Trailblazing TV Reporter Ben Williams Dies at 85 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 28 December 2012 16:47


Services were held Saturday afternoon for award-winning newsman Ben Williams of Castro Valley, a trailblazer in Northern California journalism.


Williams, the first black TV news reporter in the Bay Area, passed away of cardiac arrest at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward on Dec. 17. He was 85.


Williams had appeared on the daily newscasts of KPIX Channel 5 for more than 25 years, covering many of the major events of the 1960s through the 1980s. They included the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the UC Free Speech Movement, the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford, and the Patty Hearst kidnapping.


Williams grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and studied journalism at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. After graduating, he moved to California and settled in the Bay Area where he worked first at two black daily newspapers, the Bay Area Daily Record and the San Francisco Sun-Reporter.


In 1962 he was hired by the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner to become that newspaper’s first black reporter. Three years later, having become a highly regarded print journalist, he was recruited by KPIX to become the Bay Area’s first black TV reporter.


He continued at the station for more than a quarter of a century, winning an Emmy Award and honors from the National Association of Black Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, the San Francisco Press Club, and dozens of community organizations. He taught journalism for 11 years at San Francisco State University while working at Channel 5.

After retiring, Ben and his wife, Vivian, traveled the world, visiting Africa, China and the Caribbean. He had recently served on the Board of Directors for “The Next Step,” an adult literacy program based in West Oakland.


He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Vivian, his son, Ben Williams, Jr. and wife Michelle, and two grandchildren, Olivia and Aleah. Two sons, Gregory Williams and Alan Williams, preceded him in death.



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