Brian Williams Biography
Birth Name: Brian Williams
Birth Place: Elmira, New York, USA
Birth Place: Elmira, New York, USA
Williams was born May 5, 1959 to a middle class family in Elmira, NY before moving to Middletown, NJ where he was raised. Even as a child, he seemed destined for a career in news, with the youngster writing a family newsletter, and, in his best Walter Cronkite impersonation, relay the day's stories into a microphone for his family's enjoyment. "I always wanted to be the first person to tell people things," he told Crain's New York Business publication. He graduated from Mater Dei, a Roman Catholic High School and went on to attend Brookdale Community College, followed by George Washington University and then the Catholic University of America. Despite all the academic effort, he never finished college because he took an enticing offer for someone wanting a foot in the political and broadcast worlds - an internship with President Jimmy Carter's administration. Despite such a great opportunity, he later admitted that leaving college was one of his "great regrets."
Besides his presidential internship, Williams scored a number of jobs before landing his first gig in news. He volunteered as a firefighter at the Middletown Township Fire Department in New Jersey, worked at a pancake restaurant, a local Sears department store, and later, served as an assistant administrator of the political action committee of the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington. Although he had the background and charisma to go into politics, Williams resisted, saying, "after seeing what I've seen of politics? No, thank you I can be much happier and effect much more change by covering them." And cover them he soon would, as a veteran of political campaigns and elections and as a moderator for both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaign debates.
Williams started his broadcast journalism career small at KOAM-TV in Pittsburgh, PA. From there, he moved back to Washington, D.C. and became a general assignment correspondent at WTTG-TV. He also hosted a D.C. chat show called "Panorama" in 1985, replacing Maury Povich as host. From there, he moved on to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and then WCBS-TV in New York, winning his first Emmy for reporting on the October 1987 stock market collapse and covering the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In 1993, Williams joined NBC News, and after only a year, was so impressive he was named NBC News Chief White House correspondent. With this new position, he traveled with President Bill Clinton aboard Air Force One and covered his prolific presidency. On one of the historic trips, Williams was the only television news correspondent to accompany three U.S. presidents - Clinton, Bush, and his former boss, Carter - to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in Israel.
Needing a change of pace from the White house, he was named anchor and managing editor of "The News with Brian Williams" from 1996 until 2003 on MSNBC and CNBC. For a time, critics believed Williams' decision to leave his job as a White House correspondent for a cable channel was not a smart one. But they quickly changed their minds when, just two days after the launch of MSNBC in 1996, TWA Flight 800 crashed off Long Island under what many thought were suspicious circumstances. Williams was a star in the making during that arduous, but momentous broadcast. As one publication put it, Williams "collects facts on aviation, politics, and the presidency the way some people do baseball cards. That night, as he waited for his reporters to file updates, he filled in the details about 747s from memory." He would go on to successfully helm several other breaking news events, including the 1997 death of Princess Diana, and two years later, the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr.
All the while, he was also the anchor and managing editor of the Saturday edition of "NBC Nightly News" for six years before stepping into the big shoes left behind by Tom Brokaw in December of 2004. Many critics believed Williams did not have enough field reporting experience, but time after time he proved those critics wrong. After all this was the man who USA Today had named the best anchor of the 2000 presidential election night coverage between Al Gore and George Bush. As well, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Williams had stayed on the air for days of continuous coverage. And in 2003, while covering the war in Iraq, Williams had become the first NBC News correspondent to reach Baghdad after the U.S. invaded. When the lead helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in his group, Williams spent three days and two nights in the Iraqi desert, with a mechanized armored tank platoon of the Army's Third Infantry Division providing protection. Taking all of his expert coverage and ability to man a desk and insure trust from viewers, NBC felt they had made the correct decision to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Brokaw. The ratings also reflected their wise selection.
Undeterred by his harrowing experience in Baghdad prior to his "NBC Nightly News" anchor promotion, Williams returned to Iraq during its landmark elections, as well covered Pope John Paul II's funeral and traveled to Indonesia to report on the international recovery and relief efforts following the 2004 tsunami. But it would be his work on an American disaster in which Williams achieved another career milestone. He was the first and only major news anchor to report from New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. He was the only news anchor to report from the Superdome during the storm and remained in the area to report on the devastation that followed in Katrina's aftermath as well as continued to travel to the region and report on the recovery process long after the headlines had faded. In fact, his work in New Orleans garnered many prestigious awards and in May 2006 he was locally recognized for this coverage with the Tulane President's Medal, awarded by Tulane University President Scott Cowen.
Although the name Brian Williams was synonymous with journalistic endeavors, he was also known among his circle of friends, family, and colleagues as having quite a sense of humor. In fact, he was a frequent guest on "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central, 1996- ), "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (NBC, 1993-2009), "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC, 1993- ) and "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993- ). He would also hilariously send himself up as a trouble-making buffoon on the hit sitcom, "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ).