Rebecca Yancey Williams
(1895-1976)
Author of the "Vanishing Virginian" about the life of the Robert Davis Yancey family

Rebecca Yancey Williams wrote a book about her father. It was adapted to the movie The Vanishing Virginian by Metro-Goldwin-Mayer, starring Ruth Hussey. The book was published in 1940 by E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., New York.

She published another book, Carry Me Back, about her own youth and adventures as Virginia's "Junior Miss." Published in 1942 by E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc. New York.

She also wrote a hymn to Virginia sung to the tune of "God Of Our Fathers."

Rebecca's mother, Rosa Faulkner Yancey, in 1936 published a book, "Lynchburg and its Neighbors," to which she added scores of genealogies. Publisher, J. W. Ferguson and Sons.

The News, Lynchburg, VA., Sunday, July 21, 1957 reports the first singing of Rebecca's song at a a church service during a Jamestown celebration.

New 'Hymn to Virginia' written by Mrs. Williams

Mrs. Rebecca Yancey Williams of Richmond, formerly of Lynchburg, has written a new "Hymn to Virginia" to the tune off "God of Our Father."

The new work will be sung for the first time next Sunday during the church ceremony on Jamestown Island by the choir of Paul Green's "Common Glory."

Mrs. Williams is the famed author of The Vanishing Virginian and is the daughter of the late Captain Bob Yancy, for many years Commonwealth Attorney in Lynchburg.

The church ceremony is one of a series of events planed for the weekend at Jamestown to which owners of original plantation lands which sent delegates to the House of Burgesses at Jamestown have been invited.

Attending the all-day festival will be six members of the House of Commons and three members of the House of Lords. Governor Thomas Stanley and Lieutenant Governor A. E. S. Stephens will greet the invited guests.

The words to Ms. Williams song, which will be a highlight of the church services are:

Halt to Virginia, blessed Mother State

Founded in faith, bright star of Western Fate.

Brought forth in Glory on an Island Fair,

Crown of Man's sacrifice, to toil and will to dare.

Hail to Virginia, strong, serene and true.

Beloved of her sons from sea to mountains blue,

Beloved of the States that sprang from her creation.

All hail Virginia, Mother of our Nation.

Hail to Virginia, steadfast in her faith.

Cherish the freedom purchased on her earth.

Honor the heroes asleep beneath her sod.

Raise high your praises to the throne of God..

In his introduction to Rebecca's book, The Vanishing Virginian, Douglas Southall Freeman made the following Remarks.

What Mrs. Williams portrays of the spirit of Bedford and of Lynchburg fits in with her revelatory remark, "Looking back, it seems to me that all of my childhood was entangled with the past. Everything was so entangled."

Mrs. Williams' memory of her Grandma Yancey's Rothsay in the same county does not go back, I should guess, much beyond 1910; but one is puzzled to say whether there is more of difference or of similarity between Rothsay and Avenol.

Robert Yancey had been to young and his father too old to fight, yet in a day when record as a Confederate soldier was the first credential of a candidate for any office of profit or of honor, Bob Yancey could not be beaten for renomination as Commonwealth's Attorney. It was an immense tribute to his popularity, but no less was it an indication that times were changing and that silent younger men were to have their day. Almost as much evidence of change was to be seen in the election and re-election of a prosecutor who was not a Confederate veteran as there was in the fact that one after another of the chewing-tobacco factories in Lynchburg closed down. A nervous generation was disdaining the reflective quid and was demanding cigarettes. Becky Williams summarizes all this in her own way when she maintains that her Father represented the Old South, that her Mother exemplified the mid-Victorian in Virginia, and that the seven children were "hard-crusted moderns" who "belonged,!

" as she says, "to the age when Virginia was just beginning to become Americanized."

Although the lights cross on Mr. Yancey, his wife (Rosa Faulkner Yancy) is not left in vague shadow. She was twenty years younger than her husband, and if he is unique she is typical without loss of individuality. The resignation, not to say the calmness, with which many another woman of her day accepted the temperamental peculiarities of a husband was outward only. Somewhat dearly, when the doors were closed, the gentleman would have to pay for violent words or ungracious acts, and if he dared make a stand, he had to retreat quickly before a barrage of tears

 

Her Obituary

"Rebecca Williams, Author, Dies Here . . .

             "Mrs Rebecca Yancey Williams, author of the 1940's best seller, 'The Vanishing Virginian,' died Monday in a local nursing home.

             "Mrs Williams was the widow of Dr John Bell Williams, dentist, pharmacist and administrator of St Luke's Hospital here for 40 years. Dr Williams died in 1970.            

             "A native of Lynchburg, Mrs Williams wrote 'The Vanishing Virginian' as sort of a family chronicle for her son. The book's central figure is her father, Robert Davis Yancey, and the tale is of Cap'n Bob Yancey, his charming and absent-minded wife and all the Yancey children.

             "The book, set in Lynchburg at the turn of the 20th century, was published in 1940 and was made into a movie by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1942. The book enjoyed 22 printings and was published in London in 1941 under the title, 'Father Was a Handful.'

             "In 1942, Mrs Williams wrote, at the request of her publisher, another book entitled, 'Carry Me Back.' This work was based on excerpts from her girlhood diaries and dealt with her girlhood in and near Lynchburg continuing the chronicles of her family and friends that were begun in 'The Vanishing Virginian.'

             "In a newspaper interview in 1943, Mrs Williams said she liked housekeeping. 'I never wanted to write a book. I hate writing. It is drudgery and no joy.' She was, she said, than at work on a three-volume social history of Virginia.

             "Mrs Williams is survived by her son, Martin T.H. Williams of Alexandria.

             "A funeral service will be held at noon Wednesday in Hollywood Cemetery."