From AC 2nd to… The Army JAG Corps

This is the second installment of our series entitled “From AC 2nd to…” It profiles former History majors who have followed a variety of professional and educational tracks in their post-Bethel careers. (Click here to see the first installment in the series.)

Today we’ll spotlight Peter Williams (‘04), graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law and an attorney with the U.S. Army JAG Corps serving in the Minnesota Army National Guard.

1. Why’d you decide to major in History? Did you come to college with that in mind, or did you switch to History later? (Did you double-major?)

I decided to major in history towards the end of my freshman year. History was something that always interested me, and something that I enjoyed.  To be honest, there was a little bit of apprehension on my part as I was concerned about my future career options being limited. However, as I progressed in my college career I realized that majoring in History opened far more doors for me than I ever could have imagined. It was a tremendous decision on my part. Moreover, my senior year I discovered that I had taken so many classes that carried cross-credits with Political Science that I could pick up a double major.  So that’s what I did.

2. During your time as a History major at Bethel, what was your favorite class?

First of all, that is a really tough question, because there were so many. One of my favorite classes carried cross credits in History, Political Science and Philosophy: Classics in Western Political Thought. It was taught by G.W. Carlson, and it was a fantastic class. We had such a great group of people in the class, and every class created such interesting discussions. The class also met right before lunch, therefore discussions would often poor into Market (as it was called at that time) and continue on through lunch. The book we read was a compilation of excerpts from classic works. The book is still on my shelf today.

My Senior Seminar class for History was also a great class. As I worked on countless briefs and memos throughout law school I often focused on the skills and lessons I learned while writing my paper for Senior Seminar.

3. How’d you come to study law? Was it something you were interested in while you were still in college, or did it take some time to decide on a professional path after graduating from Bethel?

I was always fascinated with law. It was something that always intrigued me. I loved to analyze things and debate topics until they were long past dead. However, in talking to many lawyers and some law professors, I realized that just because I liked a hearty debate it didn’t mean I should spend three years of my life (and a lot of money) going to law school. So I took some time off worked as an admissions counselor for a non-traditional school and found out that law was something that I really wanted to study and pursue. I needed that time off to mature academically, get a taste of the “real world,” and find out what path God wanted me to pursue. Once I got to law school, I realized that I had made the right decision.

4. There’s no such thing as a Pre-Law major, but History is often recommended as a good preparation for law school. Did your Bethel History major prepare you well for studying law?

Peter Williams
1st Lt. Peter Williams

Yes, it did. History was an excellent base to study law. Law school requires you to be a critical reader, a good writer, and a disciplined student. All of those things I was able to pick up as a History major. Legal writing is very different from the writing you do as a history major, but the fundamentals of being a good writer are very important in order to become a good legal writer.

5. What’s it like being a lawyer in the military?

It’s a tremendous honor. I have only been in a year, but I have met some incredible people and learned some amazing things. If you had told me when I graduated Bethel that eight years later I would be capable of advising Army commanders on anything from the international law of war to contracts and fiscal law, I would have probably said you were crazy. While my job is not as glamorous as Hollywood has portrayed a Judge Advocate’s life to be, it is very gratifying to know that you are serving your country (and state as I am in the National Guard) by doing something you enjoy.

6. Are you still interested in history? How do you learn about the past now that you’re not a college student?

Absolutely! I have a number of history books on my Kindle at this very moment. History is a passion of mine. When I was in Virginia training with the Army, I made sure that I caught as many historical sites and events as I could in my free time. I tend to read multiple books at once, and I make sure that one of those books is always a biography of a U.S. President. It is my goal to read a biography of or a book substantially about every U.S. President until I am caught up to the current President… Needless to say, I have a ways to go.

<<Read the previous entry in the From AC 2nd to… series                    Read the next entry in the series>>


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