Empire editorial: Loss of Lew Williams to be felt by all Alaskans

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2008

Alaska suffered a loss Saturday when Lew Williams Jr. died of cancer at age 83. During a journalism career that spanned nearly six decades, he earned a reputation as a dogged defender of his state, the Panhandle and his hometown of Ketchikan.

After he retired as publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News in 1990, Williams focused on writing. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, Williams was, undeniably, a tireless advocate for what he believed.

He wrote spiritedly in defense of the timber industry while it declined throughout the '90s.

He defended the Gravina bridge, even when the rest of the nation turned against it after it was dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere."

Williams also was loyal - perhaps to a fault. He supported Frank Murkowski throughout his term as governor, even as Murkowski became deeply unpopular in the state as well as his own party. He stood up for Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, when he became embroiled in a federal investigation into earmarks for a road in Florida. He also defended Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, while he was under investigation by the FBI.

Though Williams' opinions in recent years often diverged from the Juneau Empire's editorial board, his columns appeared in our pages as well as in Ketchikan's paper. His columns often would be over the Empire's column word limit, so abridged versions would run in our paper. But Williams never complained about our edits, and at times he even complimented us for the care we took in editing his work.

Williams was proud to say he started his journalism career with the Empire, and occasionally he'd forward story ideas he thought might interest Juneau readers.

We probably won't see another newspaper man like Williams. Alaska and Southeast will miss him.

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