New memoir by former Seattle Times journalist captures Northwest personalities, moments, and history

PULLMAN, Wash.— After chronicling Northwest news for decades, award-winning journalist Hill Williams has released his first memoir, offering a remarkable gift—a window into the heart of an amiable and seasoned regional reporter. Just released by Washington State University Press, Writing the Northwest: A Reporter Looks Back contains more than eighty of his favorite and most memorable stories focused on the Northwest’s people, places, and events, natural and human history, and a bygone time in his profession.

The author of the book’s foreword, Jim Kershner, an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent for The Spokesman Review, wrote that these vignettes “evoke the tenor and mood of the era better than facts and figures could… The breadth of subject matter—from basalt to Linotype machines [and] atomic bombs…is one of the things I loved most.” Williams drew from numerous recollections and articles.

He conveys what it was like to grow up on the dry side of Washington during the 1930s and 1940s and to work before computers became ubiquitous, depicting the Pasco Herald’s back shop when hot type ruled the press room. The son of a newsman, he started writing at the Kennewick Courier-Reporter, which soon became part of the Tri-City Herald, and retired from the Seattle Times, where he was a science writer.

Williams witnessed many significant national and regional events, including the flooding of Celilo Falls, the first water flowing to farms from the Columbia Irrigation Project, and a 1952 nuclear test in Nevada. He walked Seattle’s Skid Road beat with two gruff but kind-hearted patrolmen and spent time on the Glomar Challenger, a deep-sea drilling ship that revolutionized marine research. He recounts interviews about whale-hunting in canoes, studying salmon at the University of Washington, and Togo, a lead dog for a sled that delivered diphtheria serum in the dangerous run to Nome, Alaska that inspired today’s Iditarod race.

He describes lightships that protected vessels from the treacherous Umatilla Reef and a Coast Guard officer’s heroism. He includes accounts of Northwest geological sites, recalling the sulfur emanating from the crater atop Mount St. Helens and a mysterious, massive chunk of displaced earth in the middle of the scablands. He also reflects on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, as well as his experiences on news assignments in Taiwan and China during the late 1970s.

After reading the manuscript, Bill Hall, former humor columnist and editorial page editor for the Lewiston Morning Tribune, said, “Hill Williams has traveled so broadly for so many years that he can report captivating aspects of two worlds—the wonders of our globe and the intriguing details of the fascinating Northwest that he so plainly loves.”

Writing the Northwest is paperback, 6" x 9", 186 pages in length, and lists for $22.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide or direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360 or online at wsupress.wsu.edu. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

More about Hill Williams: A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, he graduated from Pasco High School in 1943, then attended the University of Washington, receiving a BA in Journalism in 1948 and an MA in Communications in 1966. He was a reporter for the Tri-City Herald from 1948 to 1952, then spent several decades as a Seattle Times science writer, retiring in 1991. His outstanding reporting was rewarded with numerous regional excellence-in-journalism awards. In 1984 he was honored to receive the AAAS-Westinghouse Award, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for distinguished science writing in newspapers with a daily circulation greater than one hundred thousand.

A lifetime member of the National Association of Science Writers, Williams is the author of two other books for Washington State University Press—a perennial best-seller and 2003 Washington State Book Award winner, The Restless Northwest: A Geological Story, about the geological processes that shaped the Pacific Northwest, and Made in Hanford: The Bomb that Changed the World, which traces the amazing, tragic story of Hanford’s plutonium factory.

 

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