April 7, 2004 by

Luke G. Williams


Categories: Business

lwilliams.jpgNeed to know the current time and temperature? Well, whenever you see a building featuring a sign with this alternating information, think of Luke and Chuck Williams.
In 1950, the brothers came up with the idea, formed American Sign and Indicator Corp., and hired Ed Schulenberg, president of the Time-O-Matic Co., to build a single panel of lights that would show the time for a few seconds and then the temperature for a few seconds. That sign was posted on the Seattle First National Bank building in Spokane, Wash., and became an instant hit.
Other banks and shops wanted to buy the signs too, but each one cost $12,000, which was more than most businesses could afford. So the Williams brothers decided to lease the technology. In 1981, they sold the company to the Brae Corp. for $20 million. Chuck Williams died in 1993.
Luke Williams then built the American Electronic Sign Co., where he developed giant, electronic scoreboards for sports stadiums. He sold that business to 3M in 2000. Both ventures were chronicled in his 2002 autobiography, “Luke G. Williams: An American Entrepreneur.”
Born in Pinecroft, Wash., Williams graduated from high school and served as a torpedo man in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He planned to go to college after the service to become an entomologist, but joined forces with his brother to build the family’s sign-making business instead.
Williams chaired the board of directors of the Association of Washington Business from 1967 to 1969, and was the only Washington businessman to chair the National Association of Manufacturers. He also served on the Spokane City Council and founded United for Washington, one of the state’s first political action committees.
Williams died on April 5. Cause of death was not released. He was 80.

4 Responses to Luke G. Williams

  1. Jimmy Curtin

    I will miss Luke, he gave me the best job I ever had as a sales manager for AS&I….God bless you Mr. Williams

  2. Wesley Kent

    I twice had the opportunity to work for Luke Williams. As a district sales representative working out of the Paletine, IL office of AS&I, I never met him, even though I grossed the second highest national sales volume during my final year with the company. It wasn’t until Luke personally hired me at AOPAC many years later that I got to meet him and know the man. I can honestly say that I have yet to work for any other individual or company that treats their people as openly and honestly as Luke Williams did. Electronic signs may be the footnote by which history will remember him most, but his true legacy lies in the people whose lives he touched. Thank you, Luke.

  3. Doug Deardorf

    I had the great privilege of working at AS&I in the early ’80s. It was early in my career and I was always grateful for any time spent with Luke. He made it a point of personally greeting our foreign business partners and customers with whom I worked. Luke assembled a quality management team that, as far as I could see, promoted personal and professional growth, encouraging others to succeed. I benefitted from the vision and the professional environment Luke established. AS&I will always be remembered as the company that launched my career. Thank you, Luke.

  4. Ron Tomlin

    I had the privilege of working with Luke & Chuck in the mid-seventies.
    They always seemed to treat their employees as valued partners. A distinction I did not fully realize and appreciate until experiencing other employers.
    Some how, for some reason, Luke’s book “Luke G. Williams American Entrepreneur” was put into my life last year, 2007. It brought a lot of memories back and a renewed respect for Luke & Chuck.
    It came at an emotionally low time in my sales career. Chapter 8, Developing A Sales Format for AS&I hit a particular note with me.
    As usual, Luke was there to encourage and build.

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