Amelia W. Williams, educator and historian, daughter of Thomas Herbert and Emma (Massengale) Williams, was born in Maysfield, Texas, on March 25, 1876. Several generations of the family were planters in South Carolina until after the Civil War, when her father established a plantation on the Little River in the blacklands of Milam County.
Amelia, the oldest of seven children, was early recognized as a potentially outstanding scholar and so was given the best education available from local teachers. She attended Stuart Seminary in Austin and graduated from Ward (later Ward-Belmont) Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1895 with a liberal arts degree.
By the time she turned twenty-two both of her parents had died, leaving her the guardian of four younger sisters and manager of a 2,000-acre plantation. After rearing her younger sisters Amelia Williams was able at last to work toward her academic goals.
She passed exams for temporary certification and taught history and English in rural schools in San Gabriel, Marlo, Branchville, Baileyville, Calvert, and Cameron. Attending college during the summers, she earned a B.A. at Southwest Texas State Normal School in 1922, a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Texas in 1926, and the Ph.D. in 1931. From 1925 until her retirement in 1951, Williams taught American and English history at the University of Texas.
As a student of Eugene C. Barker, she investigated Texas history, doing primary research on the Alamo. Her M.A. thesis, "The Siege and Fall of the Alamo," incorporating much of this material, was expanded into her Ph.D. dissertation, "A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of its Defenders," which established her as the authority on this subject. Five chapters of the dissertation were published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly in 1933 and 1934. In 1935 she published Following General Sam Houston, 1793–1836. From 1938 to 1943 Williams and Barker collaborated on the eight-volume edition of The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863. Her tact was credited for having convinced Houston's descendents to grant access to portions of his correspondence, an act that Barker's disdain for Houston had precluded for many years.
Williams was an honorary lifetime member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and also held membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Order of the Eastern Star. She was a Presbyterian and a Democrat. She died in Austin on August 14, 1958, and was buried near Maysfield. The Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin contains her papers.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Milam County Heritage Preservation Society, Matchless Milam: History of Milam County (Dallas: Taylor, 1984). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 44. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Jane Smoot [her niece, who is still living in Austin, Texas as of this date]
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
Jane Smoot, "WILLIAMS, AMELIA WORTHINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwi83), accessed August 10, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.