafts and teaching. Pottery was Bill’s specialty and Sam was the master of many amazing crafts! Basket weaving, fiber arts on his huge loom, sewing clothes such as his three piece white linen suit with a home made pattern, drawing, drafting, furniture making, needlework of all kinds…the list goes on and on! He was truly a gifted artist of all mediums.
As Sam approached what he believed to be a good time to retire the two got in their RV and traveled all across the US and ended up driving down the Texas coast on one of their adventures. Sam said that they came across the causeway and the water just called to them. They drove down Fulton Beach Road and the windswept oaks spoke to them both as living art. As they approached the harbors of Fulton and Rockport they just fell in love with the movement of the water and the boats. It was love at first trip! They contacted a real estate company and looked at 20 houses! Finally found the right one and it was perfect! Studio for Bill and studio for Sam! A yard that Bill, having a horticulture degree along with his teaching degree, could make a paradise. They now belonged to Rockport!
I met the two of them shortly after they moved to Rockport and was immediately drawn to this pair of characters! Chatty Kathy Sam and Quiet Serene Bill! Their passion for Aransas County was unstoppable. I worked with them with the Art Center for numerous 4 th of July Celebrations. We screened entries, rode around the grounds on golf carts with our magic wands and tiaras on our heads. We had it going on for sure. Sam and Bill jumped at any opportunity to help any organization in Aransas County including the Rockport Little Theatre, Connie Hagar Birding Center, South Rockport Neighborhood Association, palm tree plantings throughout the county, The Texas Kite Festival, Bountiful Bowl Pottery Festival, and of course multiple donations to civic projects throughout their lives.
My Sam…he was truly “ The Most Interesting Man In The World”. Sammy D. Williams was the father of Danny Williams and Grandfather of Katy and Cody Williams of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was the uncle of Kitt Williams of Jefferson, Texas, Dr. Michael D. Williams of Midlothian, Texas, and Dr. Scott T. Williams of Austin, Texas. He was “Uncle Sam” to my kids and grandkids. He was opinionated and dedicated. He was a man with many opinions, for sure, but most of all Sam was entertaining and sincerely engaging in intelligent conversations, even though often one sided! I can see you smiling because you experienced Sam Williams…he will be missed. PS. I am Analisa Kennedy and am not Sam’s MOTHER! He often referred to me as … “Mother”!
Per Sam’s request we will be hosting one last party and art sale! All funds raised will continue to fund the Bill Hildebrand and Sam Williams Scholarship Fund. The fund was established after the passing of Sam’s life partner, Bill Hildebrand. Over the last six years $10,000 has been awarded to students of Port Aransas High School, Rockport/Fulton High School and the Rockport Center of the Arts. Details will follow per invitation!
Special thanks to Shannon Schilling, Sarah Pulido, Anthem Home Care, Gulf Pointe Plaza, Mandy Torres, Harbor Hospice of the Gulf Coast and, of course, Charlie Marshall Funeral Home. A most special thanks goes to Adrienne, Angalee, and Helen Marano as well as Angalee DeForest for being the most amazing friends and support Sam Williams could have ever had in his life! He referred to us as his Elves and that was accurate to say the least. There are truly Angels put on this Earth of ours to be by the side of our loved ones and Adrienne, you and your family were the light for Sam Williams!
Please view the tribute wall for photos of Sam.