Following this colorful Texan through the extraordinary details of his life is more fun than an afternoon at the movies. Like the hero in a Gary Cooper movie, Robert H. Williams marches through the history of the twentieth century on the front lines of American culture. And editor/historian Craig Miner makes certain the reader never wants for a deeper understanding of all that our protagonist experiences.
Pairing the original memoir with a lively running commentary rich in historical context and unexpected detail, Joyful Trek guides the reader across the wild prairies of central Texas at the turn of the century into World War I with the infant Army Air Force and around the world in the Merchant Marine. Williams goes on to become a Harvard student, a journalist, an intelligence officer in World War II, an inventor, a Hollywood writer, a family man, a bit of a philosopher--and foremost a consummate storyteller. This is a journey to savor.
Robert H. Williams was born near Cross Plains, Texas, Sept. 16, 1897, one of a family of eleven children. His father was a Baptist minister; his mother's father was a Texas Ranger under Captain Brown in 1858. The family moved to Eula, then Abilene, where Williams graduated from Simmons College (Now Hardin-Simmons University) in 1921, after serving overseas in the young Army Air Force. he had studied at the University of Grenoble, France, and later attended the Graduate School of English, Harvard University. At seventy-seven, he described himself as having "been a good many things: farm and ranch hand, school teacher, news reporter, ship's radio operator, Intelligence officer (second world war), lecturer and political analyst, ghost writer, contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica's Ten Eventful Years, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texana, The Cattleman and other magazines." he invented and manufactured rotary addressing machines (later bought by Fairchild), and held numerous other patents. He "retired" to Williams Angus Ranch near Bandera in 1960. Williams died in 1993 in Kerrville, Texas.
Craig Miner, long-time Kansas resident, is Garvey professor of history at Wichita State University. Among his books on other western topics are The End of Indian Kansas: A Study of Cultural Revolution, 1854-1871 (with William E. Unrau); The St. Louis-San Francisco Transcontinental Railroad: The Thirty-Fifth Parallel Project, 1853-1890; The Corporation and the Indian: Tribal Sovereignty and Industrial Civilization in Indian Territory, 1865-1907; The Rebirth of the Missouri Pacific, 1965-1983; Wichita: The Early Years, 1865-1880; and Tribal Dispossession and the Ottawa Indian University Fraud (with William Unrau). Miner has bicycled through much of western Kansas in an attempt to experience first-hand the conditions faced by the pioneers a century ago.