Editor’s Note: Russell County has a long history that is important to the State of Alabama and its evolvement from an area described in the book “Russell County in Retrospect” by Anne Kendrick Walker as a “barbaric land” to what it is today. Many of the people who set their roots in the county in its early days including the state’s first Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress, important Native Americans who paid with their lives to cede land that created the county, a family that started a place of higher learning in south Russell County that later led to the establishment of one of the state’s most known institutions of education today and a former slave who placed a monument to honor his former owner, are very much important to the formation of Alabama. The story that follows is another of a series to inform you – our readers – about the history of Russell County.
Phenix City lost a part of its history recently with a fire that destroyed the home originally owned by the city’s second mayor – Warren Williams. The home commonly known as the Holland Mansion stood on the same site since the late 1800s.
Warren Williams was born in 1846 in Tallapoosa County. At age 18, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served as a sergeant until the end of the war. He then moved to Elmore County in 1868 and worked as a clerk in a mercantile firm for three years. He moved to Dadeville where he opened his own mercantile firm and ran a successful farm.
In 1886, Williams moved to Phenix City with his five children from his first marriage. He remarried and the couple had three sons, the first who was born and died in 1890. The second son – Charlie Frank Williams – became a successful businessman in Columbus, Ga. Charlie Frank Williams was known as the Father of the Columbus Country Club.
His third son was W.C. Williams. Williams’ eldest daughter – Edith Williams – married Dr. Ashby Floyd.
Williams, a successful businessman in Phenix City, served as the town’s mayor for three terms. He was the city’s second mayor after T.S. Young. He also served as a member of the Alabama Legislature for a term and as Lee County’s registrar for five years.
Among his business ventures in Phenix City Williams owned a mercantile firm, the Phenix Girard Coal and Woodyard and the Phenix Transfer.
Williams was successful in his business affairs and was a community builder, a man who made an unusual contribution to his home city. He was progressive and public spirited, and as Mayor and private citizen lost no opportunity to advance the interests of the community.
It was said of Williams, “His systematic way of conducting his business, observing the best business rules, has impressed those whom he came in contact with, the fact that he is careful, accurate and thorough. He is in every sense a businessman and possesses those traits which inspire confidence.”
He was a member of the Missionary Baptist Church from age 16 until he moved to Phenix City. Williams then joined the First Baptist Church and served as a deacon for many years until his death on December 30, 1925. He and his wife, Cora, at the Girard Cemetery.
There is an apartment complex in Columbus, Ga. that bears his name – the Warren Williams Apartments. A portrait of Williams hangs in the community hall at the apartment complex.
Williams was the father-in-law of a Phenix City Mayor – Dr. Ashby Floyd – and the grandfather of another Phenix City mayor – Dr. Seth Floyd. He was also the great grandfather of former city attorney Charles Floyd, Jr.
As for the home at 2000 9th Avenue, the Williams-Holland Mansion, was built in 1884 for the Williams family. It is an example of Greek Revival Architecture. The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, just short of 100 years since its construction. It was restored by Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Holland in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The home was a part of the Brownville-Summerville Residential-Commercial Historic District. In 1980, the home was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
The following is the obituary that appeared in the December 31, 1925 Phenix-Girard Journal:
Former Mayor and a Prominent
Citizen Passes at Home at One
O’clock Wednesday Morning
Warren Williams, 79, former mayor of Phenix City and former member of the Alabama legislature, died at his home on Ninth street and Seventh avenue Wednesday morning at 1 o’clock.
Mr. Williams had been in failing health for about a year, but his condition was not considered serious by members of his family.
Mr. Williams was born in Decatur, Ga., and came to Phenix City about 40 years ago from Tallapoosa county. He was one of the most prominent citizens of Phenix City, where he has been living most of his life. He was a member of the state legislature during the administration of Governor Jelks and was an active churchman, being a member of First Baptist church of Phenix City.
He is survived by four daughters who are: Mrs. Ashby Floyd, Mrs. R.L. Doles, Mrs. Lesley Long and Mrs. J.H. Griffin, all of Phenix City; two sons, Charlie Frank Williams of Phenix City and W.C. Williams of Miami, Fla.; one sister, Mrs. Nan H. Dutts, of Phenix City, and two half-sisters, Mrs. Monroe Henderson of Phenix City and Mrs. W.T. Key of Atlanta.
Funeral services were held at the home Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, conducted by Rev. Arnold Smith, of Alexander City, Ala., and Rev. C.N. James, pastor of First Baptist church of Phenix City, of which he was a member and a deacon.
A large number of friends attended the funeral.
The following grandsons acted as pallbearers:
G.W. Doles, Bradley Doles, J.W. Gibson, Molton Gibson, Arnold Gibson, Joe Williams, Warren Williams and Ashby Floyd, Jr. The following were honorary pallbearers: Tom McCollister, Jim O’Grady, J.T. Moore, C.L. Mullin, J.P. Blake, and Jesse Suddeth.”