By: Zeb Hargett

“I’m Debbie Williams reporting…..” -  a familiar refrain for anyone who has lived in the Scenic 98 Coastal area for even a minute. I’ve watched and heard Debbie Williams report on all matters for many years. With stints in Dothan, Montgomery, and Birmingham in both radio and television, she’s covered it all. 

“On the Baldwin County Beat” for WKRG News 5  is her moniker.  Debbie was born in Elba, a small town in Coffee County that she still calls home.  Back then she had no idea what career path to take.  Her musical talent got her a scholarship with the jazz band of a local junior college but when she arrived at Troy State University, journalism became a real possibility. She would graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and minors in political science and music.

“Troy has a top-notch journalism program. I would recommend the Hall School of Journalism and Communication to anyone thinking of this as a career.”  But it didn’t take long for her to realize that it can be a brutal and competitive business.  She was only on the job at her first television news station for three weeks when the entire news department was shut down.  “That’s when I said, maybe radio is the place for me,” she remembers with a laugh.

This turned out to be a good thing and eventually, she would land in Montgomery at WLWI- FM/AM.

“That was when radio was still fun.  Nowadays if you want to find out what’s happening you check social media.  Back then, you just turned on the radio and within minutes someone was broadcasting live.”

Television news was always the ultimate goal and it wasn’t long before WBRC Fox 6 came calling.  “It was non-stop.  I was the capitol reporter but when the legislature was not in session, I would crisscross the state covering the Easter Sunday tornadoes in Huntsville, Hurricane Danny in Gulf Shores, or the Auburn Sports Arena fire during the Auburn LSU game in 1996.

Co-workers quickly dubbed her “The hardest working person in television news.”

That hard work would pay off when she was hired by WSFA-TV 12 as an anchor/reporter. She would co-anchor the weekend newscasts and report during the week, growing quite a following for a feature series called County Road 12.  “People still come up to me today and say I remember you from Montgomery.  It’s always nice to hear.”

Then came WKRG News 5.  It was May of 2004, the year Hurricane Ivan devastated this part of the Gulf Coast.  “I had covered hurricanes before but this was the first time I couldn’t leave and go home to electricity, running water, and air conditioning.  I had to live without too. It gave me a whole new perspective of how storms affect the people who have to live through them.”

In her spare time, she enjoys all outdoor activities.  Music is still a passion for her  She got her first guitar in 3rd grade and has been playing ever since,  “Who needs therapy when you have a guitar?” During the pandemic when no one could do much of anything, she turned to another talent; painting a mural for the first time.

But it's telling the stories of everyday people and places that is the most satisfying, “I try to write stories like I would if it were happening to my family.  I am human first and a journalist second and I think a lot of people, not just reporters, forget that sometimes.”

She’ll be the first to tell you that this career has been a crazy ride.  “I have had a front-row seat to history.  I have interviewed every Alabama Governor from George Wallace to Kay Ivey.  I get to zoom around in helicopters looking for sharks or oil from the BP oil spill. What really got me hooked on Baldwin County, six weeks into the job, I got to hold baby Raja, one of the first tiger cubs to come to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.  It’s what I love about this job.  You never know what will happen next.”

After 20 years on the Baldwin County Beat, she says you can’t help but care about this beautiful place, the people,  and the communities and I think you will see that reflected in her work.

Thank you Debbie It was fun getting to know you and the Scenic 98 Coastal communities are lucky to have you keeping us informed every day.

Jun 12, 2024
People & Business Profiles

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