Catching Up With Alan Williams
By Mike Steely
You may know that retired WVLT News Anchor Alan Williams and his wife were on a pilgrimage to Israel and were there during the Hamas rocket attack. He and the members of the Knoxville First Baptist Church returned home safely after days of shelter and prayer.
Williams has a long history of gathering and delivering the news to television viewers. After helping Alan with a future story for his series “Going My Way,” I caught up with him and asked a few questions.
When did you become interested in broadcast TV?
I got interested in television after moving back to Knoxville from college. I’m originally from Knoxville and loved it before leaving when my father got a teaching job in South Florida.
I moved back on my own to Knoxville, still trying to get a job in the NFL after being cut by the NY Jets but I wanted to make some money in the interim. A friend of my father’s helped me search for any job opportunity and I had no TV or media experience but he knew the general manager of WBIR, Neal Branch. They auditioned me a couple of times and hired me as a weekend sports anchor. I was at rock bottom and had nowhere else to go but up. I am indebted to them for taking a chance on me back in 1979.
When did you retire?
I was very fortunate to go up the ladder in this business. I later became sports director of WATE, then WIVK, and then WVLT. I retired from there after 32 years as an anchor and feature reporter of a segment called “The Tennessee Traveler” just over two years ago.
Tell us about your family.
My wife Rebecca and I have been married for 28 years. She is a native of Knoxville and a UT Grad. We have a “Brady Bunch” of a family: two boys and three girls. Kevin is an eye surgeon and Matt owns a Market Square restaurant. Two of the girls, Tara and Emily, are subcontracted by the government hunting unexploded ordnance around the U.S. and Natalie is still looking for an elusive full-time job.
Tell us about “Going My Way.”
These days I have my own company, Alan Williams Entertainment. I employ the production crew group Citizen Agency to shoot stories of our heritage, faith, family, getaways, you name it. I come up with story ideas, write it and they edit it for me. The stories are positive feel-good stories. I named it “Going My Way with Alan Williams” and it airs at least three times a week on WVLT. Then it goes on their website and my YouTube channel.
It’s some of the best work I’ve done and a great production.
What are your hobbies or interests?
My hobbies aren’t very exciting to some. I live on five acres and that’s enough! My wife and I travel and chill with friends. We are also on numerous non-profit boards. We really like helping and giving back to the community.
Do you miss anchoring local TV news? How so?
That’s a good question and, yes, to an extent. I enjoy communicating but not so much about being in the public eye but sharing important information. My mentors in the business were Carl and Bill Williams and on the national level Bill Curtis, who filled in a lot for Walter Cronkite. He was smooth and had a great voice.
“Williams” is a very popular local television name. Did your name ever get you confused with others?
That Williams name comes up often: Hey, are you related to Bill Williams or Carl? At one point we all wore glasses and at times I remember either of them saying “Brother Carl, Brother Bill, Brother Alan.” That really confused people but, no, we are not related.
What are the funniest or oddest moments you recall as a TV anchor and reporter?
There are too many things that have gone on in the past 45 years to count. I remember one instance when I was anchoring WVLT and I threw the story to Gordon Boyd who was reporting on a murder. His story wasn’t cued up and they told him in his earpiece to adlib until they could run it. They went back and forth and Gordon looked into the camera, threw down his clipboard like he was going to kill someone and I looked away at that moment to our 7-second delay monitor and when I looked back I had a funny startled look on my face. That video circulated all over the world and Jimmy Kimmel ran it, and so did Ellen DeGeneres, ABC’s 20/20 and Fox News.
All the anchors said it was bad behavior but the funny part was they said, “Did you see the look on the news anchor’s face?” Ha. But that’s live TV for you.