Harrison A. Williams
|Harrison A. Williams|
|United States Senator
from New Jersey
January 3, 1959 – March 11, 1982
|Preceded by||Howard Smith|
|Succeeded by||Nicholas Brady|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 6th district
November 3, 1953 – January 3, 1957
|Preceded by||Clifford Case|
|Succeeded by||Florence Dwyer|
December 10, 1919|
Plainfield, New Jersey
|Died||November 17, 2001
Denville, New Jersey
Harrison Arlington "Pete" Williams, Jr. (December 10, 1919 – November 17, 2001) was a Democrat who represented New Jersey in both the United States House of Representatives (1953–1957) and the United States Senate (1959–1982). Williams was convicted on May 1, 1981 for taking bribes in the Abscam sting operation, and resigned from the U.S. Senate in 1982 before a planned expulsion vote. Williams is one of numerous public officials known to have acknowledged drinking problems during their time in Washington.
Williams was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, and graduated from Oberlin College in 1941. He engaged in newspaper work in Washington, D.C., and studied at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University until called to active duty as a seaman in the United States Naval Reserve in 1941. He became a naval aviator and was discharged as a Lieutenant, junior grade, in 1945. After being employed in the steel industry for a short time, he graduated from Columbia Law School in 1948, and was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in New Hampshire. He returned to Plainfield in 1949 and continued to practice law, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the New Jersey General Assembly in 1951 and for city councilman in 1952.
Williams was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election in 1953, and was re-elected in 1954 but defeated for re-election in 1956. He was elected to the Senate in 1958 and re-elected in 1964, 1970 and 1976. In 1976, he defeated David A. Norcross, who went on to serve the Republican Party in state and national leadership roles.
He became the first Democratic senator in the history of New Jersey ever to be elected four times. Known as "Pete," Williams fought for a range of social welfare laws and urban transit programs. He was instrumental in passage of such landmark laws as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which protects worker pensions, and the 1969 Coal Mine Safety and Health Act.
He also helped pass legislation that created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and had a major role in passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, the first federal law to provide mass transportation assistance to states and cities. He also was the chairman of the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging from 1967 through 1971.
Scandal and retirement
In 1980, Williams, a resident of Westfield, New Jersey at the time, was convicted of bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam scandal for taking bribes in a sting operation by the FBI. The Senate Committee on Ethics recommended that Williams be expelled because of his "ethically repugnant" conduct. Prior to a Senate vote on his expulsion, Williams resigned on March 11, 1982. He served time in Federal prison as Inmate #06089-050, the first time in over 80 years that a senator had spent time in prison. He was released on January 31, 1986. He served the remainder of his sentence at the Integrity House halfway house, where he became a member of the board of directors until his death on November 17, 2001. He also attempted to receive a presidential pardon from President Bill Clinton, but his request was denied.
The New Yorker article, Words on Trial, reported in July 2012 that linguistics expert Roger Shuy is convinced of Senator Williams' innocence. The New Yorker article states that in a recording of Williams's encounter with an agent disguised as a sheikh, "At one point, the sheikh put the bribe directly to Williams: 'I would like to give you...some money for, for permanent residence.' The first four words of Williams's reply were 'No, no, no, no.'" However, the judge set this evidence aside and after the trial, the lead juror confessed that had he been presented with such evidence, he would not have found Williams to be guilty.
The Metropark train station had been renamed Harrison A. Williams Metropark Station in 1979, in recognition of his support for its construction. However, the name was removed from the station after his conviction.
- Williams is Guilty on All Nine Counts in ABSCAM Inquiry, New York Times, May 2, 1981
- Governing under the influence; Washington alcoholics: their aides protect them, the media shields them, Washington Monthly, June 1988. "Former senators who have acknowledged alcoholism included the chairman of the Agriculture Committee (Herman Talmadge); the chairman of the Finance Committee (Russell Long), who went on the wagon in the 1970s; and a senior liberal (Harrison Williams), who later went to prison after an Abscam sting caught him taking bribes.
- Bachrach, Judy. "Facing Expulsion from the Senate He Loves, Harrison Williams Finds Some Unlikely Supporters", People (magazine), February 1, 1982. Accessed March 5, 2011. "One of them, who asks for anonymity, recalls 'going over to Pete and Nancy's house in Westfield, N.J. and having coffee together. Pete looked about 80 years old—horrible.'"
- Hitt, Jack (23 July 2012). "Words On Trial". The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- Martin, Douglas. "Ex-Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr., 81, Dies; Went to Prison Over Abscam Scandal", The New York Times, November 20, 2001. Accessed November 4, 2007. "Harrison A. Williams Jr., the Democratic senator from New Jersey who used his considerable power to further the interests of labor and education before being convicted of bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam scandal, died on Saturday. He was 81 and lived in Bedminster"
- "Harrison A. Williams Jr. Dies". The Washington Post. 2001-11-20. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with Harrison A. Williams, Jr." is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 6th congressional district
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
Served alongside: Clifford Case, Bill Bradley
|Party political offices|
|Democratic Nominee for the U.S. Senate (Class 1) from New Jersey
1958, 1964, 1970, 1976