Induction Year: 2017
The Paris Post-Intelligencer, The Columbia Herald
Bryant Williams was born into a newspaper family in 1914, and traditional community newspapering — in particular, at The Paris Post-Intelligencer — eventually became almost as much a part of him as his blood family. The P-I was, in essence, a Williams family member, from the time he was a small boy to the day in 2009 when he graduated from this life to the next at the age of 95.
13-year-old Bryant Williams began working in The Post-Intelligencer’s back shop in 1927-28, and there couldn’t have been a better place for him to begin really learning the business of publishing a community newspaper When he graduated from high school in 1932, he went to work at The P-I full-time. Three years into the Great Depression, his father converted the newspaper from a weekly to a daily, a move that carried a great deal of risk. In fact, Bryant recalled in later years, there were some times when the Williams family hardly made it.
By the late 1930s, things were slowly looking up for The Post-Intelligencer. In late 1937, The P-I moved to a new building that Percy Williams had designed himself. Bryant’s mother, Lucy, worked at the paper also, mainly contributing the all-important “personal news.”
The outbreak of World War II, however, disrupted life for Bryant dramatically, pulling him away from both the newspaper and his own young family. He had married Julia Margaret Sensing in 1933. A son, William Bryant (Bill) Williams Jr., was born the next year.
Bryant left The P-I and entered the Army in 1943 as a private. He came out three years later with a commission as a first lieutenant, after serving as an anti-aircraft platoon leader with General George Patton’s Third Army. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service. He was part of “the Greatest Generation.”
Bryant served as publisher of The P-I from 1947-56. Bryant left The Post-Intelligencer for four years in 1956 to become Business Manager of The Columbia Herald, which was also a daily paper. But he returned to Paris in 1960 when his father called him back to return to him not only the title of publisher but the full leadership of the newspaper. He added the title of editor in 1967 when his father retired., and was known to be.
Bryant served as president of the Tennessee Press Association in 1970-71 and in 1976 was one of the charter incorporators and trustees when the Tennessee Press Association Foundation was established.
In 1978, at the age of 64, he turned over major leadership responsibilities at The P-I to his son, Bill, who, after being reared at The Post-Intelligencer had been working at The Tullahoma News for several years.
After stepping down as publisher, Bryant turned his focus to Paris history. His popular columns, which he called “Post-Mortems,” were eventually published in three volumes and turned into a walking tour of the town.
Now son Bill Williams, who succeeded his father as publisher, has himself retired, and his son — Bryant’s grandson — Michael Williams, has succeeded Bill. In addition, a great-grandson, Daniel, is working at the paper, as The P-I looks to its fifth generation under Williams family ownership and leadership.
He knew the newspaper business well, from the back shop to the publisher’s office. In particular, he understood community newspapering, loved it dearly, and distinguished himself in it over a lifetime of achievement and leadership marked by personal and professional integrity, a passion for service, and an abiding zest for the career he chose and followed from childhood to an honored old age.