In Salt Lake, Ky., on April 12, 1917, Ralph L. Williams was born. His
father Ed operated the local sawmill.
When the price of lumber dropped in 1930, Ralph's father decided to move
to Alexandria, Ind., to better care for his family of five boys and five
The Williams family appeared in a magazine article in the 1930s titled
"Small Town U.S.A." They were billed as the "Typical American Family."
Ralph attended both grammar school and high school in Alexandria, and
went on to attend Indiana University, where he majored in engineering.
He graduated in 1938 and went to work in the service and parts department
of a local Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership. In a couple of years he
was made sales manager.
While in Alexandria Ralph took up flying. In early 1941 he enlisted in the Canadian Air Force, helping ferry bombers to Europe. He later signed
up with the U.S. Army Air Corps in Indianapolis as a flying cadet. He was
sent to California to the Santa Ana Army Air Base for training.
Several of the cadets, including Williams, drove to California expecting
to see a "West Point of the West." Instead, they found a sea of tents, on
ground that was either dry and dusty, or muddy from rain.
Williams was sent to several training fields in California and Arizona,
and saw action in 1943 as a fighter pilot over Italy and Africa.
Ralph was discharged in September 1945, and returned to Indiana where he
and his partner, A.E. Ash, started a business called Commodities
This lasted only six months. Ralph then moved to California to work as a
sales representative at the Chevrolet Plant in Los Angeles.
In 1949, Williams moved to Yuma, Ariz., to work as sales manager for C.C.
While in Yuma, Williams met Eugenia Freund, and the two were married in
the Imig Manor Hotel Chapel on May 25, 1950.
In 1952, Williams moved his family to Huntington Beach, where he bought
Otto Culbertson's Chevrolet dealership at the corner of what was once 3rd
Street and Pacific Coast Highway. He renamed it Williams Chevrolet.
This location would be the start of his automobile empire that would
include dealerships in Garden Grove, the San Franando Valley and here on
Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach.
Williams went on to become a director in the Huntington Beach Chamber of
Commerce, a member of the Masonic Lodge, an Elk and a member of the
He was a member of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach and a member of
the Athletic Club in Los Angeles.
But all of this came at a price, as problems with the Internal Revenue
Service would later appear on the horizon.
JERRY PERSON is a local historian and longtime Huntington Beach resident.
If you have ideas for future columns, write him at P.O. Box 7182,
Huntington Beach, CA 92615.