Congressman Pat Williams’ career has been dedicated to strengthening America’s education system, making schools 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.