File #3457: "SOH-010_transcript.pdf"


Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams
Interview Date: June 26, 1979
Interviewed by: David Robbins
Citation: Williams, Kenneth. Interviewed by David Robbins. Suffolk University Oral History
Project SOH-010. 26 June 1979. Transcript and audio available. Suffolk University Archives,
Suffolk University, Boston, MA.
Copyright Information: Copyright ©1979 Suffolk University.
Interview Summary
Kenneth Williams, an alumnus of Suffolk University Law School’s class of 1927, discusses his
career at Suffolk including his working relationship with Hiram and Gleason Archer during the
earliest years of the school. He reflects on his experiences as a student, the development of the
school, his tenure as a faculty member and member of the university’s Review Department from
1928-1958, Hiram and Gleason Archer’s relationship, and how Suffolk differed from other law
schools by encouraging anyone, from any circumstances, to study there.

Subject Headings
Suffolk University
Gleason Archer
Hiram Archer
Suffolk Law School

Table of Contents

p. 3 (00:01)

Purpose of the Review Department

p. 3 (00:51)

Williams’ Associates at Suffolk

p. 4 (03:30)

Hiram and Gleason Archer’s Relationship

p. 7 (12:25)

Major Changes in the Law School

p. 8 (14:12)

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

Experience as a Student

p. 10 (21:13)

Suffolk Admissions Policy

p. 18 (39:10)

Williams’ Major Contributions to Suffolk

p. 21 (44:14)

Rift between Hiram and Gleason Archer

p. 24 (52:15)

Interview transcript begins on next page

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

Interview Transcript
This interview took place on June 26, 1979 in Boston, Massachusetts
Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams
DAVID ROBBINS: With Kenneth B Williams, June 26th, 1979 at Boston, Massachusetts by
David Robbins. Mr. Williams, what was the nature of your experience at Suffolk University?

KENNETH WILLIAMS: I was student at Suffolk Law School from September, 1924 to June,
1927 and a member of the faculty from March 1, 1928 to June, 1958. I was employed full-time
from March 1, 1928 to June 1934 in what was called a Review Department.
ROBBINS: That was Hiram Archer’s department?


ROBBINS: What was the purpose of the Review Department?

WILLIAMS: Well, it was twofold. It was to induce the students to review their work and also
to find out whether they knew what they were talking about, what they were supposed to be

ROBBINS: What sort of things did the Review Department do?

WILLIAMS: Well, we prepared examinations. They had monthly tests. They had three
monthly tests: one in October, one in November and one in December. Then they’d have a midyear exam, latter part of January. And they’d have three more tests, February, March and April,
and then a final examination at the end of the school year. We prepared or edited and prepared
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

most of all the questions. We graded all the examinations or supervised their grading. And, of
course, all of the time we had we were engaged in research and writing.

ROBBINS: And that system was unique to Suffolk University?
WILLIAMS: I believe so. I haven’t heard of anyone else. Hiram Archer established it. They
called it the Research and Review Department. I think I may have tucked on the “Research” part
to give it a little more dignity. I don’t know. But at any rate, I can’t recall for sure on that. But it
was basically preparations, examinations, grading examinations, interviewing students about
their problems. And they had a unique system of permitting them appeal from the grades they
received. These books were marked, all the books were marked and returned to an open file out
in the foyer, which wasn’t a very good system because anybody could go and look at your file
and see what your grades were. So there were some repercussions from that. But at least it kept
the boys on the tolls and also tested their knowledge of the law.

ROBBINS: During your thirty years at Suffolk, who were your chief associates at the
WILLIAMS: There’s so many of them it would be very difficult to name them. Of course I
worked with and for Hiram Archer and with the faculty, and a great many of them that I recall
and some I don’t recall. But in the Review Department, they were− When I went there, there was
Hiram Archer, and he had as an assistant an Abbot Albee, A-L-B-E-E, I believe. And I think
Harry Bloomberg was there at that time. And those two, and myself, and Hiram Archer
constituted the department. We were all full-time employees at that point. And, of course, the
Dean, Gleason Archer, and one dominant person that you may or may not have a record of, was
Catharine Caraher [Finnegan], who was the Dean’s secretary and right arm, as far as the business
end of the school was concerned. There were several others in the department. There was
Dorothy McNamara, you may have heard of her. She was there for over thirty years to my
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

knowledge, and I guess closer to forty years in one capacity or another and, of course, was
employed originally as a stenographer. Catharine Caraher’s sister was there. And she met the
students, and handled students very well indeed.

ROBBINS: What was her name? Do you remember?
WILLIAMS: Margaret Gillespie. And there was another girl, I just can’t, for the life of me,
think of her name. She was a contemporary and came there with Dorothy McNamara. And that
was basically the staff, outside of the janitor. And there was a party who collected the tuition.
And then I guess there was a librarian at all times. But generally, your librarian was a student
during those years. I can’t recall just who was the party was who took the tuition payments at
that time. There was a fellow by the name of Alden Cleveland who was around there a great
deal. And at one time Henry Snyder, Lisa Natchez’s father-in-law, acted sort of as, not as
treasurer really, but he collected the tuition fees. And they had a -- on the first floor, they had a
place where the students paid their tuition. And that basically was the staff outside of the fact that
there were no full-time members of the faculty. They all came in, gave their lectures and left.

ROBBINS: Were they paid a salary for that?

WILLIAMS: No. They were paid on a fee basis, per lecture, and came and went as they always
required. They were not available for interviews, particularly with students, unless just before or
just after the class. But the classes were so close together that there wasn’t much time for
interviews between classes.

ROBBINS: How long did that fee basis continue?

WILLIAMS: Forever as far I was concerned. [Laughter] I finished in 1958, and I was paid per
lecture all that time.
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

ROBBINS: Oh, my goodness.

WILLIAMS: I was offered a full-time job at one time, but I did not accept it because I had to
make a choice, at that point, between my practice and doing that. And I just couldn’t quite see
giving up my practice.

ROBBINS: I guess that was true of a lot of the early teachers at Suffolk, that they wanted to
keep their practice up.

WILLIAMS: Well, they had to because the amount they could earn from the lectures was not
really adequate to live on. And I think that the pay and the professors didn’t get into line until,
well, about the time I left I guess.

ROBBINS: Were there some outstanding members of this crew at Suffolk that you recall?

WILLIAMS: Well, of course I would have to say Hiram Archer and Arthur Getchell, Arthur B.
Getchell. I thought about this to some extent. And of course, Gleason was a man of great charm
and all that. But these two were students, profound students, who were intensely interested in the
student body and totally dedicated to what they were doing. So I would have to pick those two,
perhaps, as being the outstanding men that I came in contact with.

ROBBINS: Were there specific contributions you would associate with them or just their
general quality as faculty members and people?

WILLIAMS: I would just say their individual characters and the contribution through
instruction that students would be the primary contributions they made.

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

ROBBINS: What sort of a man was Hiram Archer?
WILLIAMS: That’s something I expected you might ask me. Hiram was brilliant. He was
probably the most brilliant man that was on the faculty when I was there. He was a good student,
close student. He was a slow writer. I remember he started in to write a set of notes on bills and
notes. And he devoted the entire summer to it. And when he got through, he had two pages of
text. He wasn’t satisfied with what he had done. And he’d keep going back and doing it over. He
really exhausted himself by long, long hours. And he just couldn’t get it down on paper. He had
a very poor voice, very difficult to listen to. But he had the most tremendous knowledge of the
law, and particularly the Constitution of the United States and Constitutional law, in general, of
any person I ever met anywhere.

He had a personality which was not attractive unless you knew him well. And he was not a
public speaker. He believed in the Socratic method of teaching. He was a rather impatient
person: he thought everybody should know as much as he did, but nobody did, of course. And,
by and large, he was what they call today a beautiful person in the sense that he was kind to
everybody, generous to a fault and gave away everything he had, and that type of person. Never
heard him say anything against anybody. Never used a cuss word or a swear word. He didn’t
smoke or drink or anything of that sort. So, all in all, he was really a fine gentlemen.

ROBBINS: How did he get on with his brother? Were they close?

WILLIAMS: They worked arm-in-arm. They started together when the school was first
established. Hiram taught at that time, and he established the Review Department that we
mentioned. He was stricken with tuberculosis, and it looked as if his career was ended. He went
back to his native home for a while. And then he moved back near our home when I was a small
boy. But he soon was commuting. He came up here to Suffolk to handle the examinations and to
grade them and so on. And from that time on, which I would guess was around 1914, he was
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

really the keystone, so to speak, of the educational program in the school and was constantly
trying to improve it. They got along quite well, as far as I could observe, until sometime
probably in the thirties. And I may have something more to say about that a little later.

ROBBINS: What would you say were the major changes that took place during your time at
Suffolk? Thirty years is a long time.
WILLIAMS: Well, that’s true. But there were a lot of changes. Well, in 1938 there were many
changes. I may be a little off, it may have started a little before 1930, but they established the
part-time day law school with an early morning class and a late afternoon class. And they got, at
that time, the power to confer degrees on day students. Before that time they did not have, in
their charter, power to do that, although they had started, I believe at day school, way, way back.
But, when they got the charter, they didn’t press for that part because it seemed to be stirring up
too much opposition I guess. Then, of course, there were additional courses introduced. I
developed a course on insurance law and wrote a legal text on it, which may or may not be in the
library. I don’t know. That was published by Hildreth.

And it had quite a large circulation, I suppose it was in every insurance law library in the
Commonwealth and some outside. They established, during that decade, the School of Business
Administration, the College, the University. They established the Graduate School of Law. They
enlarged the hours of instruction up to− perhaps the middle thirties they had used, almost
exclusively, the so-called textbook method. Then they introduced, along with that, casebooks.
And we had casebooks in all courses I believe, well, certainly before 1938.

ROBBINS: So they were using the case method even before Dean Simpson came and began to
develop the−

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

WILLIAMS: Not exclusively. They had both the textbooks and the casebooks. And, in every
course that I taught, we had a casebook. They were heavy to carry around. And I was glad when
I going home late at night to have a briefcase loaded with books that I could knock a thug over
the head with if he tackled me as I was walking down the North End into North Station.
[Laughing] But those I think were the major things. We did develop − increased the time allotted
and the teaching on conflict of laws. And I wrote on that a notebook which was used for a long
time. And I believe Malcolm Donahue−I gave my notes to him I believe, as I recall it. I also did
the same on bailments and carriers. At that time there was just a pamphlet, but they covered the
courses. And we used those things along with the casebooks.

ROBBINS: Dean Archer retired, I guess, in 1942 as Dean of the Law School and was replaced
by Frank L. Simpson.


ROBBINS: Would you say that the retirement of Dean Archer is an important watershed for the
school in some way? Is there a big change from one side of the regime to the other?
WILLIAMS: No. I’m going to be frank about it. My practice basically was in the
administrative law field. And I went down to New Bedford taking depositions in the case for the
Interstate Commerce Commission. When I came back I picked up the paper and read of that
appointment. And I was aghast, frankly, because these two men were probably the two most
stubborn men in Massachusetts. And I knew they would never get along together, as well as I do
now. And I don’t believe that Frank Simpson changed materially the method of instruction. As a
matter of fact, I think the principal change in the method instruction came after I got through on
the faculty. Because I couldn’t tell you that there was any drastic change in the method of
lecturing while I was there, except that the hours were increased.

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

ROBBINS: And you didn’t notice very many substantive changes from say 1941 to ’46 or ‘47?

WILLIAMS: Oh, of course, during the war there was nothing going on, nothing going on. And
by the end of the war there was so many problems that developed internally, there, that it just
sort of drifted along for the next ten years.

ROBBINS: Was the disharmony between Dean Archer and Dean Simpson in any way involved
in the events of ’46, ’47, ’48, the conflict with the trustees?
WILLIAMS: I really don’t know. I really don’t know. I do know that Gleason came down to
me one time and tried to get me to take over the deanship apparently from Frank Simpson. And
I’ve heard-- although I wasn’t present and it’s only hearsay -- that there was a real battle between
the two of them when he got back and announced to Frank Simpson that he was going to replace
him. Of course I wouldn’t accept it anyway, at that time, and particularly in those circumstances.
So that’s all I knew about that.

ROBBINS: Fine, thank you. I have a sort of backfilling question: How was it that you came to
Suffolk at first in 1924 you said?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Well, I don’t want to get into personal history but my father was a Baptist
minister. And he had less than nothing. I mean by that, he owed everybody in the world. And I
never got a chance to go to school, I didn’t even have a chance to finish anything, except I did
finish grammar school. And I had to bail him out of debt. My older brother and I went to work
and we did bail him out. By that time I began to get interested in doing something. And I first
decided that I couldn’t, anyway, raise money. And I couldn’t get in anywhere anyway because I
didn’t have the educational background. So I tried a little course at La Salle Extension University
and got more interested. And then I finally decided to come up here and have a go at it. And I
came in 1924. I didn’t have a high school diploma, and I’d never seen the inside of a college at
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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that point. I did the law school in three years. The only reason I could do this was that the
opening was there. In other words, there were no real requirements except that you had to make
up the equivalent of a high school education and I did that summers.
ROBBINS: There was a program at Suffolk to do that? Wasn’t there a summer equivalency
WILLIAMS: That’s right. Not a very profound program because I found when I got into it that
half the subjects, at least, I’d already had in grammar school. But, at least, for this part of the
country it was the equivalent of a high school I would say.
ROBBINS: And your father was Gleason Archer’s mother’s brother?

WILLIAMS: Right, he was a little cousin.

WILLIAMS: And also, while we’re talking about that, so you can weigh what I say, Hiram
married my mother’s sister. So he was my uncle by marriage as well as my cousin.

ROBBINS: This is going to take days to work out.

WILLIAMS: Of course I thought I was a carpenter when I came. I thought I could make a
living that way, but I found out that I couldn’t. And so, I was washing dishes and going to school
nights. And I think it was a big break I got in life, was Gleason Archer called me and said that
there was an opening in the United States Court of Appeals. A fellow was leaving and would I be
interested if I could type. And I said, “Sure I can type.” I couldn’t, but I thought I could. So I
took that job. And that’s what put me through the law school. I was Deputy Clerk at the Court of
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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Appeals for four years, well, three years and a half. I went there December 24 and stayed there
until March 1st until I went to Suffolk in March 1st, ’28− ’24 to ‘28 I should say.

ROBBINS: When you graduated from Suffolk, did you find that you had much trouble getting a
placement or was it difficult? Suffolk was just an evening school.
WILLIAMS: Well, it was a handicap, there’s no question about that. But it is a fact, I think, of
life and an unpleasant fact of life that most law firms are interested in your connections and your
ability to attract business and bring business into the firm than they are in what you can do. And
that, I think, probably was a bigger handicap than having graduated from Suffolk. A lot of that
has changed, and a lot of it’s changed as a result of World War II, when many fellows were able
to get into the big firms because of the shortage of people to come in. But it was definitely a
handicap at that time.

ROBBINS: When you were at Suffolk, where were you principally housed? Was it in what is
now the Archer Building?

WILLIAMS: Well, if you mean by the Archer Building the building facing Derne Street?

ROBBINS: Yes, the old university [simultaneous conversation]

WILLIAMS: The main entrance was on Derne Street. You went in there, there was foyer there
on the first floor. And the Dean’s offices were on the right, and the Research and Review
Departments were on the left. But I was originally housed on the second floor in the corridor that
went back to the annex of four classrooms, one above another. On the right, up toward Temple
Street, I was there for a few months. And then I moved downstairs. And I had the corner office
toward Hancock Street on the left as you went in, you went by staircase there.

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
Moakley Archive and Institute

ROBBINS: Now at that time you were doing primarily what could be called piecework there,
lecture and pay for the lecture basis. You weren’t what would be called full-time?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I was full-time.

ROBBINS: You were full-time at that time?

WILLIAMS: I was full-time at that time, yes, full-time at that time.

ROBBINS: Did the part-timers or the lecturers have offices?

WILLIAMS: No, no. The only ones who had offices there were myself, Hiram and this man
Albee that I speak of and Harry Bloomberg, and, of course, the Dean.

ROBBINS: Oh, so it was a very small full-time faculty?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes. It really was.

ROBBINS: The Research Department made up the core of the full-time faculty?

WILLIAMS: It was the full-time faculty.

ROBBINS: Okay, good. That clears a lot up. Well, this is fairly obvious, I guess: Who ran
things at Suffolk when you were there?

WILLIAMS: Well, of course, Gleason Archer ran the thing throughout. But at some point, I
think in the late twenties, he began to broadcast over at WBZ a series of lectures. And a short
time after that he started going to New York to broadcast over NBC network. And he went there
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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weekly. So that left us, say, as the ones who really had to run the day-to-day work. And I
suppose that Mrs. Caraher and I probably come closer to running it during those absences than
anyone else. But, of course, he was ultimately responsible and we didn’t make any startling
changes without his approval. Although we did recommend, and they did renovate the offices.
And they made some moves, and moved the bookstore upstairs and created offices in the Review
Department for the staff, which we didn’t have at that time except half a partition between my
office and the next office. But Gleason actually was the responsible person.

ROBBINS: How long did this commuting by Gleason Archer go on?
WILLIAMS: I wish I could tell you. I’m not sure. But I would guess it may have gone on six or
seven years, five or six years anyway.

ROBBINS: And these were the Depression years for the most part?


ROBBINS: This was a hard time for the school or relatively hard anyway?

WILLIAMS: Yes, yes.

ROBBINS: And a lot of that fell on your shoulders basically?
WILLIAMS: Well, I wouldn’t want to say that exactly, but it was sort of an ad hoc committee,
I guess. Hiram, of course, ran the Review Department as always. But Mrs. Caraher and I did a lot
of things. Like, for instance, we put out the catalog between us and things of that nature and
layout the program, watch for holidays, things like that; tried to set it up so we weren’t getting
into trouble. But basically she was his right-arm as far as the business end of it was concerned.
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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ROBBINS: And from what you’ve said it sounds as though Hiram was really the man who
handled the academic side of things?

WILLIAMS: Oh yes, no question about that. No question,

ROBBINS: Did Gleason hire the faculty? Or did he consult with Hiram? Or how did that work?

WILLIAMS: Well, Gleason hired, of course. But Hiram made recommendations, which I must
say frankly weren’t always the best. I mean by that that his judgment perhaps wasn’t as good as
Gleason’s in that connection. He liked everybody. And I think he sometimes chose or would
choose or recommend people that perhaps should not− Like this man Albee was a nice enough
fellow but a complete non-entity, so to speak, and a man whose wife beat him up regularly. It’s
the strangest story I ever lived through. But Gleason really did the hiring, sometimes on
recommendation hiring.

ROBBINS: During your time there was Gleason Archer still teaching or had he long since
given that up?
WILLIAMS: He did very little teaching when I was there. I don’t recall his teaching at all. He
may have once or twice, but I don’t recall ever having seen him as a lecturer at that time. In fact,
I only saw him as a lecturer once and that was when I was fourteen. And I came up here, and
that’s when we were on Mount Vernon Street. And they happened to have a lecture on torts and
he gave it. And he was a good teacher, he had a poor voice, but he was a good teacher. And he
had the interest of his class every minute. The discussions were lively and entertaining. I’ll never
forget that.

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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ROBBINS: During your time at Suffolk −this is kind of a hard question − but who would you
say were the most enthusiastic backers that Suffolk had if you can think of certain ones?
WILLIAMS: I don’t think that I could tell you any individual. I would say that the students and
former students, probably the former students were the most enthusiastic backers of the school.
They had no financial background, no financial support.

ROBBINS: Oh, I know.

WILLIAMS: And, of course, they were enthusiastic people, like, as I mentioned, Hiram, did
his whole life to the neglect of his family even. Arthur Getchell who was wholly dedicated.
There was a classmate of mine, Mark Crocket who was wholly dedicated. He was there part-time
for a while. There were a number that were dedicated and made contributions, no question about
ROBBINS: Was there something that you could identify as the school’s greatest resource?
Obviously it wasn’t money.

WILLIAMS: No, it had to be the students, the students and past students.

ROBBINS: The alumni was fairly well organized at that time, was it not?
WILLIAMS: No, I wouldn’t say so. There was an alumni association. Among the things that I
ran across was one of the−and I have a copy of it here. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them or
not. But they put a bulletin called The Alumni News.
ROBBINS: I’ve heard of it. I’ve never actually seen a copy.

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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WILLIAMS: And I wrote for that along with others. At that point, this Alden Cleveland, that I
mentioned, he was, I guess, the alumni secretary. And my memory is that I took over the
editorship of it at some point. He, I believe, left, and I think that I took over. I used to put out
monthly summary cases. And I have an article in here on perjury, which is kind of, perhaps, not
as brilliant as it might have been. But if you’d like that, I’d be glad to loan it to you. I would like
to get it back sometime. It’s been chewed by the buffalo moths or something or other. And I’ve
pasted the other as best I could.

ROBBINS: Do you recall how long this publication continued to be published? I think it started
in 1927 as I recall.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. I think that went on until it fell victim of the Depression. Excuse me.
ROBBINS: What would you say was Suffolk’s major contribution to the community during
your years there?
WILLIAMS: Of course that’s the whole history of the school: The whole idea was to give
anybody and everybody the chance, anybody who had the ambition and wanted to try it, the
chance to see if they could make good. That was the whole philosophy of the thing. It enabled all
kinds of people to improve their position, people that had no hope and no way of becoming
attorneys. It wasn’t like today where there are so many helps available to people. It was just a
dream to many people, including myself as far as that goes. And I’m sure that there are literally
thousands of people: lawyers, judges, members of the court, successful lawyers, practitioners and
businessmen that owe their standing to that school.

ROBBINS: I know during the early days of Suffolk that many attended the school that never
either went on to become lawyers or intended to go on to become lawyers. They went mainly to

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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provide some law background for business and so forth. Was that still true when you were at
WILLIAMS: Well, I’m not altogether sure that it was ever true. I know that there were some
who went there with the idea of getting education to assist them, perhaps, in getting promotions
in insurance companies and things of that sort. There were a great many who came with the idea
that it was a snap course and that they could drift through. And, after the first test, they fled in
disarray because they found out it wasn’t a snap and that they had to really work. But I would
have to say that that phase of it didn’t change, particularly, while I was there. I would say that the
great percentage of them were there to become lawyers or attempt to become lawyers.

ROBBINS: What percentage of them would you say succeeded?

WILLIAMS: You mean from those entered or from those who graduated?

ROBBINS: Yes, from those that entered?

WILLIAMS: Well, up to 1938 I would say that a great percentage did not graduate. Of those
who entered, the shrinkage during the first semester was the most pronounced. And there were,
of course, many failures. So that, by the time that they go through, it had diminished, perhaps I
would say, maybe 25-30% graduated of those who were originally enrolled.

ROBBINS: What kind of an admissions policy was there? Was it more or less open admissions
or were there some people that just wouldn’t be let in?

WILLIAMS: Initially anybody could get in if he had a high school education or was in the
position to get one before he got through.

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ROBBINS: Now that’s a Bar Association requirement?

WILLIAMS: That was a Bar Association requirement. Before that requirement, anybody could
get it. Gleason Archer, when he was running the school in the earlier days− and Hiram, they
would take in anybody that came along and give them a try.

ROBBINS: Just at least give them a chance to see−

WILLIAMS: Give them a chance, right. That was the whole objective.

ROBBINS: And was that kind of mission what attracted you to Suffolk?

WILLIAMS: Well, I would say that it was the only chance I had really.

ROBBINS: There was nothing like it anywhere else in New England at the time?

WILLIAMS: No, nothing at all, no place that you could go. See the tuition was very low; I
think we paid maybe $100 dollars, or was it a $150 dollars, a year tuition.
ROBBINS: That was significantly lower than any other law schools at the time I’m sure?
WILLIAMS: I think so, but I’m not sure of that. I don’t know what the others charged. But you
couldn’t get accepted. And, because of my lack of education, I couldn’t have been accepted
anywhere else at that time.

ROBBINS: I presume that you were fairly enthusiastic about teaching at Suffolk once you had

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WILLIAMS: Well, what I would have to say about the establishment of the school, that
initially it was more by accident than by design. It actually came about− I had no thought in
mind of teaching. But in my senior year, I was getting such uniformly good grades that they
began to talk about it. And they had groomed a fellow to take the job that I ultimately took. And
he had a good background, a college education. But he wasn’t overly enthusiastic about work. So
they worked out an honorable swap. I was working for the government, which I couldn’t stand,
because there was no challenge to it after you’d been there six months. Worked out a swap: He
took my job, and I took his. And that’s how it started.

ROBBINS: When you were a student at Suffolk, were you an evening student or a day student?

WILLIAMS: There was no day school.

ROBBINS: There was no day school?

WILLIAMS: No day school at all.

ROBBINS: Now that surprises me because it says in the catalogs that day classes started in
1924. But you’re in a position to know because you came to Suffolk in 1924.
WILLIAMS: I don’t recall that there was any day class.
ROBBINS: That’s entirely possible. Things occur in catalogs that don’t−
WILLIAMS: As a matter of fact, they didn’t have any power to confer degrees. I remember
that battle in the legislature to get the power to confer degrees to day students. The charter was
changed, amended. And I would think that that was probably around 1929 or so. But I may
wrong about that.
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ROBBINS: Now that’s very interesting.
WILLIAMS: I’m having to go exclusively on memory. But I cannot recall any day classes at
all. It may be that− No, I don’t think so. I was going to say that it may be that he started a lateafternoon class, but I don’t think so.
ROBBINS: No, I would think you’re in a position to remember.

WILLIAMS: Well, I should be. Every once and a while, my memory gets a little faulty. But it
seems to be that I certainly would have known if there were day classes at that time.
ROBBINS: What would you say− Okay, this is hard to ask you, but what would you say were
your chief contributions to Suffolk?

WILLIAMS: Well, I have to judge that by what people say to me, what former students say to
me, and what they relay to me and what they say to others in my presence and so on. And that
probably it would be the fact of what they learned from my courses, because I taught almost
everything at one time or another.
ROBBINS: Did you pick up peoples’ courses when they couldn’t teach them? Were you kind of
a jack-of-all-trades?

WILLIAMS: No, not really. I came into bailments and carriers, which was then a very short
course. And I’ve forgotten just how that came about. But I think one of the men− He had two
men on each course; they alternated. One would take the first class at night one week, and the
other would take the second class. And then the next week they’d switch over, back and forth.

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ROBBINS: Oh, so any given student would have two instructors in the course of a semester?

WILLIAMS: Right, right. Now some of them would stay through both lectures. I had them stay
through both of my lectures when I was giving both. But I started, I think, with that course
briefly. Then I moved into contracts. I taught contracts for thirty years. Then I picked up
evidence as a full-time course. I had a full course of evidence, not full-time instructor. I taught
Constitutional law. And during the War, I taught a lot of things. But I taught Constitutional law. I
even taught agency one term. I taught administrative law. I prepared the course on that and gave
it in the Graduate School. There were other courses that I gave but I can’t recall them. The major
courses that I gave, I would say my two majors were− or perhaps three majors− constitutional
law, contracts, evidence, conflict of laws. I guess those would probably be the major courses.
ROBBINS: (Pause in recording). Deserted place, wasn’t it?

WILLIAMS: Yes, it was. I had classes where I would only have seven, eight or nine students.
Of course, they began to drift back in fairly early in the duration of the War. But, at the
beginning of the War, it was almost classes were decimated. Then when the GI Bill came along
they began to come back in. And it was a pretty good-sized school when the War ended. It had
come back a great deal, not the way it did later. But, from the lull when, there perhaps were, I
would guess, less than 100 students in the whole place. But it came back quite rapidly.
ROBBINS: How many faculty members were there on duty in the Law School in ’42, ’43, ’44?
Very many?

WILLIAMS: I would guess that the average number probably− except that I took on a lot of
day teaching at that time− the practice wasn’t flourishing particularly during the War. The only
thing that really kept me going was a practice for the Interstate Commerce Commission during

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that time. So I filled in a lot during in the daytime. But, other than that, I would say that probably
the relatively same number continued throughout that period than had before.
ROBBINS: That’s interesting; I didn’t realize that so few students would need so many

WILLIAMS: Well, we had just the same number of courses, you see.

ROBBINS: Of course, right, okay.
WILLIAMS: I’d have to look at catalogs to refresh my memory. And I don’t have any catalogs
except two, and one’s too old, one’s too new.

ROBBINS: Our wartime catalogs have vanished if they ever existed.

WILLIAMS: Is that so?
ROBBINS: Yes. If you find any, they’d be very useful because we simply don’t have any.

WILLIAMS: Is that so?
ROBBINS: We have most of the others, but we don’t have those. At any rate, what would you
say was your most satisfying or your most rewarding experiences at Suffolk? What were they?

WILLIAMS: Well, the reception that was given to my lecturers I think was probably the most
glorifying thing. And I think at that time, of course many people have spoken to me about those
years. We had all kinds of people that got their courses of law under me like Mayor John Collins.
Well, Mayor John Collins of Boston and Paul Smith who’s a famous trial lawyer. Both of them
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were under 21 when they graduated. That is, they couldn’t even take the Bar they were so young.
They had to wait a few months.
ROBBINS: You couldn’t take the Bar until you were of age?
WILLIAMS: That’s right. And then, of course, we’ve had many judges. I had both Judge
Shimlanski and Congressman Moakley in my classes. And we had a fellow next door Harold
Widett who wasn’t the best student in the world, but he was probably the most successful of the
lawyers, in the sense that he’s established a large law firm and had a lot of people working for
him. And it’s one of the progressive law firms of Boston. Those things were satisfying.
Whenever I got out, whether it’s the probate court or whatever court or wherever I go I run into
people that had their courses under me. And it is a gratifying thing.

ROBBINS: On the other hand what would you say some of your more disappointing
experiences were?

WILLIAMS: Well, I would have to say the inability that we had to, perhaps, improve upon
what had started and to perpetuate the ideal, actually with Gleason in the early days. From a
personal point of view, of course, the rift between Hiram and Gleason that developed ultimately
was a very, very trying and distressing situation. But that, of course, didn’t come until, really
developed during and after the War.

ROBBINS: Was that over politics or was it more than that? I know there was−

WILLIAMS: Neither one.

ROBBINS: Neither one?

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WILLIAMS: No. Hiram, of course, was vitally interested in the welfare of the school. He was
trying to improve upon the curriculum as I was. And the textbooks that we had were really
inadequate. They were superficial. They could have been improved on greatly. But Gleason had
a great idea. And if it had been carried on it would have one thing. But he was a man who would
not go back and work on what he’d done. He was satisfied with it. And this, of course, while it
was fine at the beginning, just didn’t go when you got to a point where you had more stringent
requirements, the Bar examination, for the bar examination. And I think that this was the cause,
the beginning at least, of the rift between them. Gleason could not take criticism. If you criticized
him or disagreed with him seriously, he felt that you were against him as it were. He was an able
man and a great man any way you want to look at it.
But he just couldn’t accept any improvement on his own work. And this, to my thinking, was the
principal cause of the problem that developed. Politics never entered between the two of them.
There were people there that may have entered into it, but I don’t think so even there. I think it
was a power struggle pure and simple as I viewed it. And some of them were seriously interested
in the improvement of the school like Professor Hanskin who was in my class incidentally. I was
really one year behind him, I guess. But, no, I guess probably not. I guess we graduated at the
same time. He was seriously interested, of course, and some of the others. But some were
politicians, some were grasping for power and fame. And you couldn’t say that Gleason was
without blame, and you couldn’t say that Hiram was without blame. But, there was−you can’t
just characterize it any way other than a power struggle, a struggle for control like Iran, only not
quite so bloody: almost but not quite.
ROBBINS: So it at least began with Hiram’s suggestion that Gleason rewrite some of his texts?
WILLIAMS: I don’t think he made that suggestion. I think that he, along with some other
members of the faculty− probably including myself− felt that students needed more than just the
textbooks that they had. I don’t know that he ever suggested to Gleason that he should rewrite
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them. I did, I know. And I was able to sell him the idea a little bit on contracts, but he wouldn’t
let me go very far. So I did revise the contracts book, which is the probably the best one he ever
wrote incidentally. And I made some changes, there were errors in it too, not many. But evidence
was a total catastrophe. It was full of errors, and it should have been rewritten. When I got
through with that course I had more written in than was in the text itself. But I would say that it
was over the general program that the problem developed.

ROBBINS: Not just the text themselves but actually the course offerings as well?

WILLIAMS: I think so. I think so. See, as someone wrote, a person is never in such great
danger as when he feels most secure. And Gleason felt secure unfortunately. He had great ego
that had to be fed all the time. And his great weakness was that when anybody discovered that
weakness he became putty in their hands and this led him into all kinds of problems.

ROBBINS: Was Dean Simpson also in favor of changing the program significantly or was he
not one of the primary movers in this?
WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t like to be unkind to him, but I became disillusioned shortly.
Because he called me in after a little while and wanted me to cite in the classroom, the lectures,
Simpson’s Massachusetts Law, which was nothing but a law review and, again, superficial
abstracts of cases. I listened to him carefully but I never did it. Because if you’re going to read
something, you want to read the whole case. Otherwise you may get the wrong impressions. It’s
like reading a hand note. It may be correct or it may not. But I don’t believe that he introduced,
while he was Dean, any radical changes. He may have brought in and attracted some pretty good
instructors. But they had a good faculty. I would say that, while I was there, the strongest faculty
was just before the War, World War II.
ROBBINS: That’s right down in 1958−
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WILLIAMS: No, in the late ‘30s.
ROBBINS: But, I mean, you were there until the late ‘50s?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I was there until June of ’58.

ROBBINS: Wow. Now some people have suggested−
WILLIAMS: ’56, I’m sorry, ’56.
ROBBINS: Some people suggested to me that some of Gleason Archer’s troubles came out his
lack of concern about accreditation.
WILLIAMS: Oh, that’s false, absolutely false.
ROBBINS: Okay good, I’m glad to hear that.

WILLIAMS: He wanted accreditation worse than anything in the world. And he went about it,
I’d have to say− he loved to battle. And he didn’t quite realize that you could catch more flies in
molasses than you could with vinegar. No, his great desire was accreditation. And whatever you
may say about Gleason Archer, that school was his life. He was dedicated wholly to it. And the
only thing that held him back, which was the thing that made him too, was his tremendous ego.

ROBBINS: The reason I ask about the accreditation was he was a very independent man,

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ROBBINS: And I know he ran into a couple of disputes with the ABA (American Bar
Association) about their attempts to impose, for example, a requirement of two years of college
study before law school.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that part is true.
ROBBINS: But there wasn’t any resentment on his part that the ABA tried to set standards for
WILLIAMS: Well, I wouldn’t say that, but I would say that he desired accreditation more than
anything else.

ROBBINS: And he was willing to meet the standards?

WILLIAMS: And, as a matter of fact, this was a part of the problem that I just talked about, that
these things were changing, and it was quite essential that the courses be improved. And, of
course, there have been greater changes in my lifetime than there were since the years ’81 and
everything. And we’ve gone literally from the ox cart here to the space program. So you just
can’t do something and have it last forever: you’ve got to keep improving it.

ROBBINS: And Gleason was getting a little bit satisfied with what he had?

WILLIAMS: Well, he was always satisfied with what he did. You know, this was his strength
as well as his weakness. And this is why he succumbed so completely to flattery and caused a lot
of problems for himself.

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ROBBINS: During your time at Suffolk do you recall opportunities that were either taken or
lost for development of the university that you particularly would point to?
WILLIAMS: Well, I would say that that decade, 1930 to 1940− if I’m right in saying that the
day school was established in that period− those were the greatest opportunities. That I saw,
while I was there, the greatest improvements. And the only quarrel anyone could have with that
period was that it didn’t go far enough and it didn’t go far enough with the law school
particularly. There was a loss of opportunities. Other than that, I can’t think of anything,
particularly off-hand, where opportunities were lost.

ROBBINS: Do you feel that the opening of the other divisions of what became the university
might have detracted from the development of the Law School?

WILLIAMS: No. I would say the reverse of that. I would think that it gave the Law School
more standing certainly. And judging from what graduates have said to me, they, I think, feel
almost unanimously that that was very, very essential and very worthwhile, and really preserved
the Law School, perpetuated it.

ROBBINS: Oh, really? How so?

WILLIAMS: Well, to run an independent law school not attached to university is a little
difficult. And, of course, the thing that motivated Gleason Archer in establishing the college was
as a feeder for the Law School. There’s no question about that in my mind. And but it has
developed. And it has, I think today, a pretty good standing, both the Law School and the
college, university.

ROBBINS: What memories do you have of Gleason Archer?

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WILLIAMS: Do you want to stop the tape for a second? (Pause in recording.) Gleason Archer
was a man of great charm when he wished to turn it on. And he did possess unusual talent for
writing, at least in the sense of clarity. Physically he was a tall man for that time. He was
standing well over six feet. (Papers shuffling.) He catered to people of fame a great deal. And he
brought Rudy Vallee in at the height of his fame and kowtowed to him heading around the
school and a great admirer of Jack Dempsey and also of Alfred E. Smith. And he went and met
him. And when he came back, he said he’s the coldest fish he ever saw. Well, that was his
impression. But he invited senators and congressmen and governors to speak at alumni events,
commencement exercises. And he was able to get them. Very oddly enough, he rarely brought in
an educator to speak at the commencements, perhaps more in the later years.

ROBBINS: Was Gleason a politician by nature?

WILLIAMS: I would say no. He was able to cope with politicians. He was impressed by the
humblest alderman in the smallest city and elected officials generally, yet he never ran for office,
so far as I know, in his lifetime.

ROBBINS: He talked about running for governor at one point but backed off.

WILLIAMS: Maybe, I was not aware of that. But he was a man that people either loved or
hated. And I’d have to say that individuals both loved him and hated him often. He stirred
emotions, there’s no question about it. He was an avid reader. He was constantly reading and
constantly writing at all times. He had poor eyesight, and yet he used his eyes a great deal. He
had a hideaway down at Norwell, I think it was, where he had a little fish pond. And he’d invite
people down there, let them catch a fish and then he’d cook it for them. And he was a real good
cook. You’d have to say that he was a man of tremendous courage. He was a great fighter, and
that was a quality that attracted him to many people. And this is probably the most evident in his
battles in legislature when he was seeking the bar to confer degrees.
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He was a sort of romanticist, often fighting imaginary foes. He direct saw demons and would
joust with them. That’s quite evident from some of his writings. He loved the theatre. And he
would attend, at one time, a great deal. I think that didn’t last too long. He was a very generous
man in many ways. He gave away a lot, to many people. He pensioned a lot of people: relatives
and friends. Catherine Caraher can tell you more about that. But I know that every month he
used to send a check to some quite a large group of people. And he was a man of great
contradictions, and he did love to help people. But he wasn’t liberal in paying his people or his
faculty. I think he paid Hiram well, but I think he did that more because he felt he was giving it
to him than otherwise. And, of course, Catherine Caraher was well-paid.
But other than that he wasn’t particularly generous in his payments. And I’d have to say I don’t
believe anyone really knew him or completely understood him. And, as I’ve already indicated, I
don’t know that he had any close personal friends. But he did know a great many famous and
near-famous people, and he used them. He used people and had a considerable talent in gleaning
ideas from others, gathering up ideas and appropriating them for his own purposes. And he was
at times accused of plagiarism, I know, with respect to some of his books, particularly a book on
contracts, which I’ve already mentioned. His most effective use of people, I would believe, was
during his legislative fights. He was also used shamelessly by many people who really never
knew him. But they found the key to his weakness which was his great ego, which had to be fed.

And he was easily seduced by flattery. And once this not so small facet of his character was
discovered, he became an easy mark for charlatans and panderers and the greedy. And this cost
him a fortune over a period of years and actually he fell for one scheme after another, which
consumed much of his time a great deal of his money. And anyone who warned him about it was
in trouble right away, including his son-in-law. He just couldn’t accept criticism as I previously
said. I’m trying to omit some of the things I said before. And, as I previously said, Gleason was a
big man. He was tall and broad, but he wasn’t fat. His hair was black when he was young. He
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became bald and gray, white at a very early age. He had weak eyes. His handshake was a light
squeeze. You’d never forget it. He would just give you a little squeeze and smile and that was it.

He loved pomp and ceremony and especially when he was the center of attraction. He did have a
good sense of humor and often laughed at the mistake of others which didn’t endear him to some
people. He had a thin voice, which oddly enough became resonant and clear when he spoke over
the radio. And you couldn’t ask for a better voice. He could get very angry but he controlled it. I
never knew him to get out of control. He…the thought escaped me, I didn’t write it down…But
he had a considerable faculty for teaching, no question about that. And he could speak in a very
entertaining manner.
And I’ll go back and talk a little about the background as it relates to school. And I would say
that the highest praise that you could bestow upon him was that he opened doors for people,
literally thousands of young men, many who wouldn’t have a chance. And his philosophy was to
give everyone the chance. And many of the graduates are eternally grateful, some aren’t. As I
mentioned before, some of them accorded both him and Hiram almost unanimous respect I
would say. Some who respected him were amused by his ego. Because when you went to walk
into the foyer, you probably never saw this, but he had a bulletin on one side of it. And he had
large pictures of himself at different stages of his development. And that, perhaps, epitomizes his
He befriended many a student who couldn’t raise even the very low tuition fee, which was then
required. He was sometimes harsh with those that he thought could pay but were trying to avoid
doing so. And he had a, I think, unique method not only of collecting his tuition but also
requiring attendance. Each quarter−the tuition was payable quarterly. Each quarter you would
buy a strip of tickets, one for each class and you were supposed to write your name on them. And
they had them on the door of the classroom, and you had to hand in a ticket to get into the room.
And those tickets were then put into a bundle and elastic around them and give them to a student
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who was generally the librarian or at least the monitor in the library. And he would record the
attendance. And this furnished employment for student as well as securing payment of tuition
and having a good record of attendance. And if they had too bad a record of attendance, out they
went. He didn’t hesitate to throw people out if he felt they should be thrown out.

His great consuming passion was, in my judgment, to provide an opportunity for everyone who
was capable of bettering himself, had the ambition to make the try. And I suppose that that
characteristic arose out of the fact that, at the time he was a boy, he had nothing but hope and
ambition. And certainly, they were poor enough in that community. I don’t know anybody in that
community that had very much of anything. It was a poor lumbering community, and they had to
struggle to get by. A lot of them didn’t have shoes and they’d have to warm chips and go out and
stand on them to cut wood to keep the fire going. And I’ve heard my father tell about that many a
time. He did have help along his way as I’ve mentioned.

My folks gave him a home when he was in high school in Sabattus, Maine. And there was a
doctor that either loaned or gave him the money to pay his tuition at BU (Boston University) the
first year. And, of course, he’s written in the education octopus to us the struggles to which he
went through. And, as far as I know, that’s pretty accurate up to the time he begins to joust with
the imaginary octopus, you know. I mentioned the fact that the law school was founded more by
accident than by design. And he had no idea of teaching apparently. But he did tutor, assisted
some of his fellow students. And someone suggested to him that they’d like to have him teach.
And he started in by teaching one and so on. And the idea developed. And then Hiram joined in.
And the two of them and MacLean who founded Portia− and they had a deal, incidentally, going
as I understand it. But Portia wouldn’t take men and Suffolk wouldn’t take women in the law
school. That was not broken until the late ‘30s. They never took female students. That’s another
development in the ‘30s that I neglected to mention. They took the first female students in that

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ROBBINS: I think his daughter Marian was the first−
WILLIAMS: I think she was. And having taken her in, he couldn’t keep anybody else out. It
was from that germ of an idea that the whole thing was built. He loved the title, Dean Archer,
Dean. And everything was Dean Archer. And everybody that knew him in the earlier years
called him, as long as he lived, Dean Archer. This was really a term of affection and respect. And
I believe he did love it, and he certainly fostered it. And even his closest relations called him
Dean. Even his own brother, not Hiram− But, well, yes, Hiram did too at times. But his older
brother was one of those he supported really because he was ill and was seriously injured in an
accident. They all called him Dean. And even now, and I’ll meet some of the old grads on the
street, and they’ll ask about Dean Archer or speak about him one way or another.

And, of course, by the same token, everybody called Hiram, Hiram. And that was also a term of
respect and sometimes of love. Sometimes they didn’t love him so much, and particularly if he
gave them a bad mark and wouldn’t cater to them when they tried to repeal from it. I perhaps
should say that although I regarded him as a great man, and he was, I think, great by any
standard, he really was not a profound student of law. He wrote rapidly. He’d turn out a law
book in a few months’ time. Amazing how fast he could write. But with the exception of the
book on contracts, his law books were somewhat superficial. Some contained errors. A
particularly bad example was the law of evidence. But he did have an idea which was really
good. And some of the schools have adopted it I noticed. There’s a stating of principal of law
and then using a case to illustrate it. Where if he fell down on that, he fell down in not giving
enough of the case or perhaps putting a wrong interpretation on the case.
It’s like one of the professors we had up there who could read notes. He’d sit there and read well,
but he didn’t have any idea of what he was talking about. In other words he was just a parrot
copying something into− And I don’t say that about Gleason Archer. But he wasn’t a real student
in the sense that he was dissatisfied with what he did. In other words he being to bring it up to
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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date or improve upon it or enlarge upon it. And I did make the notation here that his
unwillingness to edit, amend, improve and enlarge upon these textbooks I believe planted to
seeds for the friction between him and Hiram, which developed gradually over a long period of

ROBBINS: Did that friction last until the end of their lives? Did they reconcile at some point?
WILLIAMS: Well, they never were really enemies in the sense that they didn’t talk to each
other. This never came about as far as I know. I know that Gleason regarded him as an enemy.
And Hiram was remorseful over the fact that he couldn’t get through to him. As I say, he never
spoke ill of anybody, but his fault was tragic that he wouldn’t listen to some people. Now
Hiram’s ideas weren’t always acceptable. He had a very little touch of reality in some of his
thinking. And, just to digress, he drew a will. And he wanted me to be executor, and so he came
down to see me to ask if I would do so. He had had six children, one of them was killed in the
war. And his wife was alive at that time. Oh, I guess she had died. But in his will he had said that
he gave his entire estate to me to be divided among my five children in accordance of their
needs. And I said no thank you [laughter].

That is his illustration, it was being out-of-touch with reality at times. But, in spite of all that, he
really was dedicated to the law and knew it thoroughly. And Gleason, by the same token, felt that
each book he had written was perfect, a perfect brain child. And it was all that the students and
professors needed. I remember at one faculty meeting, when I think I was the one that suggested
something, to introduce something— and ultimately they did. But he said, “Well, these textbooks
are all you need.” You know? This was his principal weakness that I’d say, his hungry ego. And
those strengths that he had in his early years became weaknesses. [Side remarks].
Actually during his later years, perhaps beginning late-thirties on, you’d have to say that he was
beset with illusions of grandeur, which did tarnish his image. And, as I said, he schemed to be
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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promoted. I remember one time I went to visit him in the hospital and he told me that the future
of the school was insured. He just negotiated a multi-million dollar contract to supply the
Chinese with grain. And this was one of the schemes that these promoters— There’s one fellow,
I wish I could remember his name, it seems to be Fitch. That name comes to me, but I’m not
sure. And I looked at him to see, but he looked all right and I looked all right. But I couldn’t
quite believe what I was hearing. And when he got out of the hospital, of course, he had to come
in and tell the students all about his illness. He was great on that sort of thing, you know. He
related the same thing to them. And, of course, all they were doing was getting $20,000 dollars
and then another $20,000 dollars. And you need just a little more to promote the scheme.
Well, that’s just a little illustration of I don’t know how many schemes. My brother was the first
one really that cracked that pot. He came to law school after I did, and he discovered suddenly
that Gleason was going to buy a car for his nephew to go to school, and who later became quite a
famous doctor and is still alive. And my brother discovered, he had turned it over to this man
who’d been— Hiram had previously mentioned the fact that the fellow had taken him on a
housing project building houses. My brother really caught him red-handed on buying a car and
writing up the price after he bought it and milking him in that way. That was the first real
knowledge that I had. That was probably around 1930. But they’d do this by flattery and tell him
what a great man he was and this sort of thing. And then they just got a hold of him.

And this man Fitch, if that was his name, this went on and on and on until he was really in grave
financial straits. And it was very unfortunate, but you couldn’t warn him. His son-in-law tried,
but he departed from him shortly after that. And this is unfortunate. But despite all of these
things, there would be not Suffolk University today but for him. And many successful lawyers,
judges and political leaders and other owe him everlasting debt of gratitude, including myself.
And, no, I don’t think any history of the school would be complete without a detailed and frank
study of his life. His successful struggles in those early years should be an inspiration to all
future students at Suffolk. And it’s interesting to me how a little thing like that may change your
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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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whole life. I remember attending a lecture, or was it a speech, when I was a young fellow by a

And it was a turning point in my life because he told of the struggles he went through to get an
education and how he washed his way through school, and did this thing, that thing, the other
thing, washing dishes and things of that sort. And I said, “Well, if he could do it, I can do it.”
That was really when I made up my mind. So there’s an inspiration angle here. And also his
failures, his decline and fall during the last decade of his career should be an object lesson to
people. And, as I previously mentioned, it taught me that when you think you’re, perhaps, in the
safest position, you may be in the most peril. I think that’s about all I could say unless you have
some questions. And I’ve got more material written down here, but I don’t know what I’ve
omitted frankly.

ROBBINS: Who else do you think it might be a good idea for us to interview or to contact?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think I’ve already mentioned Dorothy McNamara and Catherine Caraher
ROBBINS: You mentioned a nephew of Dr. Archer’s. Do you remember his name? You said
he became a prominent doctor?
WILLIAMS: Oh, Morris. Morris Archer. That was his oldest brother’s son. He’s retired. He
lives in Texas, that is, he is officially retired. But I believe he goes into the clinic one day a week,
maybe two days a week. He became a radiologist. He started out as a surgeon, then he got into xray field, and he became sort of an expert on cancer of the cervix. And I know that a few years
ago he read a paper before at American Medical Association in Cleveland. And he’s still alive.
He’s a little younger than I am. Let’s see, I think he’s seventy-four. There was someone else that

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Oral History Interview of Kenneth Williams (OH-010)
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I was thinking of this morning that might shed some light on the early history. Most everybody is
ROBBINS: Yes, that’s very true. There are not too many links.
WILLIAMS: This was why I was so pleased when I saw what you’d written. As I say, I’d felt
for a long time that although you might think about the man, he was controversial character.
There’s no question about that. He really did achieve something. And he was a probably a
greater benefactor of the people of this area than anybody that I have known since I’ve been
ROBBINS: Did you have much dealing with John O’Brien, John F. O’Brien? Acting Dean for a
while, I guess.

WILLIAMS: Yes, to a degree.


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