From Canada to cars to Chuck Wagon to Peter Criss, Patty Williams — wife of U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin — fielded questions about her life during Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Johnson County Republican Women’s Club.
In between she touched on politics and the 2017 shooting during a Republican practice for that year’s annual Congressional Baseball Game.
JCRW member Leanne Ivey, who previously worked for Patty Williams and now works in Roger Williams’ Congressional office, led the interview followed by a Q&A from members present.
“I had Leanne as my secretary when we were still at the old Jack Williams [auto dealership] on Highway 80,” Williams said. “I hired her and Roger stole her.”
Williams appeared as guest speaker for JCRW’s new series, Poise Under Pressure, which delves into the stories behind prominent area Republican women.
Although Williams graduated from Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights High School, she doesn’t hail from Cowtown.
“My parents were born in Germany but moved to Canada after World War II,” Williams said. “They were very patriotic, spoke German but got someone to help them learn English. My sister and I were both born in Ottawa.”
Soon thereafter, then Patty Jung and her family moved to America.
“I had dual citizenship until I was 18,” Williams said. “Now you can still carry dual citizen status but back then you had to choose when you turned 18. I chose America.”
JCRW member Betsy Ruffin asked Williams about comparisons of Republicans to Nazis and whether her family experienced prejudice because of their German background.
“The comparison is stupid talk and we as a society are better than that,” Williams said. “My parents gained access to Canada because they weren’t members of the Nazi party. But yes, I was called a Nazi in third grade and that sort of thing was around though it got better over time.”
Ivey asked if that experience influenced Williams’ views on immigration.
“I’m very pro-immigration because I saw how my parents did it right and went through the process,” Williams said. “Roger is pro-immigration too. He’s not anti-immigration. He’s anti illegal immigration.”
Patty Williams’ father managed Fort Worth’s now sadly demolished, Green Oaks Inn that for decades stood as a west side landmark.
“So I grew up in the hotel business, started out working summers when I was 13,” Williams said.
Williams went on to earn her degree from Austin College where she majored in business and minored in marketing. After that she worked for several hotels throughout the Metroplex but always retained fond memories for Green Oaks Inn.
“General Dynamics was huge back then, of course, so a lot of generals and people like that stayed at the hotel,” Williams said. “A lot of famous people stayed there. Daddy told me to be by the tower suite one day and Elvis came out. He was wearing his white outfit. He walked right by me and I took his picture.
“Another night I was working the front desk when Kiss checked in. They were like regular people, weren’t wearing their makeup.”
Green Oaks also played a key role in her life romantically speaking, Williams said.
“Roger’s daddy, Jack Williams, was one of the limited partners of Green Oaks Inn and our families became friends, which is how I met Roger,” Williams said.
Roger Williams later helped Patty —who worked as a German translator during college — out.
“He loaned me a van because I had to take this group of Germans to Lake Texoma and show them around,” Williams said.
Williams also recalled the long gone Chuck Wagon Hamburgers restaurant and other memories of her Fort Worth youth.
Roger Williams, Williams said, asked her to consider entering his family’s business, auto dealerships.
“He said, ‘You can sell.’” Williams said. “I said, ‘I’ll give it one month. If I can’t sell any cars I’m not doing it anymore.’ I ended up being the top selling person that year.”
Ivey joked that Roger Williams always claims that Patty Williams gives better deals on cars than he does.
Patty Williams now serves as president of Roger Williams Automall in Weatherford, has received numerous recognitions through the years and served on many boards including her stint as the first female chairman of the Better Business Bureau of Fort Worth board.
“It’s amazing that women are becoming so entrenched in business,” Williams said. “There’s just really no limit for women anymore other than what you put into it.”
Although then governors George Bush and Rick Perry appointed Roger Williams to several post he first ran for and won elected office in 2013 and, having been re-elected several times since, continues to serve in the Congressional District 25 seat.
“We first became involved in politics when George Bush was running for governor against Ann Richards and nobody thought he had a chance of winning, probably not even Bush at the time,” Williams said. “We had his very first fundraiser at our ranch. Roger really enjoyed that and it was his first real taste of politics. Little by little he just became more entrenched in it.”
Williams said her husband ran in part because so many politicians who he had supported said one thing on the campaign trail but did the opposite once elected. Williams said the thought of her husband entering the public arena didn’t initially thrill her.
“Eventually though I saw that he really brought a lot of the business sense that’s needed in Washington because he knows what it’s like to run a business, write checks, deal with expenses and all that,” Williams said. “I feel like he brings a lot of common sense to Washington D.C., which is when I realized he was the right guy to do this.”
Elections, Williams said, have consequences.
“Look at what we’ve got now for goodness sake,” Williams said. “Look at New York alone. This woman [U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York] must be totally crazy. Even the New York people are starting to realize she’s crazy. That’s a perfect example of a consequence I’m sure New York wasn’t ready for.”
It’s a shame, Williams said, that so few desire to run for office given the current state of politics.
“We’re at a crossroads where it’s so hard to be in politics anymore because there’s so much scrutiny,” Williams said. “It’s hard to get good people to run when they say, ‘We don’t want to be in there.’
“We have gone so far to the left or the right that we’ve lost middle ground and I think that’s what we need to get back. We need to get rid of the anger. Good people don’t want to run because of the anger and that’s horrible.”
Get up, get involved
Williams, in discussing the current state of politics, didn’t grant Republicans a free pass.
“We need to be better messengers,” Williams said. “We don’t message well. We need to talk about what we believe. Because think about it, how many people, Republican or Democrat, truly believe in these late-term abortion measures we’re seeing?
“Our country is virtually imploding. It’s critical that Republican women, and men, because if we don’t it’s going to be really bad in 2020.”
Williams said she doesn’t believe Texas will turn blue in 2020 but added that such a possibility can’t be taken for granted.
“Don’t go to church Sunday then just go about your business the rest of the week and don’t come to a Republican Women’s meeting then forget about it the rest of the month,” Williams said. “Get involved with a campaign, put signs out, become a campaign worker and talk to your friends. It’s critical that we really gear up for the next cycle.”
Ivey asked Williams about June 14, 2017.
A gunman opened fire that morning on a baseball field in Virginia shooting four including Zach Barth, Roger Williams’ legislative correspondent. Williams suffered injury as he and others sought cover in a dugout.
“I got a call at 6:30 a.m. from a weird number I didn’t recognize,” Williams said. “I was Roger and he said ‘You’re going to hear about a shooting. It’s not on the news yet but just know I’m OK.’”
Confusion reigned initially, Williams said. Her husband’s phone was on lock down and she only heard from him because a paramedic on scene let Williams borrow his phone.
Two things stick in her mind, Williams said.
“Had [then House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana] not been there there would have been no capital police and that means there would’ve been no one to defend the Republican players there that day,” Williams said. “The second thing is a gate that’s usually always open was locked that day. Had those two things not happened we could have had just a gun down murder of all those people there that day.”
The shooting still affects her husband deeply, Williams said.
“The other terrible thing about that is that the Congressional Baseball Game is always such a fun event,” Williams said. “Each [party] has a team and it’s also a charity event. The day before the game members of both teams came together and prayed on the field and decided to go forward with the game and not let a terrorist stop them. They ended up raising more than they had ever raised, more than $1 million.
“There are few things Republicans and Democrats can come together on anymore, but that was one thing.”