By Tia Lynn Lecorchick
Philip Lee Williams, a beloved regional author and artist with a versatile career, returned to his hometown of Madison this past weekend, to talk about his latest book, “The Color of All Things: 99 Love Poems,” at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center.
Williams took the stage in front of a crowded auditorium, packed with familiar faces and adoring fans.
The event was sponsored by the Morgan County Landmarks Society, featuring an exclusive talk given by Williams while surrounded by choice exhibits displaying his remarkable and diversified works. “How can you say thank you enough to the people who have given you everything?” said a moved Williams. “I have never forgotten a single one of you and never will. You are always in my mind and always in my heart.”
Williams, is not only a jack of all trades, but a master of them. As a novelist, poet, composer, painter, professional science writer for the University of Georgia, journalist, teacher, editor, photographer, visual artist and sculptor, Williams enjoys widespread notoriety, touching the lives of many through his artistic expression.
Williams has received the Georgia Author of the Year award for four times and even received the Governor’s Award of Humanity in 2007. “It’s nice to know if I’ve even made the tiniest dent in the life of the world with the words I’ve written,” said Williams.
According to Williams, who moved to Madison as a child in 1953, everything he has ever written or crafted in some way relates back to his roots in Morgan County—to the experiences he lived here and to the people he encountered here. “This is what most artists do,” explained Williams. “It’s all dipping into the river we swim in everyday of our lives.”
Williams recounted his life growing up in Morgan County, exploring back country roads, playing golf, and getting himself mixed up in the usual shenanigans teenage boys get into as they grow into manhood, such as drinking bootleg beer and smoking cigars with his buddies.
Williams credited his wife, Linda Williams, the Morgan County archivist for the last five years, who he met in the 1970s while in college, as the main source of his inspiration and the love of his life.
Although Williams began his career as a journalist, he discovered his first love was fiction writing and poetry when his wife urged him to pursue more artistic styles of writing. “You like to run your mouth so much, why don’t you write a novel?” joked his wife, Linda Williams.
“I never considered it until she suggested it…and so I started out on a brand new journey,” said Philip Williams. Growing up in Morgan County also helped Williams discover his life of the natural world and science.
“I dearly love the natural world and wrote about it many times,” said Williams. “I found that out here.” Williams not only wrote poetically about the natural world, but spent over 20 years as a profession science writing, utilizing his knack for words to explain complex scientific research to the general public in easily understood terms.
Williams family and closest friends turned out for the event, including his father Woody Williams, who still resides in Madison. Woody Williams paid homage to his deceased wife, Ruth Valentine Williams, for wonderfully raising Philip Williams into the man he is today.
“I wish Philip’s mother was still alive. She would be so proud today,” said Woody Williams. “He’s been at it for a long time. I hope even more people read his books.”
Terry Kay, a notorious journalist and beloved friend of Williams, spoke at the event to introduce Williams. “I am here to praise Philip Lee Williams,” said Kay. “In over 50 years I have learned enough about writing to know when to stand in awe.”
Williams refers to Kay as “his brother in art.” Kay described Williams written works as “one of the most enchanting reading experiences” he had in years. One of the most enchanting reading experiences I had in many years,” said Kay. “He elevates writing from the readable to the remarkable—a standard of literature that qualifies of art. It is in his awareness of his role as the writer, that his characters are not a medium for him, but he is a medium for his characters…It is a great giving from any writer. He writes them as they are not as he wishes them to be,” said Kay.
“Today is about the life of a very accomplished human being,” said Kay. Williams closed the event with the following sentiment that drove him throughout his career and the hope he has for others. “Dream big. It may not be as far as you think from the silent pastures to the light of the stars,” said Williams.