From Midway to the House: The Journey of Kent Williams

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, January 23, 2024

By C.Y. Peters

The wind whistled through the hollows of Sadie, a serene corner tucked beneath the formidable shadow of Holston Mountain. It was here, amidst the rolling hills of Carter County, Tennessee, that a young boy named Kent Williams began his journey.

Born in 1949 to humble beginnings, Kent’s roots traced back to hardworking stock. His father toiled in the Elizabethton rayon mills, engraving out a living for his family in the Dale Hollow of Stoney Creek. The Williamses made their mark in the close-knit community, carving out a life filled with simple joys and unyielding perseverance.

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Midway Elementary was the nurturing ground where young Kent first learned to dream. Unaka High School, however, was where his star began to shine. A basketball prodigy, he dazzled the court as the heart and soul of the Rangers. His expertise led the team to triumphs that echoed through the hollers, marking a 20-10 record that set a historic preceden that hadn’t been reached in the last 17-years.

The victories were many: a decisive win over Tennessee High, a staggering triumph against Happy Valley, and nail-biting victories against Elizabethton and Unicoi County. Kent’s name resounded through the region with his nine 20-point performances, culminating in a career-defining moment—a breathtaking 32-point game-winner in a grueling triple-overtime clash against Cloudland.

His basketball acclaim secured him a spot on the coveted All-Watauga Conference and the esteemed Elizabethton Star All-Watauga team.

Life’s journey took Kent beyond the boundaries of Carter County, leading him to Michigan in search of opportunities. Fate intervened in the bustling kitchen of a hospital, where he found more than a job—he found Gayle, his future wife. Their love blossomed against the backdrop of a bustling city, but the call of the mountains eventually beckoned Kent back to his roots.

After working in Miami as a steak house owner, Kent returned to Elizabethton. Kent and Gayle embarked on the adventure of raising their four sons. His hands found solace in the soil as a farmer and in the heart of the community with the establishment of Dino’s, a cherished restaurant in town.  Before Dino’s, Kent’s ambitions soared beyond the local landscape, leading him to roles as Vice President of Steak Houses in Miami.

The call to serve his beloved Tennessee echoed deeply within him. In 2006, Kent Williams ventured into the realm of politics, contesting for a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. His dedication and commitment bore fruit when, on January 13, 2009, he ascended to the prestigious position of Speaker of the Tennessee House—a testament to his journey from the halls of Midway to the pinnacle of state governance.

Kent Williams, the name echoing through the hollers and resonating across the peaks of Holston Mountain, symbolized resilience, ambition, and the enduring spirit of a small-town boy who dared to dream big—a testament to the undying legacy of a Carter County son who made his mark in the chronicles of Tennessee’s political history.