The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana represents a lifetime of work collecting documents, books, artifacts, ephemera, philately, numismatics, paintings, and statuary related to the life of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States of America, and the Civil War in general. The collection was located at the home of Frank and Virginia Williams in Hope Valley, Rhode Island. Frank Williams, retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, began his collection as a child and has continued to add to the collection through 2017. In 2017, Frank and Virginia Williams donated their Lincolniana Collection to Mississippi State University.
Since the mid-1980s, the books, documents, ephemera, statues, and other pieces in the collection have been cataloged and inventoried. This work was completed by the late David M. Rich, cataloger at Brown University, and Alfred Calabreta, Curator of Collections at Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea. The book and pamphlet collections (both the Lincoln Book and Pamphlet Collection and the Civil War/Collateral Book and Pamphlet Collection) have been cataloged to Library of Congress Standards by both Mr. Rich and the Library faculty and staff of the Mississippi State University Libraries. The objects and ephemera were inventoried by Mr. Calabreta. Each item was given a designated number which is written on the verso of documents and photographs and the back of statues and framed objects (a total of 7,200 objects).
Building on the work of Rich and Calabreta, the MSU Libraries will load the records for the Collection into the MSU Libraries online catalog and into OCLC WorldCat making this collection more accessible to researchers around the world. The Collection will also be digitized over the next 2 years and a Finding Aid developed and made available online once the collection has been processed.
Justice Williams, a Rhode Island native, is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and a long-time jurist in the Rhode Island court system. He is a veteran of the United States Army, having served three years in Germany and one in Vietnam. He is the founding chair of The Lincoln Forum and a long-time president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association. He is a scholar whose books include The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views(with Edna Greene Medford and Harold Holzer, Louisiana State University Press, 2006) and Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leaders (with William D. Pederson, Southern Illinois University Press, 2009). Justice Williams is a member of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and chair of the Rhode Island Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. In 2007, the Pre-law Society of Mississippi State University awarded Justice Williams its prestigious Jurist of the Year Award.
Virginia Williams was born and raised in Texas, and graduated from North Texas State University. She taught overseas for the Department of Defense, and then taught kindergarten in Cranston, Rhode Island, for 29 years. In so doing she acquired an interest in outhouses, about which she lectures all over the country. She serves as Chair of the Museum of Primitive Art in Peacedale, RI, and as Deacon of Dunn’s Corners Presbyterian Church in Westerly, RI.