'He was bigger than life' - University founder Dr. Sid Williams dies at 84
by Jon Gillooly
December 28, 2012 09:15 AM | 33205 views | 87 87 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Sid Williams - Photo from his Facebook page
Dr. Sid Williams - Photo from his Facebook page
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Dr. Nell Williams and Dr. Sid Williams
Dr. Nell Williams and Dr. Sid Williams
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Dr. Sid Williams from his playing days at Georgia Tech
Dr. Sid Williams from his playing days at Georgia Tech
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MARIETTA — Dr. Sidney Earl Williams, the beloved, colorful founder of Life University, died Thursday at his home in Powder Springs. He was 84.

Williams, who had been recovering from a stroke he suffered in December 2011, died from complications of pneumonia.

Affectionately known as “Dr. Sid,” or “Doc,” Williams was described as a giant in the chiropractic profession.

“To me, he was bigger than life,” said Dr. Bobby Gise, who helped start Life University’s rugby program in 1980 as a student, and who now has a chiropractic practice in Jasper.

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin praised Williams.

“His entrepreneurial spirit coupled with his medical experience. He created and brought a university that we are very proud of in Marietta,” Tumlin said. “Life is well respected around the country, and it was a major contribution to our city. I always liked the name ‘Life’ because the man was full of life — his support of Life University and his support of the community and the county as a whole. I’m just proud he chose Marietta to make Life home.”

A Thursday release from Life University said at a time when the chiropractic profession was facing criticism by opponents and a powerful medical lobby, Williams and a group of prominent chiropractors founded Life with a vision of educating skilled chiropractors. Under his leadership, Life University grew to be the largest chiropractic college in the world — a distinction it continues to hold.

Williams is also credited with raising awareness, and increasing access to chiropractic care around the globe. He lobbied on behalf of the profession on a state and national level on matters relating to scope of practice and insurance regulations, never wavering in the face of criticism or pressure to compromise.

“Dr. Sid Williams was one of the most influential chiropractors of his time,” said Life University President Guy Riekeman. “He was a leader, a visionary, and his presence is felt every day on the campus of Life University. He affected millions of lives, and his legacy will live forever.”

Life University will be flying flags at half-staff for the next 30 days in tribute to Williams.

A special ceremony is also planned for Williams and his family in the coming months at the school, which has a current enrollment of 2,700 students and offers 15 degrees.

An Eagle Scout and Atlanta native, Williams graduated from Tech High School and the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he played football and was part of the 1952 Orange Bowl National Championship team. He was later inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.

It was during his football career that Williams was exposed to chiropractic care as a result of a football injury. Amazed by the positive effects chiropractic care had given him, he opted to earn a degree at Palmer Chiropractic College in Davenport, Iowa.

He and his wife, Dr. Nell Williams, also a chiropractor, established one of the largest chiropractic practices in the country, operating up to 20 clinics at one time. Williams founded Life University in 1974 and remained president until in 2002.

Williams recruited Roger Kaiser to serve as Life’s basketball coach and athletic director in 1990.

“There’s only one Dr. Sid. We won’t have another like him,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser, a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech, instantly bonded with Williams over their shared university background, coaching Life’s basketball team to three national championships.

“He was a visionary man,” Kaiser said. “He saw all this before I did. The first question he asked me, he said, ‘can you win a national championship?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘well, you don’t act very excited.’ I said, ‘let me tell you something: I’ll act excited when we’re playing for one.’ Well, it wasn’t very long before we were playing for one.”

Kaiser said Williams saw value in the college’s athletic programs.

“Dr. Williams saw chiropractic and athletics going together,” Kaiser said. “He thought that the treatment from the chiropractic would make the athletics better. I kept telling everybody that we had an edge that no one knew about.”

It was a rare sporting event that Williams missed.

“Sometimes he’d get mad if we started a game before he got there,” Kaiser said, laughing. “I said, ‘Dr. Sid, I don’t have that right. The referee starts the game.’ But we knew he loved all of us, and he was proud of us.”

Bob Snelson, director of Marietta Water, served as Life University’s chief of operations from 1990 to 2001.

“Personally, he’s someone I had a lot of respect for,” Snelson said. “I think Dr. Williams was always willing to take risks in something he believed in and would stick with it and make sure that he could achieve success with that thought or whatever that idea was. He wasn’t afraid to step out on a limb, more or less.”

Snelson, another Georgia Tech graduate, said Williams grew Life into a university of nearly 5,000 students. At the height of its success in 2000, Williams clashed with the accreditation agency, the Council on Chiropractic Education, over differences in philosophy.

“The difficulties dealt with philosophy within the profession and as a result of those philosophy shifts, the school reorganized with a new administration,” Snelson said.

Gise, who remained close friends with Williams after graduating from Life, recalled trying to reach Williams after the university’s governing board forced Williams into retirement.

“That was pretty much like his whole life, his whole life was dedicated to building the school and the profession, and he was tremendously dedicated to that, so his whole life was pulled out from underneath him at that particular point,” Gise said. “At the worst time in his life, he told me he was going to take care of me. When I say he was a great humanitarian, he cared about people, that’s how he showed me. He was always there for me. At that particular moment when it was toughest for him, he kept his true colors.”

Williams’ daughter, Dr. Kim Williams, said her family was taking the news of her father’s passing as best they could.

“I guess we’re holding pretty good. We seem to be OK right now. We know that he’s in a better place,” she said.

Kim Williams said her father had just authored a book of daily affirmations this year, titled, “Making Lasting Purpose a Way of Life.”

Williams pushed his children to excel, his daughter said.

“He told me I could do anything a man could do and do it better,” Kim Williams said. “He was a hard driver. I mean, it didn’t matter what you did, if you made a 98 on a paper, he got mad and said, ‘why didn’t you make 100?’ He really insisted on everybody, and I mean everybody, doing their best and giving it 100 percent. Don’t do anything halfway. Persistence is the main thing that he could teach anybody.”

Williams’ colorful personality continues to mark the campus, particularly at the front gates on Barclay Circle, where a sculpture of his hands, 15-feet tall and cast in bronze, welcomes visitors.

“Those are his hands,” Gise said. “They’re representative of him using his hands to make an adjustment. That’s how certain adjustments are actually made, when you put your hands together, so for a chiropractor that’s very understandable: the healing hands that come from chiropractic or the healing that comes from chiropractic is the result of chiropractors adjusting.”

The family will receive friends from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home, 3940 Macland Road in Powder Springs. The funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Williams is survived by his son, Dr. John Sidney Williams, and three grandchildren: Shelton Krantz, Austin Krantz, and Sidney Williams.

Donations may be made to The B. J. Palmer Historic Home Foundation (bjph.org).
Comments
(87)
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Dr John & Dee Nolan
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April 14, 2013
We remember your friendship and zeel for Chiropractic from our days at 839 Brady Street.

The profession has lost a great leader.



Our love and support to Drs Nell, Kim and John Sidney.
RL D.C.
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February 27, 2013
Thank you Dr. Sid for all your dedication to Chiropractic, you will always be remembered, prayers to your family.
Joe Cucci D.C.
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January 18, 2013
I am thankful for all that Dr. Sid has taught me and countless others. I hope to make him proud by never wavering in the Philosophy of LIFE, by keeping Chiropractic pure in every adjustment and by living a life true to my own innate. Thank you Dr. Sid for teaching me that it can be done with dignity and style. I love and appreciate you!

Dr. Joe Cucci
Dr. Michael C. Smatt
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January 15, 2013
I will cherish every second I spent with Dr. Sid over the past 30 years. He was my mentor and dear friend who will hold a place in my heart forever.
Dr. Jeff Callahan
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February 21, 2013
Michael took the words right out of my mouth, except that he was my mentor and teacher and leader for 40 years. I will never forget this divine man, and my love and appreciation will shine forever.
Taeg Choi
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January 05, 2013
I hear now.It is vey sad. My deepest condolences and prayers go to all family members and friends.

from Korea.

Taeg Choi, D.C

Tom Walker, DC
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January 05, 2013
I graduated from Life 26 years ago. I disliked Sid then, and I still do. In fact, I've often made the statement that, in my years of ups and downs, etc., I have never met a man I disliked more than Sid Williams.

For starters, he misrepresented the length of study. The catalog claimed 12 quarters and when we got there it was (surprise) 14 quarters. This is a direct violation of a written contract and had been going on for two years before I got there. A class action suit proved futile.

Sid was an arrogant bastard as well, and came off as a cross between a preacher and a plantation owner (I'm from the South myself). He ran the college as a fiefdom.

He also humiliated students at every Assembly. I could go on for quite a while, and I know what I've said here will anger a lot of people, but this was my honest experiences. However, I've always felt the education I received was excellent.

Yes, I never liked Sid at all, but strangely enough, when I saw his passing on the Internet a few minutes ago, I was saddened just the same.

You were one of a kind, Sid. I have to give you that.
Beau Carle
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January 02, 2013
I produced Dr. Sid's Life DE programs 4 times a year for almost 10 years. I watched all of the DE children grow up in that time period. They were all healthy and always happy. So, chiropractic worked and will always work (with the possible exception of extreme injury). Dr. Sid was a "giant" to me, when he walked into a room people knew it. He had a magnetic personality and a winning smile. He helped many people in his lifetime, he was a special person who would literally give you the shirt off his back. Belittling a man of his character just shows your ignorance - sounds to me like you never even met the man. Whatever happened to "never speak ill of the dead" anyway? Dr. Sid deserved respect during his lifetime and well into the here-after. Noone will ever take away his glory or his accomplishments.
Alan Davis D.C
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January 02, 2013


Everything I am in Chiropractic and therefore in life I attribute to Dr. Sid Williams. He was my mentor and guiding light. He was always available to answer my questions. Our friendship was So special. When I think of love ,giving and serving I will always think of Doc.

Doc was the captain of our chiropractic team. I loved him with all my heart.

-Alan Davis D.C.
Alan Fox, D.C.
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December 30, 2012
Dear Williams family .. I send my deepest condolensces. As he stated to so many over so many years. "Love and Appreciate You"
louis s brown DC
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January 01, 2013
When I first entered Life Chiropractic College in 1978 the school shared a building with some other business and you could hear the typewriters in the next room from where your class was. Before you knew it the college grew like a country boy on home cooking. But the food that made Life grow was the power of Sids philosophy about the ''Innate and Universal Intelligence and the the power of a specific Chiropractic Adjustment''. Sid was right. The ADJUSTMENT is what Chiropractic is really all about. Thats why to this day I visualize that power every time I touch my patient.
Don Wilson
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December 30, 2012
I lived in Marietta several years ago, and worked at Life College as a Security person.

One memorable night it rained torrents

at the college along with thunder and lightning, and I was sitting in the booth at the entrance gate all alone.

Pitch black, rainy, and all alone, who drives up in that huge yellow Cadillac was none other than Dr, Sid,

asking if every thing was OK, Dr. Sid, that meant a lot.
Mom of a Life studen
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December 29, 2012
R.I.P. DR SID

You had the vision to build a wonderful University! Thank you for all that you did for my family. Life University was a blessing for my daughter. May God bless you and your family.
Roger Hulsebus
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December 29, 2012
Dr Sid and I share the same birthday. I just read this week author speaker Stephen Covey said his most important principal was to know where you wanted to go and end up. Dr. Sid knew his beloved professions principals and he never waivered. That's pretty easy to do if you sit on them. Sid did not sit he had great partners and he loved the joirney. We will miss him a bunch. I thank dr. Nell for sharing him. Roger hulsebus.
Derrick Barker
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December 29, 2012
Dr Sid you have been one of the profession great champion. You have been on fire every since you graduate from palmer. Every day I walk on Life U your present is felt.As a student One of the proudest moments when you came to life U and they dedicated the library to you and Dr Neil. You have left your mark on this world and we will continue to make you proud. RIP Sid

P.S. Thanks you for being our guiding light for all of these years. you will always be in our hearts
Be Careful
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December 28, 2012
I once saw a video of one of "Dr" Sid's lectures to a class.

He specifically said to NEVER use the word "heal".

To always make sure your patients come back over and over again for continual "adjustments".

This is a HUGE racket designed to make money, nothing more.
Carl W. Lynn, D.C.
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December 29, 2012
I am dismayed by these misdirected comments. I have been a chiropractor for 30 years. I attended Life College and if one listened you would hear that the body does the healing. As far as patients coming back again and again, I instruct my patients to learn about their bodies and listen to what it's saying. Once you have had the experience of being "in adjustment" you will know when you're "out". Over the years I have seen thousands of lives changed and made better by chiropractic care. Many have come as a last resort after trying many far more expensive and intrusive encounters. I did not always agree with Dr. Sid, but never have I met a man that had a greater vision and desire to help people. May he Rest in Peace.
Inch
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December 30, 2012
Thanks for the thoughtful and well researched reply in response to an article about someone's death. Go somewhere else if you want to pontificate about whether or not chiropractic is "valid". Regardless of how you feel about chiropractic, you should recognize that this man's accomplishments are extraordinary.
Money Hum
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December 30, 2012
MMMoney! That's what it was all about. Nobody's talking about all of the chiropractic offices that have closed. The university even expanded its offering of degrees. It's no longer Life Chiropractic but Life University. It distanced itself from the quasi science of chiropractic.
Inch
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December 30, 2012
In reply to Money Hum:

Another well stated argument. You and Be Careful should start hanging out. Your "Nobody's talking" comment is weak and generic. You imply that I should read it and say to myself "Wow, this person is right. There is surely only 1 reason why chiropractic offices fail. How could I have not seen it all along". Same goes for the "Life University" comment. Nothing you have stated has anything to do with whether chiropractic is legitimate. Moreover, this is the wrong forum for such statements.
Sam Afshar, Ph.D
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December 28, 2012
I met Dr. Sid in January 1992 when I came to Life as a faculty in Anatomy department. I was inspired by his warm welcoming me as a Life family member;and his advise to get to know the chiropractic philosophy, as well as the lasting purpose. Because of his dedication to Chiropractic, Dr. Sid emphasized on my teaching style to be chiropractically oriented.

After being a long time at Life,I came to know thousands of students and graduates were also inspired by Dr. Sid enthusiasm, motivation and dedication to Chiropractic.

Dr. Sid, you will be missed, but will never be forgotten.

My deepest condolences and prayers go to all family members and friends.
BLIEBDC
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December 28, 2012
Thank you Dr. Sid for everything you have done for me and my family. Your teachings are woven into EVERY aspect of my life, not just my Chiropractic world. I will do everything i can to Preserve, Protect and Promote your legacy to the world. LOVE and APPRECIATE YOU!!!
todd rissacher DC
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December 28, 2012
loved that man. can you say GREATNESS.. What a life what a legacy
Dr Cris Eaton Welsh
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December 28, 2012
Thank you for your vision Dr Sid. You are put an army into the world who gladly give, love , serve and do for our communities. I learned more than chiropractic at Life University, I learned how to serve out of my own abundance. Lessons for which I will always be grateful. Rest well.
Dr. Lila J Wolfe
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December 28, 2012
I owe all my success and passion for Chiropractic to Dr. Sid Williams. Dr. Sid was was fueled by compassion, humility, discipline, passion, principle, love, service, humor and dignity. This list is endless. The sweat of his hard work for our profession has salted this earth and must be remembered and honored. He was innately driven and always somebody I could go to with any questions. A true sage. I will love and appreciate this man as long as I draw breath.

Lila J. Wolfe, DC NYC
Mike Cohen, DC
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January 09, 2013
My earliest memories of my Chiropractic career involve Drs. Sid & Nell, the passion, confidence and singleness of purpose that they teach and the LOVE that they have for us. I will continue his legacy and Run with the ball!! I will NEVER forget the man, the vision, and the drive that made him the Defender of Chiropractic.

Michael J. Cohen, NYJ
Dr. J.M. Jacobs,D.C.
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December 28, 2012
A great man, a true visionary and a born leader!

Just prior to graduation he asked me, "where are you going to practice yankee?" I'll never forget that! Marietta should erect a statue in his honor. I feel so fortunate to have been at Life when he was manning the helm.

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton.....

God Speed, Dr. Sid
Reita Jacobson
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December 27, 2012
Dr. Nell and family, so sorry for your loss.
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