By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four stories about the Pioneer of the Year nominees who will be recognized during this year’s Heritage Days.
Jim Williamson epitomizes the pioneering spirit of Roosevelt County, said Rick Hauptmann, who has nominated the 92-year-old rancher for the Pioneer of the Year Award.
The Pioneer of the Year Award will be presented to one of four nominees at 5 p.m. on Friday during the 2005 Heritage Days celebration at the Memorial Building in Portales.
Williamson has hung his hat at his ranch in Pep and called it home for 80 years now, arriving in the area via Pecos, Texas, in 1915. He continues today to take an active part in the cattle ranch which has played host to visitors from more than 40 countries over the past eight decades.
“We’ve had people come to visit the ranch from Egypt, Spain, Europe and many different parts of Africa,” said Williamson. “I came here in 1915 and have liked it pretty well here. There has not been much difference over the years in ranching… but the cattle are better now.”
While Williamson was humble about the ranch, Hauptmann, who has known Williamson for “quite awhile” said that one of the reasons the family has been able to run a ranch for 80 years is Jim’s ability to take on new and modern practices and make things work.
“Jim has been a valuable resident in Roosevelt County,” Hauptmann said. “He’s a big supporter of things going on, and not just in agriculture. He’s been a Rotarian, has contributed to a number of Rotary causes and is overall a good person, someone who loves this area.”
Williamson was born in Pecos, Texas, and came to Roosevelt County by covered wagon. He and his wife, Nancy, have three grown children, Betty, who is married to Milz Bickley and also lives on the ranch with their daughter, Katie; and two sons, Stewart Williamson of Portales and Gary Williamson of Pep. He also has one living brother, renowned science fiction author Jack Williamson of Portales.
“The Williamson Ranch is an actual working cattle ranch and people from the big cities get excited about stuff like that,” Hauptmann said. “They’ve opened the ranch up to a lot of people.”
Hauptmann also noted that the Williamsons are cheery people who like to read a lot. “Their ranch house is full of books and encyclopedias. They made sure that their children were educated as best as they could be.”
Over the years, Williamson served on the Dora Board of Education and was actively involved in the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau. In addition, he organized aerial spraying to control toxic weeds and was the first rancher, according to Haupmann, to establish a rotational grazing system in the area.
Williamson has always had a fascination with Mexico, where he has traveled many times. With Rotary, he was involved in setting up the Portales Rotary Club’s sister club relationship with Delicias, Chihuahua in Mexico.
According to his daughter, Betty, Williamson met his wife Nancy, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, through a classmate of Nancy’s who had moved to the area with her husband.
“When she wrote Nancy, who was living in Japan at the time, to tell her that she had found her a cowboy and needed to come to New Mexico, Nancy wrote back and said he was too old for her,” Betty said.
But Nancy was convinced to come to New Mexico, nevertheless, and several months later, the Williamsons were married.