Saying goodbye to an Oklahoma legend, Danny Williams
OKLAHOMA CITY – Friends and family said goodbye to a local broadcasting legend Sunday at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
Danny Williams passed away last Tuesday at the age of 85.
At his memorial service, he was remembered as a television pioneer whose incredible career began in Oklahoma in 1950 after he got a phone call in Texas.
“‘Danny, would you like to come up here and be on television?’ News Channel 4′s Linda Cavanaugh told the attendees. “Keep in mind at that time, there were probably more televisions in your neighborhood right now than there were in the state of Oklahoma. So here’s a guy, courageous enough to pack up his family and come to Oklahoma and be part of television and what a part of it he was.”
Williams was there when TV first started in Oklahoma, as 3-D Danny, as Xavier T. Willard on the Foreman Scotty Show, and of course, as the host of the long-running daytime talk show, Danny’s Day in the 1960s and 70s.
Russell Pierson, now 101 years young, remembers doing the AM Farm Report with Williams.
“I enjoyed every minute of broadcasting with him,” Pierson said. “He was easy to work with, he really was. If I got to fumbling around, he bailed us out.”
Williams’ radio and TV career started in 1950 on WKY-TV, what is NewsChannel 4 today.
Anita Bryant remembers auditioning for a talent show as a child.
“He was a character and I fell in love with him. I had a crush on him,” Bryant said. “He always was a wonderful friend and he was so giving… you learn a lot just by watching him.”
Kerry Robertson was co-host of Danny’s Day for four years.
“First of all, you have to say ‘thank you for making us laugh, Danny,’” she said. “I mean he was a funny, funny guy.”
Robertson never forgot his advice on how to relax on camera.
“He said ‘picture someone you love in the lens and every day when we do the show, talk to that person’,” she recalled. “So I always (thought of) my beloved grandmother.”
But when Williams needed a villain on hand, he hired John Ferguson, who eventually became known as “Count Gregore.”
Ferguson remembers how convincing Williams’ characters were to thousands of adoring kids, watching at home.
“I think as it goes, (he was) ‘bigger than life’,” Ferguson said. “On that television set, at that time of life, he was.”
Former KOMA radio manager Vance Harrison remembers hiring Williams when he was in his mid-60s to take the station from worst to first in the ratings.
Williams did just that… and taught his boss a few lessons along the way.
“How to listen, connect, work hard and win,” Harrison said. “I have to tell you, I learned all of that after his 65th birthday.”
Williams famous sign-off was “my way is east, today is my birthday, I love you, pass it on.”
Danny’s daughter, Shaveaun, explained it like this; her dad said ‘east’ because that’s the way the world turns, ‘today is my birthday’ because every day was a new day… and he lived life to the fullest.