By the time Rita was a teenager, her father had left the ministry but the family remained dedicated to the church and maintained a strong Christian household. She attended Southwestern Christian University, first briefly as a high school sophomore, then later as a full time college student. Rita's uncle, C.H. Williams, many may recall, was a dean and professor at Southwestern for many years. In fact, C.H. Williams, helped found the school along with Oral Roberts, and R.O. Corvin in 1946.
Rita's love for music was always apparent and one evening while at home with her two younger sisters, she asked if they would sing a song with her. Almost miraculously a sound developed very quickly. Younger sister, Vikki took the lead part, the youngest sister, Renee, sang tenor, and Rita was the alto for the group. No lessons, no direction, just three voices united in the closest of harmony, difficult to come by unless the voices are related. The ease and clarity of sound even surprised the sisters.
Soon, The Williams Sisters were being asked to sing at local youth events, revivals, and conferences. Rita became the spokesperson for the group and developed a unique speaking style, sharing Biblical messages and illustrations, weaving the music into the overall theme. Along with a small band as accompaniment, they began to tour the country performing at church youth camps, conferences, and holding revivals from coast to coast. From the late sixties to mid seventies, The Williams Sisters were traveling and ministering full time. The group's two albums, Introducing … The Williams Sisters and Joy!, produced during that time, are still asked for today.
“It was a wonderful time in our lives. We were privileged to see many young people come to know Christ and we were enjoying the time together, understanding how blessed we were to do something we loved to do,” said Rita.
In 1974, The Williams Sisters were introduced at the National Quartet Convention held in Nashville as “The New Group of the Year.” The honor was part of a program that was the precursor to the current Dove Awards awarded to Christian artists. Thereafter, the sisters would share the stage often with The Oak Ridge Boys, the Stamps Quartet, The Inspirations, and other well-known groups.
As the 1980s approached, marriage and raising families became new priorities and the group no longer toured, but got together periodically for special events through the years. Rita married Dr. Richard Tate, a campus minister, in 1977, and they served on the campus of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri for many years. As Vice President for the school as well as Campus Minister, Richard along with Rita continued to sing together and minister, representing the school and recruiting many students throughout the Midwest. Two children, son, Ryan, and daughter, Trinity, were born while at Bolivar.
The couple moved to the San Diego, California area in 1990 to take their first full time pastorate. It was during this time they began to work on producing a book aimed at helping married couples and families. The material for the book was gleaned from the live seminars and conferences Richard and Rita conducted several times a year. When the family moved back to their Oklahoma roots in 1997 the manuscript was sent to several publishers. Finally, their book 11 Reasons Families Succeed was published. “It's a great tool for dating or married couples, and families experiencing challenges,” Rita explained.
“Richard was serving as the Chief of Staff for Mary Fallin, who is now the Governor of Oklahoma at that time, but we learned so much about the publishing process and marketing books that we became interested in creating our own publishing house. In 2000, our son Ryan graduated from the University of Oklahoma where he was a varsity wrestler for the Sooners and daughter, Trinity, a cheerleader for OU on track to graduate in 2001. Ryan married a beautiful girl and after a brief stint as Area Director for Youth for Christ, Ryan joined us as we finally formed Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC. Ryan was named President of the company and Trinity soon entered the family business as one of our first editors,” Rita continued.
Rita became involved with Southwestern Christian University upon the family's return to Oklahoma and is now Vice President for the Executive Committee for the Board of Regents and loves the school that gave so much to her when she was a young student. “Southwestern is in my DNA – I have a passion for it's past and it's future. To see the school expanding, building, and becoming a vibrant educational entity is thrilling. You step on that campus once, and you will never be the same. I'm in for a lifetime.”
Rita maintains a busy schedule as always. As Executive Creative Writer for Tate Publishing she is a ghostwriter for the company's celebrity authors. She has written for Lee Greenwood, Neal McCoy, the niece of Oklahoma's favorite son, Will Rogers, the Selmon brothers--Oklahoma University football greats, along with Joe Washington. She has also written for Nolan Ryan, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, and NBA's Karl Malone and many others. She is also active in the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women and directs the Miss Mustang Pageant, a preliminary for the Miss America Pageant.
“Family will always be our highest priority. As years pass, Richard and I realize more and more that time spent with them is the most precious, valuable, and important thing we do. Ryan and Christy have two children, a daughter, Courtney Queen, carrying on the middle name tradition, and son, Will; Trinity and husband, Lee have two beautiful little girls, Sloane and Avery."
It is the opinion of this writer that they were on a par with the Andrew Sisters and the Lennon Sisters who sang on the Lawrence Welk TV Show. They were known as America's Sweethearts. The Williams Sisters Trio were the Sweethearts of the Pentecostal family of churches throughout the west.