Larry Williams, a retired Baltimore Sun editor who had led reporters to three Pulitzer Prizes at papers he served during a lengthy newspaper career, died of a bacterial infection Dec. 9 at George Washington University Hospital. He was 74 and lived in Dickeyville before moving to Washington.
He was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to Edwin Eugene Williams, who handled accounting for the Army War College, and his and wife, Irene Woerz. An Eagle Scout and graduate of Carlisle High School, he won a scholarship to Drexel University and was an editor of the school newspaper.
Although he studied engineering, he was attracted to newspaper work and took a night job at the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette.
“He discovered a passion for journalism and continued in newspaper jobs while finishing his studies at Drexel,” said his wife, Marcia Myers, a former Baltimore Sun editor.
He worked on the Gloucester (New Jersey) County Times and the Camden Courier Post before joining the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1971. He was its business editor during the Three Mile Island nuclear power incident and led a reporters’ team that won a 1980 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting. He also headed an investigation by reporter Arthur Howe into massive IRS operation foul-ups. That article took a 1981 Pulitzer Prize.
In 1986, after becoming the managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, he directed coverage of an attempted corporate raid on the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
“Larry enlisted more than 35 reporters, more than a dozen artists and photographers and countless editors to cover every angle,” his wife said. The story won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for general news reporting.
In 2002, after work at Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau and serving as chief of the Detroit News’ Washington operation, he came to The Baltimore Sun and initially worked in its digital operation, then known as Sunspot. He later was Howard County editor, business editor, ideas editor and served on the editorial board as a deputy opinion editor.
“Larry was a delightful editor. He managed to be both an editor and a friend," said Larry Carson, a retired Baltimore Sun reporter who covered Howard County. “He was interested in what you were doing and was pushing you to do better and to do more. He was such a happy warrior, and not an abrasive person.
He also said, "He had suggestions and and he pushed, but gently. And yet, he was always very competitive.”
His wife said that before moving to Baltimore, Mr. Williams was enamored with the city, in part because of its history and traditions as a port.
“Larry was a sailor. He loved chartering a boat out of Rock Hall and sailing it across the Bay past Fort McHenry, a site he loved, and on into the Baltimore harbor,” his wife said.
She also said, “He had special affection for Dickeyville ... where we lived in a cottage along the Gwynns Falls for nearly a decade,” she said. "We formed a tight-knit group of friends in a corner of the community that dead-ended at the park on Wetheredsville Road and dubbed it the Lower East Side.”
She and her husband became part of the social scene and participated in neighborhood dinners, barbecues and political discussions over cocktails and cigars.
“On nice days, Larry often could be found reading a book in one of the green Adirondack chairs he positioned on a park path outside his house overlooking the stream and admired the occasional fly-by of a blue heron,” she said “The neighborhood appealed not only to his love of history, architecture and nature, but also tapped into his sense of humor and creative, quirky side.”
They won first prize in a Dickeyville talent show and chaired the July Fourth festivities, including a scavenger hunt.
Mr. Williams was a member of the Dickeyville garden club. He was a leader in a holiday pancake breakfast fundraiser and built a stone wall for a beautification effort at an entryway to the mill village.
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He read widely and kept a 3,000-volume library. He also had an home on Deer Isle, Maine.
Jay Hancock, a former Baltimore Sun financial columnist, described Mr. Williams as having “an engineer’s brain and a poet’s heart, which made him curious about everything. .... He delighted — and that is the right word — in exposing crooks, incompetents and hypocrites.”
Mr. Hancock also said, “Larry had an amazing range of interests, from history to sailing, but his passion was journalism. He loved everything about newspapers, especially the camaraderie and energy of a newsroom, to which he gave more than his share. Many journalists work crazy hours because they have to. Larry did it because he liked it.”
Mr. Williams retired from the Sun in 2009 and the next year followed his wife to London, where they lived in the Highgate and later in the Clerkenwell neighborhoods.
In addition to his wife of 29 years, survivors include two daughters, Christy Winslow of Northampton, Massachusetts and Sarah Williams of Boston; a sister, Melinda Boomershine of Glenwood; a brother, Stephen Williams of Hobe Sound, Florida; and a grandson. He is also survived by Terrie Lilly, his first wife and the mother of his daughters.