The good things we collectively harvest are exciting prospects for financial advisor John Williams Jr.
“My brothers and I learned at an early age that we needed to develop our own careers away from CSI. Dad truly believed this was in our best interest for a series of reasons, and it has resulted well for us all.” John Williams Jr.
Williams was born, the first of three sons, in Frankfurt, West Germany to John and Vivian Williams. At the time, Williams Sr. was a soldier in the U.S. Army and stationed there. After completing his service, the family moved back home to Paducah.
Attending city schools, Williams went to Clark Elementary, Brazelton Junior High, and Paducah Tilghman High School. As an elementary student, he discovered two of his passions; the trumpet and scouts.
Back in the day, tonette lessons were part of the music curriculum in fourth grade. If you’re unfamiliar with these plastic instruments, they're closer in size to a piccolo but played like a clarinet. Kids interested in music typically transition to band choosing from a variety of possibilities such as woodwinds, brass, or drums.
The other interest that served Williams well was Boy Scouts. He spent much of his time participating in scouting activities. “Scouting was good for me in many ways and it involved some of the roots of my eventual career,” he said. That eventual career was financial planning and the catalyst was a merit badge. The merit badge allows scouts to investigate different areas of knowledge and skill. Williams’ interest lay in personal management. In this area, youth learn about budgeting, savings, retirement goals, the stock market, and the emotional connections to money. The Personal Management Merit Badge was really an eye-opener for him.
Williams has always been focused and committed to projects and goals he sets for himself. Even though his elders were successful business people, his father's voice could be heard telling him to create his own path. It was a bit of a chess game. Mentally, he planned each move. If looking at a chessboard, one determines the imbalances, figures out the best squares for each piece, and selects moves based on various factors. It’s methodical, premeditated, and the perfect approach for any goal-oriented person.
Financial savviness is an inherited trait. Williams’ uncles were accountants at Williams, Williams, and Lentz. His grandfather Williams worked at Prudential Financial. His other grandfather (Vivian’s dad) was a banker at Citizens Bank and Trust Company and Williams Sr. was in the banking industry. As Williams started carving out his niche, he said, “It seemed to me that wealth and financial planning was the related area of professional work that no one in the family had already claimed as their own.”
After graduating high school in ‘81, Williams matriculated to Emory University in Atlanta earning a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. If you’re unfamiliar with the school, Emory is a private research university founded in 1836 and named in honor of Methodist bishop John Emory. While at Emory, Williams pledged Sigma Chi Fraternity and showed interest in various political issues.
Graduating in ‘85, Williams believed it was time to start pursuing his dream job. On the advice of a ‘wise’ family friend in the business, Williams reluctantly postponed starting his plans for the next 10 years. “Few folks that have life savings, retirement, and wealth will trust a 21-year-old with their life savings, retirement, and wealth,” said Williams. Though heartbroken, he heeded the advice.
Now, what to do. It was time to work on his business acumen, obtain advanced degrees, and live life. During these years, Williams participated in government relations/lobbying, real estate development, and banking. He added a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Plus, he started a family. Thirty-two years ago this April, twins John Williams IV and Ashley Williams Lambert were born. Two of his greatest joys.
There was a time Williams thought he might like to work for CSI (Computer Services Incorporated). As a banker and in the throngs of earning his first of two graduate degrees, Williams thought CSI could branch out into other areas. He said, “What occurred to me then was that CSI could develop a professional consulting division to discuss bank management issues growing out of existing customer relationships and the data already in the computers. I spoke to one CSI officer about it and realized in the middle of that exact conversation that I needed to stay on the course I’d set to wealth and financial planning.”
Fast-forward to 1996, after the 10-year learning curve expired, it was time. “Once I leaped into financial advice and planning, I re-engaged my studies and added a Masters' Degree from the College of Financial Planning at Greenwood Village, CO,” said Williams. He also invested time earning professional certifications as a CFP, CIMA (University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business), CPWA (Yale Business School), CAP, CRPC, and CMFC.
Before the leap, it’s important to share how Williams met his wife Kristin Reese Williams. “I was on the Board of Directors but not active as I was juggling my bank role at the time (Executive Vice-President of the Bank of Marshall County in Benton, KY) and studying to take the securities licenses exams for my career launch,” said Williams. Originally from Knoxville, Kristin moved to Paducah as the new CEO of GPEDC (Greater Paducah Economic Development Council). She asked Williams to lunch to ‘politely’ share with him that he was ‘messing up the quorum’ of the meetings and if he didn’t commit to regular attendance, he would be fired. “I accepted the dismissal and moved on,” said Williams. Apparently, there were no hard feelings. One year later, Williams and Kristin went on their first dinner and drinks date at Max’s Brick Oven in downtown Paducah and the rest is history.
Williams’ brothers, Kevin and Brett are both in finance. Kevin graduated from Paducah Tilghman in ‘85. He is a co-CEO at Agency Lending for Greystone (a private lending firm that lends to commercial borrowers with certain Fannie Mae programs). He and his wife Christie have four sons and live in Collierville, TN. Brother Brett is in the same industry as Kevin. He graduated from Paducah Tilghman also. He and Kent Waltman, another PTHS grad, developed their own firm that transitioned to a large firm last year called Situs, AMC. Brett married Allyson and they live in Franklin, TN with their two children.
Currently, Williams is the managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors in Paducah. Recently, Forbes named him Best in State, through an interview and process conducted by Shook Research who partners with Forbes. Williams said that the Paducah firm has six practicing people. Five have licenses and are credentialed. “What clients and others don’t see as much is that my Paducah team colleagues are recognized at the top of our industry within our firm, which ranks in the top three in the U.S. in size and breadth,” said Williams. The firm services clients in 24 states with the greatest in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Since the pandemic, Williams has spent much of his time at his home in Townsend, TN. The vacation home is less than a mile from the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A room within the home has converted to a home office. He also said he’s perfected the art of Zoom meetings. His ideal day consists of ‘balanced time’ both inside and outside, hobbies, fresh food, and time with friends.
Spending time at the Townsend home has its perks. “We’re rediscovering the nooks and crannies in the Smoky Mts. and surrounding areas for hiking, fly fishing, and biking,” said Williams. Though biking hasn’t officially started in 2021 for Williams, one of his current favorite trails is a gravel road around Rich Mountain. The Rich Mountain Loop Trail in the Smokies begins in Cades Cove. “If done in a loop, it’s 25 miles of peddling,” said Williams.
Food and drink is another hobby enjoyed. “We love to cook,” said Williams. At home, they grow a small garden and are ‘best known’ within the family for their homegrown pesto. The couple also appreciates good wine and bourbon. “There have been many trips to Napa and Sonoma over the past 20 years,” he said. For nine years they owned a little place among the California vineyards.
“We’ve made so many good friends in the (wine) industry,” said Williams. One of their favorites is Behrens Family Winery in Spring Mountain. The boutique winery is in Saint Helena, CA, and owned by Les Behrens and Lisa Drinkward. Their favorite bourbon drink is a Manhattan. At home, the house favorite is a Black Walnut Manhattan made with Black Walnut bitters and Amaro, as opposed to sweet vermouth.
Williams has three grandchildren and one due in May. All are girls and they release lots of energy and provide lots of comedy to his already active lifestyle. “We have started home cooking projects with Juliet and Reese, and that promises to expand with Nora and Lorelei (I’m told that’s the name for May baby),” said Williams.
We mustn’t forget TeeJay and Lila. “TeeJay is actually my first dog. He’s half Staffordshire terrier and half Great Dane. He’s big, smart, loyal, and goofy. Lila is a Bassador who is half Basset and half Black lab. She’s sneaky, loyal, loving, and goofy,” said Williams.
As part of William’s well-rounded life, he’s serving on the Board of the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for the third time and he’s involved in the effort to build a Memorial Courtyard at Broadway United Methodist Church. “A columbarium of ashes of church members and associates,” he said.
COVID has made a herculean impact on all of our lives in one way or another. Working from home, limited activities with friends and family, lost jobs, and people falling ill and dying. As vaccinations ramp up and positive cases decline, there’s hope. Williams said, “I’m now excited about how we come together again, and especially what are the good things we collectively harvest from these experiences.”
Williams said he missed the community aspect of the church, socializing, and going to the office. As a person with a booming practice, a serial hobbyist, husband, dad, son, and grandfather, getting back to the activities, events, and people that he loves, is a lot to look forward to.