“Welcome my friends-welcome to my world.” It was with those words radio talk show host Bruce Williams began his nationally syndicated show for more than 29 years. Williams died Saturday at his home near Tampa after a brief illness. He was 86.
Williams was 81 years old when he hung up his head phones for the final time in 2013, signing off as he always did by saying, “Keep in touch.”
Spanning a career that lasted more than three decades, Bruce Williams created a loyal listenership hundreds of thousands of people strong with his informative and entertaining program, delivered in his signature deep, warm, welcoming voice. But, one of the most unusual and remarkable facts surrounding Williams’ Hall of Fame radio career is that it did not begin until he was well into his forties. Born February 18, 1932, Williams grew up in East Orange, New Jersey. Blessed with an innate sense of business, at age 11, he devised a way to address one of the many shortages common at the end of World War II by melting down lead pipes and casting them into toy soldiers. Eyes wide open, he was off and running, pursuing every avenue where he believed a profit could be made.
After serving in the Air Force during the Korean conflict and graduating from Newark State College (now Kean University), he opened a pre-school named after his children. He spent time driving an ice cream truck in New York City. He was also a taxi driver and drove a beer truck. For seventy years of his life, he spent the holiday season selling Christmas trees in New Jersey. On the white-collar side, Williams sold insurance, owned a flower shop, a car rental agency, a barber shop and he owned and operated several nightclubs. There was even a whirlwind tour into the world of politics where the Honorable Bruce H. Williams was elected to the Franklin, New Jersey Township Council, as well as serving terms as Deputy Mayor and Mayor between 1967 and 1975.
His career began in 1975 at WCTC 1450 Talk Radio, The Voice of Central New Jersey, where Williams hosted a show called At Your Service. After some time, his success took him to WMCA in the Big Apple and his momentum and audience continued to build. Williams growing popularity brought him to the attention of radio executives at NBC who were searching for a host of a national nightly advice-oriented talk show. After a long selection process, Williams was chosen and his program launched in November of 1981. It was from this platform, his reputation as a broadcaster blossomed. That blossom was almost nipped a year later, when a plane he was piloting crashed into some trees during an aborted landing attempt. Critically injured and nearly dead when he arrived at the Medical Center of Princeton, Williams rallied and was back on the air broadcasting again from his hospital room, just four weeks after the accident. Over the next three decades, Williams’ voice was heard coast-to-coast as he became one of the most listened to talk show hosts in radio history.
The industry recognized Williams’ accomplishments in 1999 when he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago.