Big $id Williams
I would be remiss not to include the dozens of articles I wrote about Sidney E. Williams, founder and past president of Life Chiropractic College and former president of the ICA.
First, let me give you my background with Big $id, his current moniker. I met him in 1975 when I enrolled at Life after transferring from Sherman College. Little did I know I was going from the pot to the frying pan of “straight” chiropractic.
I had previously worked at Livingston College at Rutgers University as a 3-sport coach, recreation director, and instructor in a sociology of sport class. With that educational experience in hand, I walked into Big $id's office seeking a job to finance my education at Life since student loans were not available at that time.
Little did I also know that Big $id was a megalomaniac unlike anyone I had ever known. Before I realized his omnipotence, I was surprised by the fear among his staff who warned me of his temper and authoritarian nature. Since I had dealt with head football coaches and academic deans at both Berkeley and Rutgers, I felt prepared to deal with this vendor/philosopher turned college president.
My first weekend at Life coincided with his DE seminar that I attended to learn more about “Life” College, which I thought was a very strange name for any college. The DE show proved my worst fears when I sat through his Pentecostal chiropractic meeting. I recall thinking if this is typical chiropractic, no wonder it has a bad image.
Nonetheless, being open minded as we progressives from Berkeley are prone to be, I listened and learned Big $id’s philosophy of chiropractic, life (real life, not Life), and his Innate psychology in a 3-hour rant that was unlike any lecture I had ever heard. Trying to make sense of his mixture of Southern Baptist, BJ Palmer’s chirovangelism, and $id’s own brand of practice management was a chore for us uninitiated students.
I latched on to his Innate philosophy as he described the difference between the Educated Mind and the Innate Mind. Since my Master’s thesis dealt with Abraham Maslow’s concept of self-actualization, I guessed that is what $id meant in his own chiro-babbel. I began asking other students what they thought he meant about being an Innate person, but they had no idea.
So the next week I sat down with his royal highness to ask him about what he meant. He, of course, wasn’t impressed with me and he had never heard of AH Maslow. He actually seemed a bit threatened when I gave him my athletic accolades and academic background at Cal and Rutgers. As I was soon to learn, being educated was not a plus in his mind. I later learned that $id believed as BJ taught him that “education constipates the mind.” So much for higher education, ya folla?
Nonetheless, he began lecturing me about the importance of the Innate mind and the harm of being Educated. It dawned on me that there was nothing in his curriculum to develop the Innate Mind. I pointed out to him that all the classes only developed the Educated Mind.
He was stunned at my comment. “That tells me something,” I can still remember him telling me. Apparently I had cracked the ice of his impenetrable ego.
So, I soon became the Innate Director at Life, the Sports Director, and the assistant to the president. He and I would meet daily in his office to discuss issues. He primarily used me as a sounding board of ideas—if I couldn’t understand him, no one could. I also edited his magazine, Today’s Chiropractic, after he learned I could write, a talent few chiropractors had at his college.
As the Innate Director, I recruited the talented students who were skilled in sports, arts, music, dance, meditation, nutrition, or whatever in order to teach other students how to develop their inner Innate. It was a great time to see the talented kids who came forth to share with other students their special interests.
For the hard-core athletes who played in high school or on collegiate teams like me, I developed a sports program where we played in the Marietta Adult Recreational Program. We had men, women, and coed volleyball teams as well as a men’s basketball and softball program.
But my lasting legacy at Life was my suggestion that he begin a Philosophy Class. After only a few months at Life, I realized that none of the students understood his chirovangelism, so I recommended that he began a weekly class to teach his brand of philosophy.
He jumped at the idea. On every Thursday thereafter, the entire student body would assemble to hear Big $id rant and rave about most anything that came to his mind. Actually, these were rather entertaining sessions since he is definitely a charismatic speaker if not a little wacko, too. As I tell people, just imagine Don King, Fidel Castro and Jimmie Swaggart all mixed into one person that that was Bid $id.
The students were taught chiropractic demagoguery to vilify anything medical like medications, immunizations, and all surgery; they demonized all MDs as barbarians, and they were controlled by a charismatic rhetoric unlike anything I had ever heard before in my life.
Hidden beneath this “chirovangelism” was a strong motivation of greed illustrated by the fact that the school chant created by Dr. Williams was the infamous "Money Hum"!
“Start imagining yourself ultra, ultra, ultra wealthy. Just see bales and piles of money, just everywhere. Gold or diamonds or whatever turns you on… Start down at the bottom and get you a handful of it. In your mind’s eye, say Mmmmmmooonnneeeyyy!!!”
I must add that we starving students enjoyed his chant since we were tired of being poor and living on bare bones.
After I graduated from Life in 1978, I began an internship at $id’s private practice in little Austell, a small country town about ten miles from the college. There I was to be groomed into a DE Doctor rich in fame and fortune.
What I learned, however, was how not to run a practice. By my graduation, I had studied many chiropractic techniques such as Pettibone and Pierce-Stillwagon. I was prepared to bring the best methods to $id’s patients, only to be told by his lovely wife, Dr. Nell, to forget about that stuff and to simply toggle everyone on the side of their short leg.
What the hell is this, I asked myself? This is not advanced chiropractic care as much as regressive chirovangelism. In retrospect, I was stupid to think I would learn anything from either of them except for the “pop and pray to Innate” method of ol’ time chiropracTIC, ya folla?
The more I worked with $id and Nell, the more I became stunned at their hypocrisy and dishonesty. At least once a week the local sheriff would come by looking for them to collect for unpaid bills owed to local businesses. More than once someone set fire to their shopping mall where their clinic was located. Whenever I told someone I worked for them, I would get the look of shock with the common roll-of-the-eyes showing me of their dislike of the Williams clan. Indeed, everyone had a Big $id story, and usually it was a bad one.
Finally, over a year later, I decided I had learned enough from them, and gave my two-months notice to leave, which would by contract entitled me to 50% of the accounts receivable--$5,000 that I hoped to use as my grubstake at my new office in Warner Robins.
After I announced my resignation, I overheard Nell tell my front-desk girl, “I hope they starve.”
Is this the “love for the sake of loving” DE philosophy they preached? To her surprise, I was standing around the corner and asked about her comment. “Does that include my baby daughter, too?”
By then I was too happy to leave the repressive climate of the Williams’ office. But instead of getting the $5,000 I was owed, months later I received an $800 check that bounced. I had to hire an attorney to get what I could from those cheapskates.
I soon learned that my experience with Big $id and his lovely wife was not unusual. Sooner or later everyone gets ripped off by these scalawags, just as the profession and college were to soon experience, too.
My journalistic career began by writing about those experiences with Big $id. At first I doubt many people believed me since his actions were so far out it was hard to imagine the so-called president of the largest chiro college in the world could be so corrupt. I still recall the many hate letters I also got from his Sidiots, those DC sycophants who loved $id not matter what he did.
But, soon the momentum against him began to change in a direction he could never had imagined when the federal and regional educational agencies—the CCE and SACS—began investigating his diploma mill. At the height of his academic sham, Life was bringing in over $73 million annually and $id was proclaimed by CHE as the highest paid college president in the nation, nearly one million dollars. He actually earned more than the combined salaries of the presidents of Harvard and Yale at his little Podunk chiropractic college in Marietta.
My articles about $id and Life began to gain national attention by then, and many moles inside Life—students and staff alike—began sending me insider-information about his corruption. Most of the articles in this section deal with his machinations to defy CCE and SACS initially, and after his loss of accreditation, the cover-up and bunker defensive actions he and his clan took to rally his troops.
It’s a fascinating but sad story of one man’s rise and fall. In the end, it was the best thing that could have happened to Life University with the implementation of a new management that now leads the campus into a new era.
But it didn’t come without sacrifices paid by not only the Williams’ clan, but by students and staff who suffered through this upheaval. This is a dark chapter in chiropractic that left an indelible stain that may take many generations to remove.
These articles outline a sordid history by a clan of academic imposters. Hopefully never again will any chiropractic college suffer the embarrassment and ridicule brought on by such charlatans. Dr. Sid's death in December, 2012, was a sad ending to what might have been a great story for him and for chiropractic. Instead, it was a black stain on his family as well upon our profession.