In Rhode Island, Frank Williams is known as a former chief justice of the State Supreme Court. But among Civil War enthusiasts, he is known as an authority on all things Abraham Lincoln. He’s also the owner of a vast collection of more than 17,000 Civil War artifacts. He's now donating his collection to Mississippi State University.
The objects range from artwork and original documents, to books on the Civil War period and the 16th U.S. president. The collection is worth about $3 million. It will join the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, which Williams helped bring to MSU during his tenure as president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association.
Williams says he wanted his collection to go to the Deep South because it’s important to share perspectives on the Civil War. Why?
“Because we’re still a house divided as Lincoln said in 1858,” Williams said.
And, Williams adds, Rhode Island already touts a Lincoln and Civil War collection of its own at Brown University.
Mississippi State University officials believe Williams’ donation will make it the most comprehensive Civil War library in the nation. Williams is also creating a $500,000 endowment to curate the collection of artifacts and memorabilia.