Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 28, 2013


Ed Williams honored for journalism excellence at Auburn


          Beaming! That is the best word to describe Ed Williams on the day he was recognized by Auburn University for “distinguished special achievement in journalism.” His trademark bowtie nestled under his chin, Williams was all smiles as he and four other well-known journalists were honored by Auburn’s Journalism Advisory Council.

          I was privileged to sit at the luncheon table beside Ed along with several other friends he had invited. Those who glanced at my face probably did not think I was “Beaming” though inwardly I was. I thought it a signal honor to sit beside one of the most influential journalists ever to teach at my alma mater.

          Ed is retiring next month after teaching journalism at Auburn for 30 years. The recognition of his excellent work at Auburn is well deserved. Hundreds of practicing journalists, now scattered across the United States, have benefitted from Ed’s teaching skills and his passion for excellence.

          Accolades from former students have poured in like a steady rain since Ed’s retirement was announced. They recall that as a teacher Ed was tough but compassionate. They learned from Ed that every person has “a story” that a good journalist can skillfully uncover. They remember his insistence that a good writer will “omit needless words” and never break the commandments of the AP Stylebook.

          Only a few years after Lincoln was shot I was editor of The Auburn Plainsman, the award-winning student newspaper. For that reason I have been very interested in the deep appreciation former Plainsman staffers have expressed for Ed. For 23 of his 30 years at Auburn Ed served as faculty advisor to The Plainsman. He has described that time as “the best years of my life.” Those he advised say they learned as much about how to live as they did about effective newswriting.

          I began by referring to Ed’s beaming face. I did not mean to suggest that he was glowing with pride in his accomplishments like Little Jack Horner who stuck “in his thumb, pulled out a plum and said ‘What a good boy am I.’” 

          None of that! Ed beams because there is inside him an abiding joy planted there by his Creator. Ed is a good man who believes in the goodness of God and the goodness of people. He brings out the good in others and inspires them to believe they can make a difference in the world.

          Ed is relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. He does not take himself too seriously. I like the way he explains this: "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."

Along with his passion for journalistic excellence Ed has a passion for living his life as an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ. The look on his face reflects something significant that happened in his heart.

          Keep on beaming good friend! Your light is shining and it is making a difference in the lives you touch. I join with all your friends, peers and former students in saying heartily, well done! + + +