As a Dust Bowl era Okie born in 1928 during the Great Depression, Knox Williams was the grandson of sharecroppers and the eldest of five children born to hard-working, loving parents.
When Knox was 10 years old, his intrepid family migrated “Grapes of Wrath” style to California in an old Model A Ford.
Knox never grew up with money. In fact, because his family couldn’t afford sliced bread he and his siblings ate homemade biscuit sandwiches for school lunches.
I first learned the importance of helping others from my father and family.
Despite the loving family’s humble roots, Knox’s father always went the extra mile to help others.
“His examples spoke louder than any words ever could,” shared Knox. “I first learned the importance of helping others from my father and family. Their giving of time, talent and treasure have stuck with me ever since.”
Role Model for Philanthropy
For the past 56 years, Knox has been leaving his mark in Carlsbad and the greater San Diego region. He is a longtime philanthropist with The San Diego Foundation and known throughout North County for both his business acumen and caring spirit.
In 1961, in spite of having a top job with a furniture chain, Knox pursued his life-long dream of owning a business and risked everything to purchase a Rayne Water Conditioning franchise in North San Diego County. He then went door-to-door selling his service and equipment. Over the years as his customer base grew from hundreds to thousands, he quickly became a success story for the American business owner.
Business success was just the beginning. As Knox learned early on, helping others through philanthropy was an equally important pursuit. “The gift is in the giving,” Knox shared.
For decades, Knox has played a significant role in numerous nonprofit organizations and programs throughout San Diego — from local YMCAs, Mira Costa College Foundation and the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation, to St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center in El Cajon and Noah Homes Foundation in Spring Valley — to name a few. His legacy endures through the many programs that still support local youth and families today.
As Founding Chair of the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation (CCF), Knox helped select one of the first grants to a local elementary school where parents were paying a teacher to stay after class and teach 5th graders financial literacy.
Members of CCF supported this grassroots initiative, and eventually it expanded to all nine elementary schools in the area that received the same program thanks to the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.
“That’s community philanthropy at its finest,” Knox explained.
Learning from Knox
After 34 years, Knox and his wife sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law, which has provided him with more time to serve his community. While his business activities have eased, his positive impact in the community has endured.
Knox will tell you that “you meet good people when you get involved in philanthropy.” What he won’t admit is that he’s one of the best examples of those good people.
If you are ever fortunate enough to spend some time with Knox, he will likely share one of his famous and downright affable bits of wisdom, such as “age is just a number and mine is unlisted.”
But if you learn only one thing from Knox, it’s this: “There are lots of things that bring joy. Good food. A loving family. Travel, etc. However, there is one joy that not everyone fully experiences, and that’s the joy of giving time, talent and treasure.”
Join Knox and the countless other philanthropists making San Diego a greater place to work, enjoy, live and learn.