Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 17, 2011


Professor Ed Williams receives well-deserved recognition

      This month some good folks at the University of Alabama Department of Journalism did a beautiful thing. They awarded Auburn Professor Ed Williams the department’s Outstanding Alumni Award. I was thrilled to learn of Ed’s well-deserved recognition by his alma mater.

          After earning two degrees at Alabama, Ed began his career working with Alabama newspapers, honing his skills at two weekly and two daily papers. His journalistic success soon led to an invitation to join the faculty at Auburn University as a journalism professor in 1983. There Ed found his niche, his joy, his reason for living. For 26 years Ed has done more than teach journalism; he has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of students.

          He even found time to write a history of the Alabama Press Association to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the association in 1996.

          A people person, Ed’s delightful sense of humor is legendary. He teaches with a twinkle in his eye. Here’s an example of his gift for twisting a phrase:  "The most important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative, and the second disastrous."

          Ed’s major role for 23 years was serving as faculty adviser for the student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman.  It is not enough to say that his students loved Ed; they esteemed him as a caring, sensitive human being. Some have admired Ed even more after graduation having found that the lessons he taught them work as well in life as in the various markets of journalism. 

          One former student, Adam Jones, praised Ed for his influence in his life. Jones, now a reporter for The Tuscaloosa News, thanked Ed for being much more than an advisor. “You were,” he said, “a standard to which we aspired. In your way, you showed us what journalism is supposed to be. You are the north of my journalistic ethical compass, and for that, I thank you.” Knowing Ed I am sure he blushed at such a kind tribute.

          As editor of The Plainsman Adam benefitted from Ed’s wise counsel. About this relationship Adam observed, “Your guidance while at The Plainsman has proved lasting. There you were a gardener carefully planting seeds, but watching us grow, or wither, on our own. You listened without judgment, advised without criticism. I don’t remember any decision during my four years at The Plainsman that you dictated or even heavily influenced, at least not directly.” Obviously Ed was quietly nurturing a teachable young man whose judgment was trustworthy.

          Ed has become a beloved friend of mine in recent years. For 25 years I refused several offers from friends who wished to sponsor me on the Emmaus Walk. I was always busy with other things. Then, a few years ago, Ed offered to sponsor me. My usual answer stayed in my throat. To my surprise I accepted his gracious offer. A few months later I joined several other pilgrims at Dadeville for Central Alabama Emmaus Walk #111.  It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I could kick myself for having waited so long to take this amazing “walk.”

          I mention this because Ed, as a leader in the Emmaus Community, has touched the lives of many people beyond the Auburn campus. He has sponsored several others on the Emmaus Walk. I imagine the others are, like me, deeply grateful to Ed for opening the door to this unique spiritual journey.

          Ed likes to remind his journalism students to “omit needless words.” So rather than risk using needless words I will conclude by commending the University of Alabama for honoring Ed. He is indeed a gifted teacher, a superb journalist and a good gardener; but even more important he is remarkably Christian man. He takes seriously the concept that a Christian will find ways to serve others. Ed loves his church, Auburn United Methodist, and especially his pastor, George Mathison.

I treasure Ed’s friendship and with his friends wish him many more productive years of touching lives and molding fine journalists who will make Auburn University proud.

          Hearty congratulations Ed!  + + +