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Profiles from the Archives: Thomas W. Williams

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Thomas Wayne Williams was born on July 8, 1893, in the town of Maxton in Robeson County, N.C., to William M. and Helen Elizabeth Ballard Williams. By 1910, the Williams family was living in Maxton, where Thomas’ father worked as a mechanic for the Ward and Iron Company. At the time of his draft registration for World War I, Thomas Williams was working as an assistant bank cashier at a bank in Maxton, N.C., financially supporting his family.

In the spring of 1918, Thomas Williams tried enlisting in either the U.S. Army Ordnance Branch or in the U.S. Navy. Having been accepted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Branch, Williams enlisted for military service in the Army on May 16, 1918, in Red Springs, N.C. He served overseas from August 31, 1918, to July 27, 1919. Williams served his entire military service in the Ordnance Branch. He reached the following ranks during his service: reached Private First Class on March 19, 1919, and Corporal on March 31, 1919. After going through his basic training and advanced ordnance school, Williams sailed from the United States for Europe on September 1, 1918. He arrived in Le Havre, France, on September 18, 1918, from England.

Williams was involved in the Allied Army of Occupation during World War I after the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918. On November 20, 1918, he and his unit arrived in Dun-sur-Meuse, France. On December 11, 1918, Williams arrived in Longwy, France. Williams and his unit would finally enter Germany in December 1918, arriving at Coblenz on December 19, 1918. He was stationed in Coblenz when the U.S. Third Army held their carnival there between April 23 and April 27, 1919. During his time in Coblenz, Germany, Williams saw and took photographs of the visit of the French General Ferdinand Foch on May 15, 1919. Thomas Williams was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on August 1, 1919.

After the war, Thomas Williams married Bessie McLeod on November 28, 1923, in Maxton; the couple had stayed in touch during WWI through correspondence. By 1930, the Williams moved from Robeson County, N.C., to the town of Laurinburg in Scotland County, N.C. By 1940, Williams was working as an assistant bank cashier at a bank in Laurinburg, and Thomas and Bessie had two children. Thomas W. Williams died on July 31, 1969, in Laurinburg, N.C., and was buried in Hillside Memorial Park in the same city.

To learn more about Thomas Williams’ WWI service, check out the Thomas W. Williams Papers (WWI 45) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of N.C. in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of N.C.’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of N.C..

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of N.C. will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of N.C., and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.