James Steele Williams (1896-1957) was an authority on Carboniferous and Permian paleontology and stratigraphy. He was educated at the University of Missouri where he received the B.A. degree in 1921, the M.A. in 1922, and the Ph. D. in 1924. Williams was appointed Instructor of Geology at the University of Missouri in 1921. He continued his academic career until 1930, eventually achieving the position of Associate Professor. In addition to his faculty post, Williams held appointment as Geologist on the staff of the Missouri Bureau of Geology and Mines. In 1930 he joined the United States Geological Survey's (USGS), Section of Paleontology as assistant, and eventually successor, to George Herbert Girty -- a leading specialist on late Paleozoic marine fauna. Williams remained with the USGS for the remainder of his career, and at the time of his death he had risen to the position of Principal Geologist.
After joining the USGS, Williams' paleontological studies were concentrated on the Carboniferous invertebrate fauna of the mid-western United States. His interests later shifted to the Carboniferous and Permian invertebrates of the western United States (primarily the Rocky Mountain states) and Alaska. During several summers from 1930 to 1953, Williams collected fossils with USGS field parties detailed to the West. During World War II, Williams was placed in charge of the USGS investigation of domestic fluorspar resources.
Williams was active within the geological profession and held membership in many organizations - several of which he served in elected or appointed capacities. In 1937 he was a United States delegate to the Seventeenth International Geological Congress in Russia. He traveled to Heerlen, Netherlands, in 1951, as USGS representative at the Third Congress of Carboniferous Stratigraphy and Geology.
For additional biographical information on Williams, see "Memorial to James Steele Williams (1896-1957)," by W. P. Woodring. Proceedings Volume of the Geological Society of America Annual Report for 1957, pp. 171-174, May 1958.