(Jan. 28) Newspaperman Dick Williams helped publicize football legend Gale Sayers, played basketball in Madison Square Garden, inadvertently helped launch Bill Clinton toward the presidency, and spent a memorable 24 hours partying with the Mamas & the Papas.

Williams, who died Jan. 20 at age 77, was a legend in Atlanta-area journalism, a man of great, old-school decency, and a storyteller nonpareil. As a devoted alumnus of Georgetown University, he also had a yen for keeping tabs on and befriending later generations of Hoyas (myself included). To be in his company invariably meant to be reminded that life can be fascinating and fun.

As a Georgetown student newspaper reporter in the early 1960s, Williams somehow ended up being hired (standards were different then) as the school’s sports information director, too, so he took a crash internship back home in Kansas learning how its university school handled the crush of media attention on gridiron superstar Sayers. Back at Georgetown, he learned to keep a different brand of whiskey around for each of the three professional beat reporters covering the Hoyas.

He also crossed paths with a younger student named Clinton, who was already an ambitious campus politico. The story, as I recall, went something like this: Williams was helping run a friend’s campaign to be student government president. Clinton also entered the race, but he was too young to have a real chance. Yet because Clinton pulled from the same student groups as Williams’s friend, if Clinton stayed in, he would probably divert enough votes from Williams’s guy that a third candidate would win instead.

Williams, with his athletic department connections, found a solution. He told Clinton that if he dropped out, Williams would finagle him a spot on the student-athletic advisory committee. That would let Clinton hang out with all the jocks and meet more girls. Clinton accepted.

At that time, the famous, international Rhodes scholarship was awarded only to student-athletes. But a year or so later, Clinton applied. The folks at Georgetown argued to the Rhodes committee, against all reality, that being on the athletic advisory committee should qualify Clinton as a student-athlete. For whatever reason, the Rhodes committee bought it, and Clinton used the scholarship to make connections that would launch his political career.

By this telling, it’s all Dick Williams’s fault — ironic, because Williams became renowned for his decades of conservative columns and commentary…. [The stories about Dick WIlliams go on, at this link.]


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