Arkansas PBS > Programs > Men & Women of Distinction > Men & Women of Distinction: Miller Williams

Men & Women of Distinction: Miller Williams


The general public might remember Miller Williams as the man who delivered the inaugural poem at Bill Clinton's second inauguration. But, in the world of literature, Williams ranks among the best of American poets. He was a man who discovered his calling early in life, writing poetry under the guidance of his mother as a boy. When his academic life brought him into the sciences, Williams continued his writing and self-published his first book of poetry in 1952. Attracting the attention of Flannery O'Connor, Williams made the switch from professor of biology to professor of English literature. In the early '70s, Williams accepted a position at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where he co-founded the University of Arkansas Press, founded the university’s MFA program in literary translation, co-founded the Comparative Literature program, and taught and mentored emerging poets such as Chelsea Rathburn, Leon Stokesberry and R.S. Guinn.

In his life, Williams collected more than 15 awards. Of his book "Time and the Tilting Earth," published in 2009, Joel Brouwer of the New York Times said this: "In poem after poem, he mingles the low and the high in both form and content, bringing a sense of cleareyed practicality to life’s big questions and a keenly honed poetic technique to the cadences of Arkansas porch talk."