John R. Williams

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John R. Williams
JohnRWilliamsDetroit.jpg
Mayor of Detroit
In office
1824–1825
Preceded by New Title
Succeeded by Henry Jackson Hunt
In office
1830–1830
Preceded by Jonathan Kearsley
Succeeded by Marshall Chapin
In office
1844–1847
Preceded by Zina Pitcher
Succeeded by James A. Van Dyke
Personal details
Born 1782
Detroit, Michigan
Died 1854
Detroit, Michigan

John R. Williams (May 4, 1782 – October 20, 1854)[1] was an American soldier, merchant, and politician who is most well known for serving as the first mayor of Detroit, Michigan. In total, he served as Detroit's mayor for five other terms. He also was a brigadier general in the United States Army during the Black Hawk War.

Early life[edit]

Born in Detroit, he was baptized as John Williams (he later adopted the ‘R’ in his name to distinguish himself from another John Williams who was living in Detroit at the time). Raised in his mother's French Canadian community, he spoke and wrote fluently in both French and English. Williams married Mary Mott in 1804, and the couple had ten children together.[1] One of them, Thomas Williams, would later be killed in action as a Union general during the American Civil War.

Williams served in the Territorial Militia from 1796 to 1799 at Fort Marsac in Tennessee.[1] Upon leaving the army, he returned to Detroit and joined his uncle, Joseph Campau, in his successful mercantile business.[1] During the War of 1812, Williams again served in the militia, this time as the captain of an artillery company.[1]

Political life[edit]

After the end of the war, Williams was appointed Associate Justice of the County Court for Michigan in 1815. He went on to serve as a County Commissioner and Adjutant General of the Territory,[1] and at his death was the senior Major General of the state militia.[2] In 1824, Williams wrote the City Charter and served as the first official mayor of the City of Detroit. He was also elected and served as the fourth and thirteenth mayor in 1830 and 1844–1846, respectively.[1] Besides serving as mayor, Williams was a landowner, merchant, and bank president during his lifetime.[2] He served as one of the first trustees of the University of Michigan, was president of the Detroit Board of Education, and was a delegate to the first Michigan Constitutional Convention.[2]

Williams died at the age of seventy-two on October 20, 1854.[1] He is interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.[3]

Today, a street in metropolitan Detroit bears his name. "John R" Street was named while John R. Williams was still living, atypical to the way most roads obtain their name (which is usually posthumously).[4] In fact, Williams gave the road its name himself.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "John R. Williams". History of Detroit. com. 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "John R. Williams, 1818 - 1829". State of Michigan Department of Military and Veteran's Affairs. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Index to Politicians: Williams, J.". Political Graveyard. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  4. ^ Mary Bailey (February 17, 2005). "Detroit's street names honor early leaders.". The Detroit News. 
Political offices
Preceded by
New Title
Mayor of Detroit
1824–1825
Succeeded by
Henry Jackson Hunt
Preceded by
Jonathan Kearsley
Mayor of Detroit
1830
Succeeded by
Marshall Chapin
Preceded by
Zina Pitcher
Mayor of Detroit
1844–1847
Succeeded by
James A. Van Dyke