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William J. Cabaniss

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2004.


William J. Cabaniss was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic by Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington, D.C., on December 9, 2003, arrived in Prague on January 9, 2004, and presented his credentials to President Vaclav Klaus on January 13, 2004. After graduating with a B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1960, Cabaniss entered the U.S. Army, where he served as an Airborne Ranger First Lieutenant. In 1964, after a three-year tour of duty in Germany, he was awarded the Army Commendation medal. After his service in the armed forces, Cabaniss returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, where he began his business career with the Southern Cement Company Division of Martin Marietta Corporation. In 1971, he resigned from his position as Director of Market Development with Southern Cement and acquired the assets of a small metal grinding company. Since then, he has built Precision Grinding, Inc., into a successful steel plate processing and metal machining business where he held the positions of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Cabaniss served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1978 to 1982 and in the Alabama State Senate from 1982 to 1990.

Mr. Cabaniss has been a leader in the Birmingham business community, having served on the boards of directors of the following publicly held companies: AmSouth Bank, Birmingham Steel Corporation, and the Southern Company. He continues to serve on the board of Protective Life Corporation. He serves on, and was past chairman of, the Metropolitan Development Board; serves on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers; and previously served on the board of the Southern Research Institute. He maintains membership in the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Alabama, Association of Iron and Steel Engineers, and the National Tooling and Machining Association. In 2002, Mr. Cabaniss received the “Distinguished Builders of Birmingham” award.

In community affairs, Mr. Cabaniss serves on the following boards: A+ (The Coalition for Better Education), Kings Ranch (a residential ministry for neglected women and children), and the Boy Scouts. He previously served as board chairman of Junior Achievement of Jefferson County and is a current member of the Birmingham Rotary Club where he has served on the board and received Rotary's “Community Service Award” in 1993. Cabaniss also led the Alexis de Toqueville Society of United Way in the 2000 campaign, previously served on the Board of Trustees of Sweet Briar College, and is a past Senior Warden of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

William Cabaniss has had successful careers in business, public service, and community affairs. He and his wife, Catherine, an artist, have been married 41 years and have two daughters, Mary Cabaniss of Seattle and Frances Johnson of Mobile, and two grandchildren.

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