Articles about
Big $id Williams

Love the Peanut

Love the Peanut

By

JCS

 

The resurrection of Life University to rebuild its image and academic culture has been made more difficult for its new administration when a small group of fanatical alumni touts the “wisdom” of its ousted founder, Big $id Williams.

 Like pouring salt into a collective wound, these ideologues continue to genuflect at the feet of their fallen leader and, for what purpose, it is hard to understand. Like diehard followers of Saddam or Gadhafi, these $idiots continue to drink the purple Kool Aid that led to Life’s demise in 2002.

One would think after his public and professional humiliation that $id Williams would lick his wounds, take his ill-begotten millions, and move to his vacation home in Sarasota, Florida, located next to BJ Palmer’s old home. Instead, this vanquished charlatan refuses to leave his old stomping grounds in Marietta and, inexplicably, he still charms newfound sycophants mesmerized by his outdated chirovangelism.

For example, his maverick state association, The Georgia Council of Chiropractic (GCC), in its Fall 2011 Georgia Chiro News, published an old lecture, “Dr. Sid’s Wisdom on Love.” For those who can remember Williams at DE or his weekly philosophy classes at Life, this speech was billed as “Classic Dr. Sid”—his standard rap from 40 years ago with his cornerstone message:

“Because you’ve got to have this:  that you are willing to accept all cases, regardless of the condition or the ability to pay. For God’s sake, write that one down; that’s the key thing.”

Recalling this bit of history was both amusing and disturbing. Although this advice might stimulate naive young students, it is a disaster for field docs. Accepting all conditions is ludicrous in this day and age of malpractice, scope of practice limits, and legal accountability. This bad advice smacks of $id’s cure-all belief typified by his infamous quote, “Rigor mortis is the only thing we can’t help![1] Okay, stop laughing because he is serious, if not delusional.

Secondly, it is more than ironic that of all people Big $id would encourage anyone to accept patients who have no ability to pay. I daresay he accepted no student who didn’t have a student loan and, as a former assistant DC in his private office in Austell, I can attest no one got free care there. Indeed, this trapping is nothing more than the skewed advice of a blowhard.

The hallmark chant not repeated in this GCC article was his infamous Money Hum, which was odd considering it was his most iconoclastic:

Start imagining yourself ultra, ultra, ultra wealthy. Just see bales and piles of money, just everywhere. Gold or diamonds or whatever it is turns you on… Start down at the bottom and get you a handful of it. In your mind’s eye, say Mmmmmmooonnneeeyyy!!!

In this GCC article, $id spoke of the concept, “Love the peanut,” in which  he made an analogy to loving patients as much as Tuskegee University loves peanuts where George Washington Carver developed its many uses.  Quite interesting to compare patients to peanuts, but that’s Big $id who often spoke of “loving pots and pans,” too. Perhaps $id will include peanuts in a new version of his Money Hum: “Just see bales and piles of peanuts…”

Indeed, like Saddam firing a rifle into the sky as his followers screamed their jihadist cry, rekindling the “wisdom” of Big $id sent shivers down my spine as a misguided anachronism from yesteryear. Like the fabled sword of Damocles, perhaps the seduction of great wealth and fame lures these $idiots to pursue Williams’ ill-begotten advice, ignorant of the misfortune that awaits anyone on this path of greed and ego.

The Fall of Big $id

Since this GCC newsletter broached the sordid history of $id Williams, I believe it is important to clear the air of this obvious propaganda and revisionist history. The GCC committed a gross disservice by ignoring the damage this megalomaniac did to our profession still reeling with a tattered image in Georgia.

Let’s be frank: $id was an unqualified academic autocrat who ruled Life with an iron fist. “I’m the Daddy” was his crude redneck way of asserting his authoritarian power. No one who worked with him would ever say he was benevolent in any way or sincerely interested in academia.

Without recounting the entire affair, I will present a short version of the Fall of Big $id to clear the air on this dark chapter of Life College because the misinformation published by the GCC is misleading and will not aid in the reformation of chiropractic in our state. Shame on the GCC leadership who promotes such nonsense.

Unquestionably, $id is best described as a Messianic dictator who ignored the advice of his own advisors only to be felled by his ego and avarice. His end began with his refusal to follow the academic requirements of both the regional SACS and the CCE national regulatory agency for chiropractic education.

He operated an autocratic and corrupt administration comprised of his three family members–wife, Nell, the College Vice President, his sister-in-law, Mildred Lee, the school’s Personnel Director, and his daughter, Kim, a Life graduate who became a Department Head at the college less than two years after graduation–and his lifelong friend, DD Humber, another Vice President. None had degrees in higher education nor did any have any previous experience operating a college–indeed, all were simply straight chiropracTORs and academic imposters.

The fact is while his chirovangelism sounded poetic to young practitioners and idealistic students, his reality was completely different. Nepotism and greed became the hallmarks of his college along with an anachronistic academic attitude that focused simply on “detect and correct vertebral subluxations” to the exclusion of diagnostics, quality instructors, or serious research.

Both the CCE and SACS reports noted the lack of budgeting for genuine research at Life. According to “Research Productivity of Chiropractic College Faculty,” in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics, in its first 25 years, Life published a grand total of 7 peer-reviewed papers while National College of Chiropractic published over 220 in the same time period.[2]

The CCE and SACS reports noted complaints by the faculty about the repressive academic environment at Life.  Williams banned books, censored instructors, purged dissidents, and prohibited rival political leaders, including the presidents of the American Chiropractic Association. Academic freedom was a non-issue at Life; book-burning best resembled Life under his leadership.

Although the new administration at Life has now completely invested itself in research as noted by the fact it had the most papers presented at ACC-RAC, under the guise of Big $id, his anti-Educated Mindset resembled his mentor, BJ Palmer who was never known to be academically inclined as reflected in his most notorious statement:

“Education constipates the mind. I would rather be a chiropractor with one simple principle and practice that works, and get people well, and be called ‘ignorant,’ than be a supra-educated medical man with millions of arbitrary and empiric theories, none of which work or get sick people well...”[3]

The depth of Williams’ anti-intellectualism was just as dramatic and often befuddling. He scoffed at the scientific mindset and even declared, “To hell with the scientists. They haven’t proven a bumble bee could fly.”[4]

Williams’ strong suit rested with his charismatic rhetoric and not a scholarly approach. Even the name of Williams’ college, “Life,” is symbolic of his delusional grandeur when he often announced at his DE seminars that “Nothing is bigger than life.” In his effort to appear profound, he actually appeared bizarre to the mainstream profession and to the public. His philosophy sermons resembled a Southern Pentecostal revival more than a scholarly presentation by a learned academician. (Okay, stop laughing)

Charles Thomas, historian at Life College from 1992 to 1995, described his initial astonishment listening to Sid Williams preach at his DE meeting:

The meeting was scheduled to begin at three. By a quarter to four, I was already getting restive; due to family obligations, I had to leave by four-thirty at the latest. But I would learn that Dr. Sid would refuse to enter any hall where he was speaking until every last seat was filled and there were standees along each wall.

Toward four I suddenly heard excited whispering running through the crowd, which took up a steadily swelling chant: “Sid! Sid! Sid! Sid!” to a burst of wild applause the man depicted in the portrait and the statue on campus, albeit with completely white hair and waistline gone to pot, made his triumphal entry down the main aisle, while his followers, some standing on their chairs, reached out to touch him or elbowed each other for a chance to shake his hand. Some of them held up their children so they could see him. As he reached the podium and took the microphone, I prepared myself for what I seriously expected to be a spell-binding, charismatic address.

And for the next thirty minutes, I listened to the worst public speaker I had ever heard. Dr. Sid used no notes or outline. His rhetoric made Joyce’s writing look rigidly structured by comparison. In that one half hour he started five stories he never finished. Couched in a broad southern accent, his discourse was a mélange in which practice-building gimmicks, New Age spiritualism, old-time Baptist religion, scatological humor, and pseudo-science vied wildly for equal time in terms of grammatical atrocities and malapropisms, he butchered the language as enthusiastically and horribly as his sister-in-law (Mildred Lee).

In a mere thirty minutes, I learned that Dr Sid’s role models were evangelists and faith healers and that his personal values were relentlessly authoritarian. That was when anything could be made of his talk at all. Most of the cornpone verbiage was what psychiatrists call “word soup”. Thoroughly appalled, I looked to the people around me for confirmation of my assessment of this pathetic performance. It was a mistake. Their worshipful, bovine faces were turned lovingly to Dr. Sid, wearing absent half-smiles, eyes shining, giving flesh to the old saw “hanging on every word”. In a flash I realized where I was and what this was, and devoutly wished to be anywhere else.[5]

 

Thomas’s unpublished manuscript, “Life College: Inside An American Cult,” is an intriguing exposé of Sid Williams, his family members, the development of Life College, revelations of the greedy underbelly of his DE seminar, and the fascinating yet sordid politics of a twisted.

A 1980 article in the National Enquirer revealed the greedy nature of the Williams’ professional DE seminar in an article titled, “Course Teaches Greedy Chiropractors How to Get Rich by Cheating Patients” written by Lee Harrison. His exposé showed the obvious tacky and greedy nature of this supposed professional seminar.[6]

Harrison wrote, “Behind closed doors at a luxurious Atlanta hotel, chiseling chiropractors… 400 of these smooth-talking charlatans met recently for one purpose—to learn new ways to cash in on your pain and misery.”

After numerous examples of outrageous ploys to exploit patients, Harrison ended his article with a statement by a Williams’ devotee, Dr. John Cowan.

I love chiropractic because I love money. As chiropractors we have such difficult decisions to make in our lives. Why, just the other day I had to decide whether to take a steam bath at my home or swim in my big pool. Last month alone I made $55,000. Sometimes I just don’t know how to spend it all. But I usually find a way.[7]

This troubling article was just the start for more embarrassments and set the tone of what became the public image of Life as a diploma mill led by a clan of academic imposters and greedy supporters all claiming to be “principled.” Apparently the GCC continues along this destructive path today.

$id’s Cash Cow

With minimal entrance requirements compared to other chiropractic colleges and a massive TV recruiting budget, Life quickly grew more than any other chiropractic college in history. According to the 1998 IRS filing, Life University’s net assets were $73,299,581, and its total expenses were $53,508,620—a nearly $20 million profit is not bad for a so-called non-profit, 501(c) organization.

One interesting “income-producing activity” of note was the $177,305 earned from parking fines at Life. Apparently Williams designed his campus to have too few parking lots for the actual number of students, so he bought his own tow truck business to profit by this oversight.

To say Life was a cash cow for Williams is an understatement considering he was paid more than the presidents of both Harvard and Yale combined. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) editorial:

Among other things, the accreditation panels criticized the school’s financial management: The Williams dynasty draws massive salaries by any university’s standards. In 1997 (the latest figures for Life’s salaries from the Chronicle of Higher Education), Williams’ salary was more than $900,923; his wife’s was nearly $500,000; his sister-in-law, assistant vice president Mildred Kimbrough, more than $323,000; and his longtime friend, Vice President Durie Humber, $625,870. While her salary is not available [allegedly in the $400,000 range], Williams’ daughter, Kim, is also employed in the administration.

By comparison, Harvard’s president earned $380,000 in 2000 and Yale’s president, $552,000. [8]

Imagine what legitimate educators must have thought to hear that a president of a chiropractic college in Georgia earned more than all other college presidents, including the Ivy League. By the way, his income from his DE seminars and his family-owned Si-Nel chiropractic supply company that had exclusive rights to the students at Life were omitted from his nearly one million dollar compensation mentioned in the AJC editorial.

A fighter all his life, Williams’ 28-year reign came to an end not as the glorious president of the largest chiropractic college in the world as he would have wanted, but as a broken and embarrassed man seen by all as a greedy tyrant and academic imposter.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

He said he was disappointed his planned exit follows the loss of accreditation. “I’ve had some ... defeats in life. This is one of the more bitter of those, because it comes from my colleagues, the chiropractors,” Williams said. [9]

This autocrat never did admit his guilt, still in denial as to the real cause of the loss of accreditation. His sycophants in the GCC still subscribe to this misleading excuse for the fall of Big $id.

Williams never accepted responsibility for the chiropractic program’s losing its accreditation. It wasn’t his management style or his views on chiropractic that caused the program to get in hot water with the Council on Chiropractic Education, he said.

“‘I have opinions, and very strong opinions, but I’d rather not comment, other than it was the decision of the chiropractic commission on accreditation. It was their decision.

“‘Obviously, I’d be a poor president if I didn’t believe that we should have been accredited. We all put a superb effort into this. We had plenty of time to prepare and we were superb. But in their opinion, it wasn’t good enough. I’m not accusing anybody of anything. I’m not accusing the commission of any wrongdoing, except we believe we made it,’ Williams said. [10]

After Williams was fired, he nearly bankrupted the struggling college when he received a $5 million settlement from Life for his interest in the college. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Charles Ribley, noted in a Marietta Daily Journal article concerning the huge $5 million settlement:

“I think it showed a lack of integrity, and I don’t think he is being responsible to the school he founded…It’s a large expense for the school,” Ribley said. “It is causing a considerable dent.” Ribley said he could not speculate whether the school could make all of its payments. “It is questionable whether we can afford the payments because of the unpredictability of student enrollment,” he said.[11]

Just as many believe BJ Palmer outlived his usefulness at Palmer School of Chiropractic, the same can be said of Sid Williams who outlived his value to chiropractic education and became a liability to the reputation and future growth of Life University. His tragic flaws of arrogance and stubbornness proved to be fatal and his so-called “Lasting Purpose” had become the profession’s lasting problem.

Life historian Charles Thomas was prophetic on the fall of Williams and Life College years before it actually happened. In 1995 he saw the writing on the walls of Life that few others could read among the epigrams:

The history of Life College that I had been hired to research and compile could never, in the end, be written–not the truth, at least not as commissioned by the man who had all unknowingly hired me. The saga was a witch’s brew that immediately began to seep down through the fissures of insanity in the cauldron where it had been concocted. Its parent Dynamic Essentials was appalling without being arresting, a cult without the grand vision (however it had ultimately been twisted) of a Jonestown–blind conformity without the guts for spiked Kool-Aid. The college itself was a fantastic Cerberean monster: one head a circus of nepotistic managerial incompetence, another a neo-spiritualist bone-popping medicine show, and the third itself a tri-level triumph of trans-national medical fraud, extorting fortunes from, in turn, student tuition, government loans, and hordes of gullible “patients”. It was a story that should and could not be told between the leather-bound covers of a reverential, commemorative volume on the college’s twentieth anniversary and the chiropractic centennial. It was rather a syllabus on the pitfalls of personalized management, an essay on the sociology of cults, or the transcript-in-waiting of hearings by the appropriate state and federal authorities (with the IRS sitting in)–or perhaps all of the above, under the umbrella of a national television news exposé. [12]

With the failed leadership of $id Williams that embarrassed our entire profession, not just the college and its alumni, it is sad to see the current GCC cling to the twisted “wisdom” of this old dictator.

Under its new president, Bob Braile, and past president, Stephen Welsh, it is obvious these two $idiots continue to promote the failures of the past rather than to look to the future. This may explain why the GCC has so few members and is renowned as a bastion of outdated chiropractic sycophants from an era that one had hoped was gone with the wind. Perhaps the GCC ought to take a lesson from the new Life administration and create a new and respectable culture instead of one that continues to chant the Money Hum and “love the peanut.”

Indeed, as Big $id discovered, living under the sword of Damocles is not an envious as Braile and Welsh might think. Rekindling his so-called philosophy serves no one and only dregs up issues best forgotten. It is past time for the GCC to bury the king felled by his own sword.

 

 



[1] Sid E. Williams, Health, July 1993.

[2] DM Marchiori, W Meeker, C Hawk, CR Long, “Research Productivity Of Chiropractic College Faculty,” J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 21/1 (Jan 1998):8-13.

[3] JC Keating, “ B.J. of Davenport: The Early Years of Chiropractic,” (AHC, 1997)               

[4] Sid E. Williams, Campus Life, December 1993

[5] Charles Thomas, “Life College: Inside an American Cult,” unpublished manuscript, (1993): 9-11.

[6] Lee Harrison, “Course Teaches Greedy Chiropractors How To Get Rich By Cheating Patients,” National Enquirer, (Nov. 18, 1980)

[7] Ibid.

[8] Our Opinions: “University no longer one man's life,” AJC editorial, 6-14-02.

[9] “Life to Team with Chiropractic College,” AJC, 6-26-02

[10] “Life U Severs Ties To Leader Williams Quits, At Least For Now,” AJC, 7-9-02

[11] “Chair Blasts Life Founder's Compensation Williams, Wife Will Receive Nearly $5M,” Marietta Daily Journal, Feb. 21, 2003

[12] Charles Thomas, ibid. p. 264.

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