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From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:
Alonzo Williams (1842-1901), professor of Germanic languages and literature, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, on September 14, 1842. He was a descendant of Roger Williams. He went to work in a mill in North Scituate at the age of eight, and at the age of eighteen enlisted in Company A, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. He took part in the sieges of Fort Pulaski, Savannah, and Charleston, and in General Sherman’s March to the Sea, and was promoted to Second Lieutenant by the time he was mustered out in August of 1865. After the war he attended East Greenwich Academy to prepare for college and was admitted to Brown as a sophomore in 1867. He graduated in 1870 along with another war veteran, future president E. Benjamin Andrews. After graduation, Williams, who had intended to become a lawyer, worked briefly in the office of Miner and Spink, before coming back to Brown for a year as tutor in Latin and Greek. He then taught Greek, Latin, and German at the Friends’ School in Providence from 1871 to 1876. He was appointed professor of modern languages at Brown in 1876, and began his duties in 1877 after a year of study in Berlin, Leipzig, and Paris. He was named professor of Germanic languages and literature in 1892. Upon the death of Professor J. Lewis Diman in 1881, Williams took over Diman’s courses in European and American constitutional history. In 1889 he was made chairman of the committee on graduate students, and he managed graduate affairs for the remainder of his life. He built a research library to support graduate study in German, for which he acquired financial help from Hezekiah Conant, and raised funds for the first graduate fellowship from his fellow veterans of the Rhode Island Department of the Grand Army of the Republic. He returned five times to Europe for travel and further study. In 1889 he was a delegate to the International Congress of Orientalists held in Stockholm. During his last European trip in 1899-90 he went to Leipzig for what he termed “a little private work in Old Norse with Prof. Mogk,” and wrote in the January 1901 Brown Alumni Monthly, “I never put in four months sterner work, and I’ll never do it again, in vacation.” He became ill shortly thereafter and died on March 16, 1901 in Providence.
The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright ©1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.