Kenneth L. Williams

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Kenneth L. Williams
Kenneth Lee Williams

September 4, 1934
DiedNovember 1, 2017
Alma materLouisiana State University
Known forExpert on milk snakes
Scientific career
InstitutionsTulane University
Millikin University
Northwestern State University

Kenneth Lee Williams (September 4, 1934 – November 1, 2017)[1] was an American herpetologist and author of books on the subject of snake biology and classification. Williams retired from teaching in Northwestern State University's biology department and received emeritus status in 2001.[2] Williams is considered an authority on the milk snake[3][4] and the herpetology of the Honduran Cloud Forest.[2]

Williams was born in Saybrook, Illinois, and served one tour of duty with the U.S. Army after high school. He earned his bachelor's degree and Masters from the University of Illinois, and his doctorate from Louisiana State University in 1970.[5] After teaching at Tulane University in New Orleans and Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, Williams came to Northwestern State University in 1966 as an assistant professor. He became a full professor there in 1976.


Over his 35 years at Northwestern State University Williams authored or co-authored 147 professional publications[2] and received both NSU's Distinguished Faculty Award and their Alumni Association's Excellence in Teaching Award.[2]

During his career, he specialized in studying the milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum. In 1988, he published a book identifying 25 subspecies of milk snakes which is considered seminal and cited by most papers on milk snakes.[3][4]

Together with Hobart Muir Smith, he discovered in Mexico a new snake species in the genus Geophis.[6] They also identified the southeastern canyon lizard subspecies of the canyon lizard in 1960. In 1966 he co-discovered the Texas scarlet snake. In 1968 he identified Aspidoscelis inornatus paululus, a subspecies of the little striped whiptail.[7] He is also credited with the identification of the following milk snake subspecies in 1978: Andean Milksnake,[8] Conant's milk snake, Honduran milk snake, Sinaloan milk snake, Smith's milk snake, and Stuart's milk snake.

Williams concluded from his research that Lampropeltis triangulum temporalis is intermediate between the scarlet kingsnake and the eastern milk snake, and therefore that these so-called Coastal Plains phase milk snakes are intergrades and thus not a proper scientific designation.[4][9][10]

In 2000, the subspecies Sceloporus merriami williamsi, a taxonomic patronym, was named to honor Kenneth L. Williams for being a specialist in snake classification and the herpetology of Honduras and Mexico.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Larry David (2018). "Kenneth Lee Williams 1934–2017: My Fast Friend and Herpetological Colleague of More than Half a Century". Herpetological Review 49 (1): 178-180.
  2. ^ a b c d "New Release" Archived 2010-06-11 at the Wayback Machine 1 May 2001, News Bureau, Northwestern State University
  3. ^ a b Dongarra, Tony, The Coastal Plains Milksnake; A Case for Temporalis, Chesapeake, VA: Chesapeake Herpetoculture, archived from the original on 2008-06-30, retrieved 2008-06-06
  4. ^ a b c Armstrong, Michael P.; Frymire, David; Zimmerer, Edmund J. (December 2001), "Analysis of sympatric populations of Lampropeltis triangulum syspila and Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides, in western Kentucky and adjacent Tennessee with relation to the taxonomic status of the scarlet kingsnake", Journal of Herpetology, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 35 (4): 688–93, doi:10.2307/1565915, JSTOR 1565915
  5. ^ "Animal Behavior Society Graduate Program Bulletin, 1996". The Animal Behavior Society. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
  6. ^ Smith, Hobart Muir; Williams, Kenneth L. (1966), "A New Snake (Geophis) from Mexico.", Journal of the Ohio Herpetological Society, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 5 (3): 90, doi:10.2307/1562611, JSTOR 1562611
  7. ^ Williams, Kenneth L. (March 29, 1968), "A New Subspecies of the Teiid Lizard Cnemidophorus inornatus from México", Journal of Herpetology, 1 (1/4): 21–24, doi:10.2307/1563258, JSTOR 1563258
  8. ^ Bartlett, Richard D.; Ronald G. Markel (2005), Kingsnakes and Milksnakes, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., pp. 82, ISBN 0-7641-2853-1
  9. ^ Markel, Ronald G.; Bartlett, Richard D. (1995), Kingsnakes and Milksnakes: Everything about Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Barron's Educational Series, p. 61, ISBN 0-8120-4240-9
  10. ^ Williams, Kenneth L. (1988), Systematics and natural history of the American milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum, Milwaukee, WI (USA): Milwaukee Public Museum.[dead link]
  11. ^ Bell, Edwin L.; Smith, Hobart M.; Chiszar, David (2003), "An Annotated List of the Species-Group Names Applied to the Lizard Genus Sceloporus " (PDF), Acta Zoologica Mexicana, number 90: 103–174
  12. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Williams, K.L.", pp. 286-287).

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Williams, Kenneth L. (1985), "Cemophora, C. coccinea ", Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 374: 1–4
  • Williams, Kenneth L. (1988), Systematics and natural history of the American milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum, Milwaukee, WI (USA): Milwaukee Public Museum[dead link]
  • Williams, Kenneth L. (December 1994), Snakes of the World, Krieger Publishing Company, ISBN 0-89464-302-9
  • Williams, Kenneth L. (1994), "Lampropeltis triangulum ", Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 594: 1–10
  • Wilson, Larry David; Williams, Kenneth L. (2002), "Scolecophis, Scolecophis atrocinctus ", Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 758: 1–3