March of the Governors #30: Special Edition Billy Williams
William F. (Billy) Williams never served as Minnesota’s governor, but he served more Minnesota governors than any public servant in our state’s history. He caught the eye of Governor John A. Johnson as a baseball player at the turn of the twentieth century. Johnson invited him to work at the capitol as his aide and messenger. Johnson died, but Williams stayed on, through the next thirteen governors—Eberhart, Hammond, Burnquist, Preus, Christianson, Olson, Petersen, Benson, Stassen, Thye, Youngdahl, Anderson, and Freeman—over fifty years. No one saw more of Minnesota government from the inside than did Billy Williams.
Image: In late 1957, Billy Williams’ family members, friends, and colleagues gathered for the unveiling of a portrait of Billy by Theodore Sohner, who also painted the official portraits of Gov. Thye and Gov. Youngdahl. Family in attendance included (L-R): William Hannah, Rosella Gardner Limon, William Gardner Jr., Ida Lucia Hannah, Keyah Dorothy Davis, Marie Louise Gardner Rhodes, Billy Williams, Manly Rhodes, Mildred Jones, Ralph Gardner, William Gardner III, Manly Rhodes Sr., Agnes Bailey, Evelyn Gardner Hill, and Marionne Williams. From the Gardner Family Collection.