Richard Phillip Williams, Ph.D.
Richard P. ?Dick? Williams, professional soil conservationist and noted North Dakota field botanist, died on January 17, 2006 at the age of 91 in Fargo, ND.
Richard Williams was born on January 17, 1915 to Evan and Lizzie (Alloway) Williams on a multi-family working ranch in the Lolo Valley of western Montana, an operation distinguished by its use of water power engineered by the Williams family applying their Welsh background. As a youth, Dick and his cousin Wesley ranged freely through the mountains and valleys surrounding Missoula.
Dick was a graduate of Missoula County High School and in 1939 graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of Montana. While attending college, he worked in both northwest and southwest Montana for the Civilian Conservation Corps, and then as a Forest Service lookout in the rugged Bitterroot Mountains dividing Montana from Idaho. Dick also worked on Forest Service range survey crews for three summers, traversing most of the vast mountainous terrain from southwestern Montana to Red Lodge, MT, northeast of Yellowstone National Park.
Richard Williams and Rachel Mary Gitchel were married on June 21, 1940 in Anaconda, MT.
Dick?s career in the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resource Conservation Service) was spent principally in Kidder County, ND (Steele, 1946-1954) and Emmons County, ND (Linton, 1954-2005). During these years he was closely associated with the Extension Service agents and their work as well. He was a life-long member of the American Forestry Society, a charter member of the Society for Range Management and a member of the Scientific Research Society.
In the early 1960?s Richard found Pinus Flexilis (Limber Pine) in western North Dakota. The unique stand of five-needle pine has received considerable attention from plant and animal biologists and ecologists since then. Many people visit this isolated and unique area each year.
Richard was a member of the United Methodist Church of Linton, ND, the Masonic and Eastern Star Orders of both Steele and Linton where he served as a Worshipful Master and Worthy Patron of both, the Lion?s Club in Steele and the Optimist?s Club in Fargo. Dick and Rachel volunteered to wrap Christmas presents at the West Fargo Optimist Booth as a fundraiser for youth activities for many years and enjoyed meeting countless people and sharing the spirit of Christmas.
He was also a member of the Linton School Board and volunteered much of his time over the years to working with youth in various organizations such as the 4-H Clubs, Cub and Boy Scouts in Steele and Linton. He was a longtime Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 22 of Linton, ND and Scoutmaster of a Missouri Valley Council Troop that attended the 1957 World Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, PA. Dick received the Silver Beaver Award, BSA. His involvement also included taking youth to Philmont Scout Reservation, Canoe Trails (3 trips), and Glacier National Park (2 trips). He will be remembered by generations of youth who were scouts under his leadership.
Richard returned to graduate school at the North Dakota State University after retiring from a career of 37 years with the Soil Conservation Service, USDA in North Dakota. He received his M.S. degree in Botany in 1974 and his Ph.D degree in 1979 with a research emphasis in vascular plants under the advisorship of William T. Barker, Ph. D., becoming (at the time at least) the oldest student to earn a doctorate from NDSU.
After graduation he continued working in the NDSU Herbarium as a Research Associate of Dr. William T. Barker, Professor of Botany.
Dr. Williams had a grant with the North Dakota School Lands Department under Dr. Mike Brand?s direction from 1980 to 1989 where he did baseline range condition studies which are still very important to those studying vegetation in North Dakota today as well as in the management of North Dakota rangelands
Dick?s careful printing, formed by his study of draftsmanship, make his field notes in botany and biology works of art. These have been donated to the Whitman Library of NDSU.
Dr. Williams came to his office every day until he and his wife became ill in 2005. He frequently helped NDSU students and NDSU faculty identify plants. He collected over 7,000 plants often in duplicate and he has herbarium specimens deposited in many herbaria in the world. His specimens have always been of excellent quality. He was working on a grass manual for North Dakota. An effort will be made by Dr. William T. Barker to finish this for him.
He is survived by his spouse, Rachel M. (Gitchel) Williams living at Elim Care Center in Fargo, ND. Rachel and Dick celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary at a family reunion in Glacier Park this past summer. He is also survived by his children: Larry Darryl Williams (Becky), Sioux City, IA, Robin Jim Williams (and friend, Mary), Wrentham, MA, Cheryl Jean Weiss ( Ed), Ridgecrest, CA, Allen ?Bruce? Williams (Marcia), Norwich, VT; 6 grandchildren: Evan, Ben, Tom, Craig, Eric, Betsy; and 5 great grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born this month.
He is preceded in death by his parents and sisters: Beatrice, Gladys, Mary Jo and Jean.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the North Dakota State University Herbarium Endowment (c/o the Alumni Office), the University of Montana School of Forestry, or the Linton Hospital Building Fund.
The Memorial Service will be held at Pioneer House Chapel, Elim Care Center, Fargo, ND on Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 2:00 pm. Burial will be in Linton, ND.
Arrangements are entrusted to the care of Boulger Funeral Home, Fargo, ND.
On-line guestbook at www.boulgerfuneralhome.com.