Marmaduke Williams, Builder
Marmaduke Williams was one of early Tuscaloosa’s most influential citizens. His home, shown above, is among the city’s oldest structures. This home was the site where government leaders mapped state and local political strategy. He built my house at 815 17th Avenue as a wedding gift for his daughter, Agnes Payne Williams and her husband Hopson Owen. One of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Alabama; he had the means to be generous.
Williams was born in Caswell County, North Carolina on April 6, 1774. He completed preparatory studies, studied law, was admitted to the bar and began a practice. He began a political career as a member of the North Carolina State Senate in 1802, and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1803. He served as a representative from North Carolina in the eighth, ninth and tenth U.S. Congresses, from March 4, 1803 to March 3, 1809.
He moved to the Mississippi Territory (which included the states of Alabama and Mississippi) in 1810. Many speculators were flooding into the territory in search of the rich farmlands on which plantations could flourish. They built a state in which cotton was king. Williams originally settled in Huntsville, Alabama, but moved to Tuscaloosa in 1818. He quickly became one of the most prominent citizens of the territory. He served as a delegate to the Alabama state constitutional convention in 1819, and that same year was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Alabama, losing to William Bibb. After losing the gubernatorial race, Williams served in the Alabama State House of Representatives from 1821 to 1839. He built his own home in Tuscaloosa in 1835. Three years later he built the house at 815 17th Avenue for his beloved daughter, ensuring that she would remain nearby. He became judge of the Tuscaloosa County Court in 1832 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1842.
Marmaduke Williams died in Tuscaloosa on October 29, 1850 and was interned in Greenwood Cemetery. But, both the houses he built in Tuscaloosa remain as a lasting legacy.