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Gerhard Mennen Williams

Gov. Gerhard Mennen Williams

  • January 1, 1949 - January 1, 1961
  • Democratic
  • February 23, 1911
  • February 2, 1988
  • Michigan
  • Princeton University; University of Michigan Law School
  • Married Nancy Lace; three children
  • Ambassador
  • Navy


G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, the forty-first governor of Michigan, was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 23, 1911. His education was attained at the Salisbury School in Connecticut, at Princeton University, where he graduated in 1933, and at the University of Michigan, where he earned a law degree in 1936. During World War II, he served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, and received numerous commendations for his heroics. After his military service, Williams served as the deputy director of the Office of Price Administration from 1946 to 1947. In 1948 he secured an appointment to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. Williams next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 2, 1948. He won reelection in 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956 and 1958. During his tenure, a farm-marketing program was sanctioned; teachers’ salaries were improved; and school facilities and educational programs were advanced. Also, commissions were formed and funding was secured to research problems related to aging, sex offenders and adolescence behavior. After completing his term, Williams left office on January 1, 1961. He continued to stay politically active, securing an appointment as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, a position he held from 1961 to 1966. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines from 1968 to 1969, and was justice of the Michigan State Supreme Court from 1970 to 1987, serving as chief justice from 1983 to 1986. Governor G. Mennen Williams passed away on February 2, 1988, and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Mackinac Island, Michigan.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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