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Famed journalist Leo Honeycutt comes to ULM to present new book on CenturyLink founder

Published November 05, 2014

Leo Honeycutt, award winning journalist, author, and West Monroe native, comes to the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Wednesday, Nov. 12, to give a presentation on his new book, “Nice Guy Finishes First: The Clarke Williams Story—How one man’s belief in the Golden Rule transformed a small phone company into CenturyLink.”

Honeycutt’s visit will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the ULM Library Conference Center, followed by a presentation.

This event is free and open to the public. 

Books will be available for $24.95, and Honeycutt will also hold a book signing with the Williams family.


Honeycutt said of Williams: “His is a fascinating, inspirational story inside the fascinating story of the chaotic way we got telephones in the first place. In many ways like Alexander Graham Bell, Clarke Williams always had faith when nobody else did. When the bank turned Mr. Williams down, the moment he prayed, an answer literally drove up in a pickup.”

According to Honeycutt, “The Clarke Williams Story” also delves into the pitfalls of working with friends and family, of misunderstandings and betrayals, of feuds and fights, and the calm way CenturyLink’s founder rose above all of it. His was not an easy path and he relied heavily on spiritual faith and faith in Man. Often, that’s all he had as he, his wife and employees danced along the edge of bankruptcy.

Today, CenturyLink is an $18 billion communications giant, is the third largest telecom in the United States, is Louisiana’s only Fortune 200 Company, is the state’s largest private employer, and is still based in Monroe. The company boasts a workforce of over 47,000 employees worldwide.

About Clarke M. Williams:

Founder Clarke McRae Williams was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1922 to parents in the telephone industry. As the Great Depression started, the Williamses bought Oak Ridge Telephone Company in rural Morehouse Parish for $500, sending 8-year-old Clarke on his bicycle to collect monthly bills.

When Clarke returned from three years in World War II, his parents “gave” him and his new bride the unprofitable phone company, a haphazard jumble of wires tacked to trees, barns and fence posts. Mary Kathryn Williams worked the switchboard in their living room while raising three children. Clarke climbed poles and strung wire in summer heat and icy winters, working three other jobs to feed his family. Managers from Bell Telephone as well as bankers told Clarke Williams his business model would never work. But it did.

“The Clarke Williams Story” headlined the 2014 Louisiana Book Festival at the Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge on Nov. 1. Honeycutt was joined by the Williams family in a joint presentation.

For more information on this event, contact the ULM Office of Public Information at 318-342-5440.

To purchase The Clarke M. Williams Story, visit Clarke M. Williams Book