2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


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Table of Contents Early Aviation in LA The Williams Family Jimmie and Walter Wedell Patterson Airport Selected Bibliography

Harry P. Williams
Harry P. Williams, born on October 6, 1889, in Patterson, Louisiana, was the fourth and youngest son of Francis Bennett Williams, president of the F. B. Williams Cypress Company. Harry left Louisiana to attend Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. After Sewanee, he returned to Patterson and in 1906, like his brothers, entered his father’s lumber business. His first job was operating a dredge in the heart of the trackless swamps of south Louisiana for fifty dollars a month. From this beginning he worked his way to a leadership role in the family firm, which also included sugar plantations and mineral leases.

Harry P. Wiilliams

Harry P. Williams

After the lumber mill closed in 1929 due to exhausted cypress supplies, Harry sought a new venture. Attracted to speed, Harry drove fast cars and fast boats. It was reported that he was once stopped in a small town for speeding. As he went to the town hall to pay the ten-dollar fine, he paid twenty dollars with the request that he not be stopped on his return trip. A 1909 flight in an airplane piloted by Louis Blériot, the first man to fly over the English Channel, spurred his interest in aviation. Airplanes were the next logical step for Harry.

It was during the latter half of 1927, while living in Patterson, that Harry and his wife, former Broadway and silent-screen star Marguerite Clark, met Jimmie Wedell. Acting as an agent for Ryan Aircraft, Jimmie approached Harry to sell him an airplane. Williams bought his first plane, a Ryan cabin monoplane, a duplicate of the plane that Lindbergh had just flown across the Atlantic. With Jimmie as his instructor, Harry learned to fly. He also learned that Jimmie Wedell had some definite ideas about what would make an airplane go faster.

Harry Williams and Jimmie Wedell

Patterson Greys

It was during that relationship that Harry Williams recognized the genius of Jimmie Wedell. Thus began a good friendship and professional relationship that became among the most respected during the "Golden Age of Aviation." Williams had the capital and business experience to contribute to the partnership; Wedell, a natural gift for airplane design.

Marguerite Clark Williams
Marguerite Clark was born on February 22, 1887, in Avondale, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. When she was eleven years old, her parents were killed in an auto accident. Although her father, A. J. Clark, had been a prominent Cincinnati businessman, he left his two daughters almost penniless. Eldest daughter Cora Clark, then twenty-five, took managerial control of Marguerite’s blossoming singing and acting talents, deciding that they might well earn them a living.

Marguerite Williams

Dinner Party with Mary Pickford

Only a few months after their parents’ death, Cora and Marguerite left Cincinnati for Baltimore, where Cora had some friends in the local theater. In 1899, at the age of twelve, Marguerite Clark made her first professional appearance as a member of the Strakosch Opera Company. Recognizing the limited opportunities in the area, Cora relocated them to New York after only a year in Baltimore.

After two years of increasingly good reviews, Marguerite attracted the attention of DeWolf Hopper, an important New York stage actor. Playing alongside such a prominent actor gave her greater credibility as well as her first brief taste of fame. In 1909, she accepted her first starring role, a part in Margaret Mayo’s Baby Mine. In 1914, at the peak of her stage career, she made her first motion picture. Over the next seven years, she would make thirty-nine films and rise to a level of screen popularity exceeded only by Mary Pickford.

It was during a World War I bond selling tour that she met future husband, Lieutenant Harry Palmerston Williams from Patterson, Louisiana. They were married in Greenwich, Connecticut, on August 5, 1918. After her marriage, Clark made only one more screen appearance. She then retired to the New Orleans social scene and the job of managing her husband's various estates.

After Harry's death in 1936, Marguerite left Louisiana to live with Cora in New York. On September 20, 1940, while shopping in a department store, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died five days later.