Thomas C. Williams, Sr., known more commonly as T.C. Williams, graduated from Richmond College in 1849. Upon graduating, he began working as a clerk at the James Thomas Tobacco Company. In 1856, T.C. Williams and R.A. Patterson opened Patterson & Williams, a moderately successful tobacco concern. Patterson & Williams was successful in part due to the financial assistance of James Thomas who was Patterson's uncle.
As James Thomas aged, Williams and Patterson supervised the James Thomas Tobacco Company. Upon Thomas's death in 1882, T.C. Williams took over the James Thomas Tobacco Company and it was renamed the Thomas C. Williams Tobacco Company. Williams ran the company until his death at the age of 59 in 1889.The company was later bought by the British-American Tobacco Company.
Williams, who graduated before his eighteenth birthday, became a member of the Board of Trustees of Richmond College in 1881. He served as a trustee until 1889. In 1890, the family of T.C. Williams, Sr. gave a twenty-five thousand dollar endowment to the University to create the T.C. Williams Professorship of Law. The gift ended an eight year suspension of operations for the law school and it reopened. In 1920, the school was named in honor of T.C. Williams.