Elizabeth Williams Estes was born on April 13, 1908, in Lorena, Texas. She is a descendent of Shapley Prince Ross, the man who established Waco in 1849. Her family was active in the Lorena Methodist Church and participated in the restoration of the Cotton Palace. Estes performed theatrical skits and dances in Cotton Palace competitions and often recounted her memories of farmers displaying their shelled corn and cotton bolls.
Estes attended school in Lorena until her senior year of high school when she transferred to Hackaday in Dallas. After graduation, she enrolled at the University of Texas where, in 1929, she received a bachelors in political science. She aspired to enter law school, but her uncle, a lawyer, discouraged her attendance, claiming that women at that time and in that part of the country would not be able to enjoy their practice--they would only be given grunt work. Disillusioned, Estes ultimately decided not to apply. Instead, Estes accepted a job at the Kokomo Steel Company as a secretary and eventually worked as a secretary for her uncle's law firm.
Elizabeth married John Claude Estes in October 1932. Her father gave them a portion of the land he inherited in Lorena, so the newlyweds started growing sugar cane and raising cattle in July 1934. Their first child was born only a few months later.
Estes was active in several organizations in her adult life, particularly in the realm of politics. She organized the Democratic Women of McLennan County, served as its treasurer, finance chairman, and co-chairman, and helped grow the organization to 1,600 members. She served on the state Democratic executive committee for two terms and was associate precinct judge.
Estes was a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas where she served as both the fourth vice president general and the secretary. Starting in 1957, she volunteered with the American Cancer Society and was the campaign chairman for McLennan County. At her church, she served as vice chairman of the board, treasurer, and church secretary.
More information about Elizabeth Williams Estes can be found at the Institute for Oral History.