Top of Mind: Jack Williams

Anchorman, adoption advocate, penny pincher, smart aleck, age 65, Weston.

jack williams

Williams in the Allston studios of WBZ, where he’s worked on and off since 1975. (Photograph by Todd Dionne)

“It’s fun winning,” Jack Williams says. The satisfaction comes with extra sweetener for the Channel 4 stalwart. Demoted to afternoon and weekend slots by a former WBZ regime, he was restored to the 6 and 11 p.m. anchor’s chair in 2006, and has since helped resurrect the station’s news ratings; he and co-anchor Lisa Hughes are riding a yearlong first-place streak at 11 p.m. heading into this month’s sweeps. That run has come even as contemporaries from Natalie Jacobson to Randy Price have given way to younger, cheaper talent, leaving Williams (who juggles his duties with his adoption nonprofit, Wednesday’s Child) as the last of a generation—and feeling a certain vindication.

Here are some of the best quotes pulled from his interview with Boston editor James Burnett:

I always thought they made a big mistake taking me off. They tried to replace me with an announcer from the World Wrestling Federation. Fortunately the idiots making these decisions are gone, but you just have to question, What were they thinking?

Why did I survive, why did I get the call? Because after all these years they did research and I’m still the best-known person they had.

New Englanders are very suspicious of new so-called personalities. But once they like you, they’re probably the most loyal group of people in the country. Because they don’t give their affection that easily.

Especially with the layoffs—we’ve laid off 75 people here—I’m doing more of the hands-on now. I’m doing a lot of the writing. Which is good—I mean, I know how to write—but it’s an awful lot of bodies to lose.

I’m not afraid to ask hard questions, but I’m uncomfortable being a verbal bully. It just isn’t me. It bothers me that I can be kind of soft.

In five to 10 years there will be only one or two strong television stations in local markets, including Boston. And that could be it. I don’t think the money’s coming back even when this recession ends.

The most endangered species in America today—other than derivatives traders—would be the highest-paid anchor at a market’s third- or fourth-rated station. Yikes! Hopefully they’ll save their money.

I am so angry. I blame a lot of this on Ronald Reagan. He convinced so many Americans that government was the problem, and that unfettered free enterprise was the answer, and that is bullshit! We need controls.

It’s sort of funny for a liberal, but I’m very conservative when it comes to my own money. I have a seven-year-old car, and that’s fine with me, thank you very much.

Our endowment for Wednesday’s Child had only 2 percent in stocks. We’ve not lost any money for those kids—we worked too hard to get it. In my personal portfolio, I had overall maybe 15 percent in stocks. I’m still kicking myself over that.

One thing that really irritates me is these charities with fancy offices and company cars. We run Wednesday’s Child out of our home, Marci and me. The guy that does our investments—he charges me plenty, but he does Wednesday’s Child gratis. So does our attorney. You surround yourself with people that are interested in just trying to make a difference.

I refuse to go to bed unless I’ve read something. I go home, put on classical music, have a beer or glass of wine, and try to read for an hour. I just finished a wonderful new biography on Abraham Lincoln by Ronald C. White Jr. And before that, one of the best books I’ve ever read on Winston Churchill: Warlord, by Carlo D’Este. When you juxtapose those two, you realize it’d be a lot more enjoyable to spend time with Lincoln than an egomaniac like Churchill.

I suppose if I could be anybody at all, it would be David McCullough. He’s got a great life. And what a voice.

If you have an active mind, that’s the best way to make sure you don’t get Alzheimer’s disease. Keep it active. I’m trying to learn Spanish right now.

No offense to my competitors, but I love to whup ’em.

All I need is more years, you know.