220px-Richard Norris Williams

Richard "Dick" Norris Williams II (January 29th, 1891 – June 2nd, 1968) generally known as R. Norris Williams, was an American tennis player.[1] He was a First Class passenger on the RMS Titanic, and he survived the sinking.


Williams was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the son of Charles Duane Williams and Lydia Biddle White.

Tennis careerEdit

Williams was intercollegiate tennis champion for Harvard in singles (1913, 1915) and doubles (1914, 1915).[2]

He is best known for his two men's singles titles at the U.S. Championships in 1914 and 1916.[3] He was also on the victorious American Davis Cup team twice: in 1925 and 1926 and was considered a fine doubles player.[4] He also had a reputation in singles of always hitting as hard as possible and always trying to hit winners near the lines. This made him an extremely erratic player, but when his game was sporadically "on," he was considered unbeatable.

Williams was ranked World No. 2 for 1916 by Karoly Mazak, and World No. 4 in 1923 by A. Wallis Myers of The Daily Telegraph.

During the 1924 Olympics, at the age of 33 (and with a sprained ankle), Richard Norris Williams became a Gold Medalist in the mixed doubles, partnering Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman. He went on to captain several winning Davis Cup teams from 1921 through 1926 as well as the 1934 team. At age 44 he retired from Championship Tennis.

He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island) in 1957.

RMS TitanicEdit

Williams also gained fame as being a survivor of the RMS Titanic disaster in April 1912. He and his father, Charles, were traveling first class on the liner when it struck an iceberg and sank. Shortly after the collision, Williams freed a trapped passenger from a cabin by breaking down a door. He was reprimanded by a steward, who threatened to fine him for destroying White Star Line property, an event that inspired a scene in the 1958 film A Night to Remember, which in turn inspired a scene from James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic.

Williams remained on the doomed liner almost until the very end. At one point Williams' father tried to get a steward to fill his flask. The flask was given to Norris Williams and remains in the Williams family.

After being washed overboard by a wave that also took off Colonel Archibald Gracie and Second Officer Lightoller, along with several others, the 21 year old Williams made his way to the Collapsible Lifeboat A holding on to its side for quite a while before getting in. When Williams entered the water he was wearing a fur coat which he quickly discarded along with his shoes. Those in Collapsible A who survived were transferred to Lifeboat 14 by Fifth Officer Lowe. Although abandoned by the RMS Carpathia, Collapsible A was recovered a month later. Amazingly, on board the lifeboat was the discarded fur coat which was returned to Williams by White Star.[5]

Even after entering the lifeboat he spent several hours knee-deep in freezing water. The Carpathia arrived on the scene to rescue survivors. His father was lost in the disaster. The ordeal left his legs so severely frostbitten that the Carpathia's doctor wanted to amputate them. Williams, who did not want his tennis career to be cut short, opted instead to work through the injury by simply getting up and walking around every two hours, around the clock. The choice worked out well for him: later that year, he won his first U.S. Tennis Championship, in mixed doubles, and went on to win many more championships. He also won the Davis Cup with fellow survivor Karl Behr.

Williams served in the United States Army during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. After the war he continued playing championship tennis.

Williams, a noted Philadelphia investment banker, was President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

It was not until after the publication of A Night to Remember, a 1955 book about the Titanic disaster, that Williams became acquainted with its author Walter Lord. In 1962, Williams met with Lord and gave a detailed account of the sinking. Although it has been reported that his father, among others, was crushed by the falling forward smokestack, and that he barely escaped that fate, Williams does not mention that in his talk with Lord.

Richard Norris Williams died of emphysema on June 2nd, 1968, aged 77 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.[6][1]

[7] [8] [9]

Grand Slam recordEdit

Wimbledon ChampionshipsEdit

  • Doubles champion: 1920 (w/Chuck Garland)

U.S. ChampionshipsEdit

  • Singles champion: 1914, 1916
    • Singles finalist: 1913
  • Doubles champion: 1925, 1926
    • Doubles finalist 1921, 1923, 1927
  • Mixed champion: 1912


  1. 1.0 1.1 "R. Norris Williams 2d, Tennis Titlist, Dead at 77. Survivor of Titanic's Sinking Was on 7 Davis Cup Teams. Pennsylvania Historian". New York Times. June 4, 1968. Retrieved 2012-11-28. "R. Norris Williams 2d, former national tennis champion and a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, died. yesterday in Bryn Mawr ..." 
  2. "History of the Ivy League". Council of Ivy League Presidents. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  3. Collins, Bud (2010). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (2nd ed.). New York: New Chapter Press. p. 457. ISBN 978-0942257700
  4. "Tennis Hall of Fame – Richard N. Williams III". International Tennis Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  5. Colonel Archibald Gracie – The Truth About The Titanic (1913), New York, Mitchell Kennerley
  6. "One Ship, Two Men, 1,517 Deaths". USTA. March 26, 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  7. Wallechinsky, David (2004). The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Toronto: Sport Classic Books. ISBN 1-894963-34-2
  8. Letter from R. Norris Williams to Colonel Gracie
  9. Walter Lord – The Night Lives On (1986), William Morrow & Company, ISBN 0-688-04939-7
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