Nearly 64 years after his death, the contributions and compassion of Welsh immigrant John Charles "J.C." Williams continue to grace communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
Born in Kidwelly, Wales, in 1876, the bright, energetic and enterprising J.C. or "Jack," as he sometimes was called, began school when he was just 3 years old. His family moved to Loughor, Wales, when his father, Thomas, a pioneer of the tinplate trade was appointed mill boss at the Yspitty works.
Despite his father's position, the family was of modest income, and J.C. left school at 13 to work in the plant and help support the family. Not long after his father was sent to supervise a tinplate project in Piombino, Italy, he sent for J.C. to join him. Upon his return from Italy, J.C. announced his intention to journey solo to the United States.
He arrived in Wheeling, W.Va., at age 21, but stayed only briefly moving from job to job at mills in Indiana and Michigan before finally returning to the Tri-State at U.S. Steel's Monessen plant in 1903. There, he met Ernest T. Weir, the plant's general manager born in Pittsburgh in 1875, a son of Irish immigrants.
The two quickly became friends, and later in 1905 when Weir and James R. Phillips, a top U.S. Steel salesman, decided to enter business for themselves purchasing the Jackson Sheet and Tin Plate Co. in Clarksburg, W.Va., J.C. joined the venture. The company was renamed Phillips Sheet and Plate Co.
J.C.'s knowledge and experience soon proved helpful as he quickly identified and corrected flaws in the mill's design. When after just one month's operation Phillips was killed in a train wreck, J.C. assumed responsibility of day-to-day operations of the plant. By 1908 the Clarksburg plant was turning a profit but was greatly hampered by its lack of a reliable water source and poor geographical location for shipping its product.
Weir soon found a better location near Holliday Cove, which was a part of Weirton, which was allowed the company to grow and gradually acquire other plants, which eventually grew into Weirton Steel. Throughout that growth, J.C. had taken on more and more responsibility, and in 1929, he was named president of Weirton Steel.
As he continued to thrive and achieve success in the industrial world, J.C. took a more benevolent role in both his adopted community, the Weirton-Steubenville area, and at home in Wales, where he often visited. He established two trusts, one in Wales, and one in Weirton, that benefited the people of his homeland and his adopted Weirton-Steubenville "home" upon the death of his siblings and spouse.
His trusts have assisted countless hundreds on both sides of the Atlantic, academically, physically, medically and spiritually not only through scholarships, but also through the libraries, hospitals, colleges, community centers, stadiums, pools and citadels his trust has helped to build over the years.
The beautiful Williams Country Club in Weirton, W.Va., which J.C.'s sponsorship helped develop and build, remains a lasting tribute to the man whose compassion and concern for his fellow man reverberates in this Upper Ohio Valley today.