Former Williams CEO Joseph H. Williams Dies at 89

TULSA, Okla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Williams (NYSE:WMB) is remembering and honoring former chairman and CEO Joseph H. “Joe” Williams, who died April 27, 2023, at age 89 in South Carolina.

Mr. Williams spent 35 years at Williams, the last 15 as chairman and chief executive officer. The son of David Williams, one of the original co-founders of Williams, he followed his cousin John Williams as CEO and served in that role from 1979 to 1994, when he retired. He was the last member of the Williams family to head Williams.

“Joe was a great leader and set Williams up for long term success with his ability to focus on the horizon. He had the right mix of optimism for the future and hard nose questioning of the status quo to keep the organization both inspired and on its toes. His intellectual curiosity kept the company truly embracing change for the opportunities it offered,” said Alan Armstrong, Williams president and CEO. “The Williams culture of doing things right and taking care of the environment is alive and well today thanks to Joe’s strong leadership and foresight.”

Before taking the helm at Williams, Mr. Williams was executive vice president from 1968 to 1971 and president and chief operating officer from 1971 to 1978. When he became CEO, he was able to anticipate the challenges of the late 1980s and early ’90s. By resetting goals and through restructuring, the company weathered a chaotic period in the pipeline and energy industries. Under Joe Williams’ leadership. Williams refined its investment strategy. It acquired Northwest Pipeline and embraced technology as Williams became the first to use satellite communications for field operations.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Williams marshaled efforts to purchase the 29,000-acre Barnard Ranch, allowing Oklahoma’s fledgling Nature Conservancy to create its flagship sanctuary, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. It now encompasses 40,000 acres and is home to 2,500 bison which roam 23,500 acres of open range. It is also home to research of native grass species and wildlife.

“Joe was the last family member to lead the company and felt a real stewardship responsibility with regard to that,” said Keith Bailey, who succeeded Joe Williams and was chairman and CEO from 1994 to 2002. “His personal passion revolved around his leadership of the Nature Conservancy, both locally and nationally. Perhaps his proudest moment I saw over the years was when he was awarded a ceremonial blanket by Chief Standing Bear to celebrate his role in the creation of the Tallgrass Prairie. That is a timeless legacy that only exists because of his commitment to making it happen.”

Mr. Williams, who also served as chair of the state and then the national Nature Conservancy, was honored in 2015 for his work when the Conservancy renamed the Osage County treasure as the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

His legacy also is recognized at Tulsa’s Gathering Place. The main hall of the Williams Lodge, where community events and social functions take place, is named the Joseph H. Williams Community Room.

He is survived by his wife, Terry, three sons and two stepdaughters; Joseph H. Williams, Jr.; Peter B. Williams; James C. Williams; Margot T. Rose; Jennifer B. Ross; and seven grandchildren.

About Williams

As the world demands reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, Williams (NYSE: WMB) will be there with the best transport, storage and delivery solutions to reliably fuel the clean energy economy. Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Williams is an industry-leading, investment grade C-Corp with operations across the natural gas value chain including gathering, processing, interstate transportation, storage, wholesale marketing and trading of natural gas and natural gas liquids. With major positions in top U.S. supply basins, Williams connects the best supplies with the growing demand for clean energy. Williams owns and operates more than 33,000 miles of pipelines system wide – including Transco, the nation’s largest volume and fastest growing pipeline – and handles approximately one third of the natural gas in the United States that is used every day for clean-power generation, heating and industrial use. Learn how the company is leveraging its nationwide footprint to incorporate clean hydrogen, NextGen Gas and other innovations at


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