Looking for adventure, James Robert Williams ran away from home when he was in his mid-teens. He worked at a ranch for a while, then signed up with the U.S. Cavalry for three years, and played football with a young Lieutenant George Patton. Returning home to his parents in Ohio, J. R. Williams got married and took a steady job at a crane manufacturing company, where he started drawing cover designs for the company's catalog.
In 1921, after years of submitting ideas for strips to various syndicates, his one-panel cartoon gag series 'Out Our Way' appeared for the first time. The success of this series led to a Sunday feature, 'Out Our way, With the Willits'. Artists George Scarbo and Neg Cochran assisted Williams on the strip, that ran until 1978. Another strip he did was titled 'Bull of the Woods', about a machine shop boss. Williams bought his own ranch in 1930, and died in 1957.