12/11/1860 - 5/16/1931
One of 12 Children.
- Grandfather: Hansford Williams, Arkansas pioneer traced back to 1818
- Father: Cpt. James A. Williams, Confederate Army, merchant, newspaper editor and member of the Sebastian County State Legislator.
- Mother: Malvina F. Williams born 1830
Hamp Williams married Katie McDonald from Montgomery County Arkansas. They were parents to 3 children:
- Odie M. Williams
- Cleo Williams (Mrs. R. A. Chitwood)
- and Winnie Williams (Mrs. Sam Smith).
Hamp Williams first came to Hot Springs but stayed briefly. He returned in 1894 to make Hot Springs his home.
Hamp opened his own hardware store in a rented 20x50 ft. building. He had capital of $775.00. Directories show the address of his business as 328 Ouachita and his home address at 421 W. Grand Avenue.
Served as Justice of the Peace.
Records show that Hamp's hardware store was located on Ouachita at the corner of Market where in later years the Rephans Department store would stand. He sold implements, hardware, buggies and wagons, guns and saddlery, paints, oil, glass and farm tools.
Became Vice President of the Citizen's National Bank, a role he would occupy until 1926.
A fire destroyed his business. Everything was lost.
The local directory indicates that Hamp resided at 548 W. Grand Avenue.
Hamp was instrumental in building the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville, Arkansas and served as charter member of the board.
Hamp Williams served as State Senator of Arkansas from 1909-1911.
President of the Arkansas Fair Association. In this capacity, he hosted Theodore Roosevelt's visit to Hot Springs in 1910.
Hamp resided at 315 Hawthorne Avenue and was elected President of the Business Men's League, which was the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce.
Hamp rebuilt his hardware business at 414 Ouachita Avenue as a 100 x100 ft brick building that tragically on September 5, 1913 was destroyed when a fire of catastrophic proportions swept through Hot Springs. A second business was lost by Hamp but he was not alone. 124 other businesses and 625-700 residences in over 55 blocks of Hot Springs were destroyed. Hamp’s loss was reported in the newspaper as valued at $80,000.
As President of the City Council, Hamp Williams pulled himself up and led the effort to rebuild Hot Springs. Hamp Williams rebuilt his hardware store at 414 Ouachita Avenue as a four story commercial brick building. This building was operated as a hardware store by Sam Smith, Hamp Williams’ son-in-law, who expanded the inventory to include clothing, shoes and furniture. Several other businesses occupied this building until it was razed in 1985.
Hamp was living at 919 Malvern Road.
Hamp Williams was appointed Federal Food Administrator for Arkansas by President Woodrow Wilson. He worked under the supervision of Herbert Hoover who became a close friend and remained close until Hamp’s death in 1931. Hamp thought so much of Hoover that he crossed over political lines to work for his friend when he ran for President of the United States in 1928. He often said, “The only reason someone would not vote for Hoover would be that they do not know him”.
Under the guidance of Hamp Williams, Arkansas gained recognition for furnishing more flour for allies and troops in World War I than any other state in the country. A fact that Hamp Williams was immensely proud of.
Construction began on the Hamp Williams building at 500-510 Ouachita. His new building was designed in the Italianate Revival style. It was constructed with Arkansas hand set split-face granite stone. It is the only example of this style of architecture in the City. Construction in two phases was completed in 1925. The architects were Sanders and Ginocchio from Little Rock.
The building era is called the Electric Period of the early 20th century as new buildings began to be constructed with electric lighting.
The style of the Hamp Williams building was termed a "New Modern" building in that it has large open spaces but those spaces compete with Victorian appointments such as pressed tin ceilings. It was not conceived as and not built as a showy or fancy building. This was a building built in a straight forward manner by a man who wanted his diverse clientele to be comfortable in the surroundings. It was a working man's building and it was built as solid as was the man himself. Many of the materials he used lasted through the decades to be reworked over 80 years later by the Surfas Group and kept in the building that stands strong today. Some of the businesses housed in the building when it was first opened were:
- Hamp Williams Lincoln and Ford Sales/Service
This was the first car showroom in Hot Springs and one of the first in the State of Arkansas. The Hamp Williams Auto company was such a success that the building was soon expanded in the rear area facing Hawthorne Street. This structure was for auto garage space and storage.
The original 1920 auto hoist still worked in 2007 when the Sentinel Record newspaper was on hand to record the removal of the last car that had been stored upstairs by the Hamp Williams Auto company.
- Community Bank & Trust
Community Bank & Trust occupied the corner space and Ouachita and Hawthorne. Hamp Williams was the owner and the bank's President. The construction of this corner was an open two story lobby with overlooking office from the mezzanine level with Victorian pressed tin ornamentation. Tall glass windows opened the space to the street plus the two story lobby gave the bank an unusual airiness. Five years later in 1930, the bank space was remodeled with great fanfare showing its success and prosperity in a relative short time span. The remodeling included the addition of marble flooring, the latest in teller cages and Burroughs banking machines. Those who attended on the evening of the open house were entertained by a private concert and given flower favors.
- Cox Store Grocery
Cox Store Grocery was located in the center of the block and was one of a chain of grocery stores who motto was: "All Over Arkansas". This business had access from the yard behind the building where a charming courtyard was created as part of the recent renovation.
In 2008 when we were working on excavating this area, we unearthed hundreds of mule and horse shoes where the animals had been attended to behind the entrance to Cox Grocery. We placed some of those shoes in our new courtyard to imitate the gait of a wagon team that would have pulled into this section of the Hamp Williams building.
Without question, this was a thriving area of Hot Springs in the 1920's and this building was a cornerstone for retail business.
Served as President of the Citizen Section of the Arkansas Education Association. Education of the youth in Hot Springs was very important to Hamp. He was proud to be a businessman and believed that all young men in high school should have an opportunity to learn firsthand what business was all about. He founded the Community Junior Council for Hot Springs High School students and made it possible for them to visit businesses and to meet with business owners to learn how vital business was to the fabric of the country.
From 1923 to 1924, Hamp served as President of the National Retail Hardware Association which boasted 22,000 members. In this role he relished travelling all over the country as a popular speaker. He wrote columns in publications discussing such diverse subjects as roads, government, people he had known and was particularly prolific in his writings on small business issues and big business models.
Served as Grand Master of the Hot Springs Masonic Lodge. He was a 32 degree Mason and a Knight Templar.
A few days after having a heart attack while attending a meeting in Little Rock, Mr. Hamp Williams died. His funeral in Hot Springs was one of the largest funerals in the history of the City. Nearly 1,000 mourners attended. The Hot Springs National Park flag flew at half staff for 10 days in tribute.At his death, and afterwards, articles about this amazing man appeared in newspapers and magazines. Even up to April 1956 where an article appeared in Reader's Digest with the apt title, The Most Unforgettable Character I Have Ever Met readers were introduced to his philosophy, quick thinking and fearless determination. He was an original and no one who met him ever forgot him.
After His Passing
The Depression hit Arkansas hard. Hot Springs suffered and businesses struggled to stay alive. During and after WWII the Hamp Williams building housed several auto and trucking companies such as Burch Motor Company and Holiman-Creason Motors. TBS Auto Repair Shop was located at the rear of the building. Vaughn Hardware was located at the 510 address of the building for years and is fondly remembered by many today. There were two restaurant supply dealers, bail bondsmen companies, government offices and law firms that were located in various areas of the building at different times until the 50,000 square foot building was purchased by the Surfas Group in 2006.
A Legacy of Inspiration
While we do not have specific dates, with the aid of the Garland County Historical Society, we have gathered the following information about Hamp Williams from published records:
- Hamp Williams served as City Alderman
- Hamp Williams served as City Commissioner
- Director of Hot Springs School Board for 10 years
- President of Hot Springs National Park College of Music and Fine Arts
- Director of the YMCA, Hot Springs
- Ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Arkansas
- Organized Rotary and Kiwanis in Hot Springs
- President of Garland County Humane Assn.
- Chairman of Garland County Unemployment
- President of the local Community Chest
- Member of the Little Rock Branch of the St Louis Federal Reserve
- President of Arkansas Clothiers Association
- Director of Lamar Bath House Company
- Chairman of Board of Stewards of the First Methodist Church, Hot Springs
Truly, there are even more organizations and groups that he gave his time and energy to in an effort to help them achieve worthwhile goals. In looking at the impressive accomplishments of this extraordinary man who left a legacy of inspiration, this quote was discovered, attributed to Hamp Williams:
"We can all succeed at something if we try. If you think you can succeed and you have the proper faith, you can." - Hamp Williams
It is true that Hamp Wiliams came to Hot Springs when it was small and he arrived at an opportune time in the history of Hot Springs. Hamp and Hot Springs worked well together. He offered himself tirelessly for the good of this City and even though he watched, along with hundreds of others, his businesses destroyed by fire in 1905 and again in 1913 he remained optimistic and committed to this City and to Arkansas. Hamp Williams built this impressive building that stands today as a symbol of the beauty, spirit and tenacity of a very special place, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
We are immensely appreciative for the Garland
County Historical Society who aided in research and
photos which enabled us to celebrate this unique man
and his life in Hot Springs.
-The Surfas Family