English founder of the North American colony of Rhode Island. He emigrated to Massachusetts in 1631 and, as a minister at Salem, he soon quarrelled with John Cotton and Governor John Winthrop. In 1635 he was banished. He founded Providence, Rhode Island, where he developed friendly relations with local Native Americans and established the Baptist Church. He obtained a parliamentary charter for Rhode Island in 1644. Although free of religious persecution, the colony was beset by feuding for most of Williams's life.