Jerry Williams

Pioneer of talk radio

Jerry Williams, a pioneer of talk radio who is credited with making the format a force for political change, died Tuesday April 29 in Boston after a long illness. He was 79.

Paul Lyle, a board member of the National Assn. of Radio Talk Show Hosts, which Williams founded, said Williams was the first to prove that talkshows could spur political change.

Williams started his radio career in Bristol, Tenn., in 1946 and later came to Boston to work for WMEX-AM. He began doing issues-oriented talkshows in the 1950s. He became widely known at Boston’s WBZ-AM, where he was on the air for eight years beginning in 1968, catering to an audience that covered 38 states and Canada.

In 1976, Williams joined WMCA in New York, and the following year moved to WWDB in Philadelphia, where he became the first FM talk host. In the 1980s, Williams hosted a popular afternoon drivetime program at Boston’s WRKO-AM. He left WRKO in 1998 and had been in semiretirement.

He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1996.

He is survived by three daughters.

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