Williams, Nick (Van) B(oddie) (Sr.) 1906-1992

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WILLIAMS, Nick (Van) B(oddie) (Sr.) 1906-1992

PERSONAL: Born August 23, 1906, in Onancock, VA; died of lung disease July 1, 1992, in South Laguna Beach, CA; son of John F. and Anne (McKown) Williams; married Elizabeth Rickenbaker, September 14, 1933 (deceased, 1973); married Barbara Steele Troy; children: (first marriage) Susan Krause, Nick Van Boddie Jr., Elliott Appelfa Rickenbaker (daughter), Elizabeth M. Education: University of the South, A.B., 1924; University of Texas, degree in government, 1929. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, fishing.

CAREER: Fort Worth Star Telegram, Fort Worth, TX, copy editor, 1927-29; Nashville Tennessean, Nashville, TN, telegraph editor, 1929-31; Los Angeles Express, Los Angeles, CA, copy editor, 1931; Los Angeles Times, began as copy editor, 1931, editor-in-chief, 1958-71; Sun Company, San Bernardino, CA, director.

MEMBER: American Society of Newspaper Editors, Twilight Club, Los Angeles Club, Kappa Alpha, Sigma Delta Xi, Kappa Tau Alpha.

AWARDS, HONORS: Distinguished Achievement Award, University of Southern California Journalism Association, 1971, for outstanding contributions to communications profession; Fourth Estate Award, National Press Club, 1981.


A Roman and a Jew: A Tale of Jerusalem, Broadman Press (Nashville, TN), 1941.

The Atom Curtain (bound with Alien from Arcturus, by Gordon R. Dickson), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1956.

Reflections on a Mockingbird: The Columns of Nick B. Williams, illustrated by Geraldine Bauhaus Williams, M & M Printing (Pomona, CA), 1992.

SIDELIGHTS: Nick B. Williams wrote two novels in his lifetime, but he is best remembered as the man who transformed the Los Angeles Times from one of that city's many scandal-filled tabloids into a first-rate national newspaper.

Williams started in journalism in 1927 in Tennessee, and after a few stints at other papers, finally joined the Los Angeles Times staff in 1931, gradually working his way up through the ranks. From its beginnings in 1881, the newspaper had been an appendage of the influential Chandler family, who controlled a myriad of interests in printing, publishing, newsprint production, and associated businesses.

While working at the Times, Williams began writing stories for pulp magazines in his spare time during the 1930s and 1940s, and also published two novels, the historical work A Roman and a Jew: A Tale of Jerusalem and a science-fiction novel, The Atom Curtain. The latter is a parable of the cold war in which the Americas have been cut off from the rest of the world by a defensive curtain of deadly radioactivity.

Williams was appointed editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Times in 1958. Shortly thereafter, in 1960, one of the younger and more progressive members of the Chandler clan, Otis, was named publisher. The two men deliberately sought to expand the newspaper into a first-class operation. During Williams's tenure, the Los Angeles Times opened twenty-five national and foreign bureaus, added and expanded news and features sections, won five Pulitzer prizes for journalism, doubled the size of its news staff, and almost doubled its daily circulation.

Williams wrote a number of personal columns for the Los Angeles Times, explaining the changes he was making in the paper's direction, discussing the responsibility a daily newspaper has in educating the people, and introducing various new reporters and editors to readers. He frequently authored articles on the importance of First Amendment guarantees of a free press and of the Los Angeles Times's increasing efforts to exercise that freedom responsibly, but he also wrote about literature and books, politics and politicians, his family, feminism, the Beatles, and other aspects of popular culture.

Following his retirement, Williams moved to South Laguna Beach, California, where he contributed occasional book review columns on mystery fiction and also continued his op-ed articles on a variety of topics, from modern education to cookery. The best of these columns were collected together in book form the year he died.



Brians, Paul, Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 1987.

Dowling, David, Fictions of Nuclear Disaster, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 1987.



Atlanta Journal and Constitution, July 3, 1992, p. F6.

Chicago Tribune, July 3, 1992, p. 9C.

Los Angeles Times, July 2, 1992, pp. B1-B2.

New York Times, July 3, 1992, p. A17.

Washington Post, July 2, 1992, p. D4.*

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Williams, Nick (Van) B(oddie) (Sr.) 1906-1992

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