Williams is a retired historian, writer and musician. He earned a BA from Lafayette College, a MA and Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University, and a MLIS degree from Indiana University. He has taught at Southern Illinois University; the National University of Ireland, Dublin; Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany; Arizona State University and the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. He also served as a program director for the Organization of American Historians.
Apart from H. L. Mencken and H. L. Mencken Revisited (Twayne, 1977, 2001), most of his scholarly work has been about Ireland and Irish America. He is the author of Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream: Images of Ireland and the Irish in American Popular Song Lyrics, 1800-1920 (University of Illinois Press; recipient of an ASCAP award, 1996); Landscape, Tourism and the Irish Character: British Travel Writers in Pre-Famine Ireland, 1750-1850 (Wisconsin University Press, 2008). Inventing Irish Tourism, The First Century, 1750-1850, (Anthem Press, UK, 2010). In addition, Williams edited for publication Daniel O’Connell, The British Press and the Irish Famine: Killing Remarks, written by his late wife, Leslie A. Williams (Ashgate/Routledge, UK, 2003). His book on the Irish Famine will appear in October 2021,
Williams was also a researcher and consultant for The Long Journey Home, the PBS series about Irish America.
He published his first novel, ‘Tho It Were Ten Thousand Mile: A Love Story, in 2011. In 2014 he wrote a play based on novel. ‘Tho It Were Ten Thousand Mile was performed by the Irish American Theater Company in Cincinnati. The same year the play won the Adductor’s Award at the Acting Irish Theater Festival. Williams’ musical, Maggie Murphy’s Home, has been staged at the Milwaukee Irish Fest and here in Cincinnati. . In addition, he has written and produced public history presentations for the stage. These include pieces on the Dublin Easter Rising and the Irish in World War One.
As a performer, Williams has presented a program of Irish-American songs at Irish festivals and on campuses around the country. He is a member of Ceol Mhór, a Cincinnati-based Irish band, and the Williams Family Band. He has been a North American stringer for Irish Music Magazine.