James E. Williams
Williams Equipment and Supply Company's roots trace back to New Orleans after World War II. H.S. Fink had founded a construction supply business, and in 1950, the veteran and recent Texas A & M graduate James Williams went to work for him selling to contractors. In 1952 Finke offered Williams a chance to be a partner with him in a new location. Williams moved to Memphis, Tennessee and started Finke and Williams, Inc.
Finke and Williams was the first company in the Mid-South area to sell both equipment and supplies to masonry and concrete contractors. Tubular and steel scaffolding was a new item and an immediate hit. Williams soon showed the concrete contractors the Gates single-waler forming system, which greatly reduced their lumber costs, and sold the first tie wire in small coils which cut their labor expense.
In 1961 James Williams bought Finke's stock in the Memphis operation, and the name was changed to Williams Equipment and Supply Company. Over the next several years, Williams Equipment introduced contractors to a number of new innovations and labor-saving equipment. These included diamond blades, "shooting boom" type forklifts, and concrete slipform pavers.
Moreover, Williams Equipment fundamentally changed the way area contractors did business in two important ways. First, the company pioneered the rental of equipment, which previously had to be purchased. Second, Williams opened branch offices in smaller towns such as Tupelo, Mississippi, and Jackson, Tennessee--places which heretofore had been considered too small for a specialty contractor supply business. By packaging a broad range of equipment, supply, and rental products, Williams Equipment gave contractors outside the metropolitan area advantages in price, availability, and local service.