By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Not much was known about Rep. Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) before he decided to challenge Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) to lead the State House of Representatives. A closer look at Williams’ life and career brings into focus a real-life Alabamian’s rags-to-riches story.
As the fourth of five boys raised by seventh generation Alabamians, Williams has traveled a long road from his family’s 800 sq. ft. farmhouse in Grassy, (a small town in Marshall County), to the State House in Montgomery.
Williams credits his family upbringing, his wife, hard work, and good fortune for his success. Unlike many of his political peers, Williams doesn’t flaunt his success, but uses it to make informed choices in policy and legislation.
“My early life was typical for a kid who was raised in rural Alabama by a civil-servant dad and a stay-at-home mom,” Williams said in an interview with this publication. “We were poor, I guess you would say, but everyone around us was too, so we didn’t know any better than to be happy.”
After graduating the University of Alabama Huntsville, with a degree in International Business, Williams said he was fortunate to be selected to train as a contract negotiator.
“In 1983, President Ronald Reagan called on the scientific community of America to develop a missile defense system that became known as Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative). I submitted a job application along with 1,100 other people. Three of us were picked, and that was a turning point in my career,” Williams said. For the next 18 years, he would learn the ins and outs of the technology that has made the USA the dominant global powerhouse in defense and technology: “I was the facilitator that brought us all together…to go out to the Lockheeds and the Raytheons of the world and start procuring what America needed to make us strong, and safe in the uncertain world of that time,” Williams recalled.
In what Williams decides as the “ultimate turning point of my whole life,” he met and married Lisa in 1994, who is described by those who know her as “stunningly brilliant.”
After almost a decade of government service Williams decided it was time to spread his wings and create a new destiny. “My dad thought I was nuts for walking away for all that security, but I knew it was time,” Williams said.
In 1998, he co-founded 3D Research Corporation, serving as the Chief Financial Officer responsible for all contracts, program control, and business management where he led 3D Research onto the roster of the INC500’s fastest growing companies in America in two consecutive years, 2004 and 2005. He later sold the company for a substantial profit for himself and his partners.
In 2006, he co-founded Synapse Wireless, a Huntsville-based company that employs about 80 people, and holds many patents for its novel wireless sensor network software and applications.
In 2008, he co-founded Soldier 1 Corporation, a Huntsville-based company that mentors veterans on the entire process of starting a business, and taking useful technologies into commercial markets, as well as the Department of Defense.
Williams was elected to the State House of Representatives, in a special election in 2009, to represent House District 6 in Madison County, which became vacant after the conviction of Democrat Rep. Sue Schmitz on corruption charges.
“I was one of those people who was nightly yelling at the television because of inept and corrupt government,” he said. “Finally, I realized it was time to stop yelling and do something, which is why I ran for office.”
Colleagues in the House describe Williams as “super-smart,” but they also say he has been a work horse, not a show horse, working behind the scenes building coalitions for good legislation and defeating bad.
Most were surprised to learn he was seeking the Speaker’s post, because he had not previously sought the spotlight, and has never been viewed as one who seeks power.
Williams said he is running for Speaker because the State deserves better leadership. While he is slow to criticize Speaker Hubbard, he says it is past time for him to step aside.
For all of his success, above all the good things that have come his way, Williams cites one event as the pinnacle: the birth of his son Tyler.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to have kids. Lisa and I were having so much fun. Friends would say, a child will change your life, and I wasn’t sure I wanted it to change. Everything seems perfect,” said Williams. But as he recounts the birth of his only son, Williams voice takes on the timbre of true love.
“Tyler’s birth weight was only four pounds, and the doctors had performed every life-saving measure at their disposal. All that was left to do was pray,” Williams recalled. “When I looked at that four-pound alien-looking creature, I would have given my life for him without the slightest reservation.”
Pray they did, and today, Tyler is a happy healthy boy.
Williams’ life story offers the hope and promise of the American dream. Williams says he wants to bring the skill that has given him so much, to the Speaker’s chair, so that all Alabamians will have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and that the promise of honest government made by Republicans can be restored in the State House.