R. Norris Williams survived the Titanic sinking but spent so much time submerged in the icy Atlantic that doctors wanted to amputate his legs on rescue ship Carpathia. He refused the amputation ,recovered and went on to win the U.S. Tennis Championship that very same year
“Williams also gained fame as being a survivor of the RMS Titanic disaster in April 1912. He and his father, Charles Duane Williams, were traveling first class on the liner when it struck an iceberg and sank. Shortly after the collision, Williams freed a trapped passenger from a cabin by breaking down a door. He was reprimanded by a steward, who threatened to fine him for damaging White Star Line property, an event that inspired a scene in James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic. Williams remained on the doomed liner almost until the very end. At one point Williams’ father tried to get a steward to fill his flask. The flask was given to Norris Williams and remains in the Williams family.
After being washed overboard by a wave that also took off Colonel Archibald Gracie and Second Officer C. H. Lightoller, along with several others, the 21 year old Williams made his way to the Collapsible A Lifeboat holding on to its side for quite a while before getting in. When Williams entered the water he was wearing a fur coat which he quickly discarded along with his shoes. Those in Collapsible A who survived were transferred to Lifeboat 14 by Fifth Officer Lowe. Although abandoned by the Carpathia, Collapsible A was recovered a month later. Amazingly, on board the lifeboat was the discarded fur coat which was returned to Williams by White Star.
Even after entering the lifeboat he spent several hours knee-deep in freezing water. RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene to rescue survivors. His father was lost in the disaster. The ordeal left his legs so severely frostbitten that the Carpathia’s doctor wanted to amputate them. Williams, who did not want his tennis career to be cut short, opted instead to work through the injury by simply getting up and walking around every two hours, around the clock. The choice worked out well for him: later that year, he won his first U.S. Tennis Championship, in mixed doubles, and went on to win many more championships. He also won the Davis Cup with fellow survivor Karl Behr.
Williams served in the United States Army during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. After the war he continued playing championship tennis.
Williams, a noted Philadelphia investment banker, was President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
It was not until after the publication of A Night to Remember, a 1955 book about the Titanic disaster, that Williams became acquainted with its author Walter Lord. In 1962, Williams met with Lord and gave a detailed account of the sinking. Although it has been reported that his father, among others, was crushed by the falling forward smokestack, and that he barely escaped that fate, Williams does not mention that in his talk with Lord.
Richard Norris Williams died of emphysema on 2 June 1968, aged 77 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.”