The Williams


Pat and Carol Williams have forever changed our state by championing public lands, equal rights, affordable health care, and so much more during their careers in public service. Return to the Williams’ Effect program page. 



Carol Williams’ career as an activist, peacemaker, educator, mother and grandmother has spanned four decades. As a passionate civil servant, Carol has dedicated her life to representing the people of Montana, maintaining a clean and healthy environment for future generations, promoting peace, and advocating for the rights of women and children. She spent more than a decade as a Montana state legislator, first in the state House of Representatives, and later in the state Senate from 2004 – 2012, and rose to become the State Senate’s first female Minority and Majority Leader.

Carol was Montana’s Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2000, running on a ticket which championed Montana’s Native Americans and helped to usher in a record number of Native American Montana legislators that year.

During her tenure in the Montana Senate, Carol served on the Finance and Claims, Law and Justice, Public Health and Local Government Committees, and was the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee. She successfully sponsored and passed legislation to ensure all of Montana’s children have access to full day kindergarten, a first for the state. She also co-sponsored legislation affirming the state’s responsibility to include the history of Montana’s Native American community as a component of all state school curricula.

Other legislative achievements include sponsorship of legislation establishing special education programs for Montana’s schools, several bills expanding the public rights of nursing mothers, and co-sponsorship of numerous bills supporting healthcare, environmental protection and education. Carol was also Chairwoman of a successful ballot initiative to expand Montana’s child health insurance coverage by raising the poverty level.

Prior to her career as a legislator, Carol worked as a non-profit executive and educator, which shaped her understanding and appreciation of public service. Carol began her career as a Head Start teacher in her hometown of Butte. In 1985 she co-founded and served as executive director of Peace Links, an international women’s organization dedicated to expanding the role of women in U.S. national security discussions. What started as a project by a group of Congressional wives, turned into a global peacemaking and cultural exchange platform which connected more than 35,000 American and Russian women via pen pal programs to promote cultural understanding during a time of uncertainty. Carol was later appointed as a delegate to the 1995 UN Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing, and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State traveled to Kyrgyzstan to work on special democracy-building projects encouraging women to run for office.

Carol is married to Pat Williams, a former nine-term Congressman from Montana and also an advisor to williamsworks. She remains active in the Missoula community, continuing to champion issues related to women’s rights and education and serving on a variety of boards, including the Missoula Community Foundation, Montanan magazine, and the National Board of the Delegation of Women. She also founded the Montana Majority PAC, later named Carol’s List, which helps recruit and support Democratic women candidates for office in the state of Montana. Carol has twice received the Jeanette Rankin Peace Award, in addition to the AFL-CIO Lifetime Achievement Award, the Peace Links International Woman of Vision Award, the Montana Conservation Champion Award, and was named the 1990 Western Montana College Alumni of the Year.


Congressman Pat Williams’ career has been dedicated to strengthening America’s education system, makingschools safer for our children, fighting for the underprivileged and protecting his home state of Montana’s special places for future generations. Starting as a teacher in Butte, as a state legislator, then as Montana’s Congressman and as a faculty member at the University of Montana, Pat has remained devoted to serving the people of Montana and making it a better place for future generations.

Pat was elected to the Montana House of Representatives from Silver Bow County in 1966, winning re-election in 1968. After two terms in the Montana Legislature, from 1969–1971, he served as executive assistant to Montana Congressman John Melcher. He also served as a member of the Governor’s Employment and Training Council from 1972 to 1978, and as a member of the first Montana Reapportionment Commission, from 1972 to 1973.

Pat was elected to represent Montana in Congress for nine terms, from 1979 to 1997 – more consecutive terms in the U.S. House than anyone in Montana’s history. During his tenure, Pat’s leadership helped pass trailblazing legislation to assist hard-working middle-class families and ensure opportunities for every child. He sat on committees on: Budget, Natural Resources, Education and Labor, and Agriculture. Within Education and Labor he chaired the committees on Post-Secondary Education and Labor Management, driving landmark legislation like The College Middle Income Assistance Act. As a Deputy Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, Pat had legislative process jurisdiction over the many congressional bills affecting workplace legislation, including sponsorship of the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Clinton: The Family and Medical Leave Act, which helped make sure workers wouldn’t lose their jobs during maternity leave or while caring for a sick family member.

Among his many other legislative accomplishments are The Toddlers and Childhood Disability Act, and sponsorship of both The Library Services and Construction Act and The Museum Services Act, which were reauthorized under his leadership.

Pat sponsored successful legislation designating both the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area north of Yellowstone Park and the Rattlesnake Wilderness area north of Missoula, Montana. He led the successful legislative effort to save the Bob Marshall Wilderness from oil and gas exploration, and helped ban geothermal energy drilling near the borders of Yellowstone National Park.

As Chairman of The Post-Secondary Education Committee, he protected the National Endowment for the Arts from elimination, a remarkable undertaking during a very trying time for the Agency. Pat was unwavering in his defense of freedom of speech and creativity and is widely recognized as the leader who saved the NEA during the 1990’s.

Pat worked tirelessly with Tribal College Leaders to build Montana’s seven Tribal Colleges. Working together, they fought to establish the High School at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and the Two River Eagle School on the Flathead Reservation in Pablo, Montana. He was also responsible for the legislation that created The American Conservation Corps, which became the Corporation for National Service, giving thousands of America’s young people a chance to serve their country and pursue higher education. Every state and many cities now have Conservation Corps; some cities refer to the program as “City Year.”

A third generation Montanan, Pat is an educator by profession. Upon retiring from Congress, he returned home to Montana where he continued his career as a faculty member at the University of Montana in Missoula, teaching courses in environmental studies, history, and political science.

While at the University of Montana, Pat was Senior Fellow and Regional Policy associate at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West and he served on numerous national governing Boards. He served as a Trustee or Director for the National Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the National Association of Job Corps and The President’s Advisory Commission for Tribal Colleges.

Pat was on the Board of Directors of the Student Loan Marketing Association, the now disbanded GSE subsidiary of U.S.A. Education (Sallie Mae), and led the development of Western Progress, a policy think tank which has offices in multiple states throughout the West. Pat was responsible for the legislative creation of the Rural Disabilities National Research Lab and the Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, both at the University of Montana. He also led the legislative effort to create The Agriculture Plant Research Center at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.

Appointed by former Governor Brian Schweitzer, Pat served as a member of the Board of Regents of the Montana University System in 2012 and 2013. He has honorary degrees from Carroll College in Helena, Montana and Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT.

He lives in Missoula with his wife, former Montana Senate Majority Leader Carol Williams.

Bio courtesy of williamsworks.