Editor Leaves Legacy of Compassion

Peter Williams, former editor of The Perquimans Weekly, has died. He was 63.

Space that is ordinarily reserved for the weekly round-up column seems to be better used to pay tribute to Peter Williams, former longtime editor of the Perquimans Weekly.

He was also an editor of Chowan Herald.

Rather than talk in journo-speak, I’ll write in a more personal manner about Peter, a man who was loved and respected by the community.

As most folks know though it is still a shock to many, Peter died Saturday while undergoing care at Vidant Hospital in Greenville. Peter celebrated a birthday recently and he was in early to mid 60s.

During Williams’ long career in journalism, he won many North Carolina Press Association awards and worked as an editor at many newspapers large and small across the Tarheel state.

“Peter was a great journalist and newspaperman. Before he came to work for us, he had built a solid career working at a number of other newspapers in North Carolina and out of state,” said Julian Eure, editor of the Daily Advance. “He continued that work at both The Daily Advance and The Perquimans Weekly. Even after he left The Perquimans Weekly, he remained a valuable source of information about things going on in the region. I’ll miss him.”

Peter had a formidable resume that included time spent as the editor of daily newspapers including the Richmond County Journal, Washington Daily News, New Bern Sun Journal, Mount Airy News and Gaston Gazette and the Clarksdale Press Register in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Peter even worked at one of the largest newspapers in the nation, the Miami Herald – not bad for a graduate of Northeastern High School and The College of the Albemarle.

A bookend to Peter’s life, he worked for the Daily Advance and served nearly 10 years as editor of the Perquimans Weekly.

“My deepest condolences to his family and friends,” said Jimmy LaRoue, former sports reporter at the Daily Advance who is now working for the Suffolk News-Herald in Suffolk, Virginia. “He was a great mentor and always supported me in my work at The Daily Advance and after when I had moved onto other places. Such a kind soul. Rest in peace, Peter.”

Every now and then, Peter stepped in as editor of the Chowan Herald on occasion. Also, stories that Peter wrote for the Perquimans Weekly often appeared in the Chowan Herald, as these newspapers share coverage of events that impacts both Perquimans and Chowan counties.

“Thanks for your service, humility, care and commitment to our newspapers and to the community. Rest in peace,” said Nicole Layton, editor of the Chowan Herald.

Newspaper clips of Peter’s work still pop up from time to time. For example, when Chowan High School alumni gathered to celebrate a reunion in recent years, some of Peter’s stories about Bulldogs’ sports teams were placed in frames and are hanging on the walls to read, reminisce.

Peter was an avid photographer whose quality photos pay tribute to those tiny details that often get left out of the big picture. In recent months, Peter shared some of his photography collection on his personal Facebook page.

“I’m very saddened about the news of Peter’s passing,” said Cala Robertson. “I had the pleasure of getting to be behind his camera and making some of the articles he wrote about in the paper. He always messaged me photos he had taken and always had kind words to say. Heaven gained another angel, Prayers and strength go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

When Peter was working in New Bern, he got selected to be embedded with troops serving in Kuwait – that’s an accolade to his skill as a writer, story teller and advocate for the common man serving in uniform.

In recent years, Peter covered the comings and goings of Hertford Town Council – a tough beat to cover I can assure you. Some of Peter’s stories went viral across the Internet and even touched on Raleigh television stations as things heated up like the desert sands of Kuwait.

Peter’s coverage of the county government also lauded praise.

“Peter was a great guy, respectful and thoughtful,” County Manager Frank Heath said. “He was always fair minded in his news coverage. He would send me encouraging notes in the mail after he retired. He will be missed.”

Peter was a humble person, so unless you knew about his formidable resume as a journalist and editor, you wouldn’t know that the man once led staffs as large as 40 souls to produce the daily news.

On that note, Peter was not cynical and jaded like many who have been in the trenches writing about the good, bad and the ugly. Rather, Peter was a good human being who genuinely cared about others, certainly about Hertford and Perquimans County.

“Some people are born to live a certain walk in life. Peter Williams was born to be a great reporter, editor, journalist, and truth seeker,” said Perquimans County Chamber of Commerce Director Katrina Mann. “When I first became Perquimans County Chamber of Commerce Director a little over a year ago, Peter was welcoming and helpful. He stated, ‘If I need any coverage on anything in town, just let me know.’ However, Peter was always the go-to-guy for what was happening in Perquimans. He was an asset to our community on so many levels providing updates and story lines of what our community stood for. He always researched the facts and stated what he found. Peter was not just a news editor for the Perquimans Weekly, he was our backbone in the community for news and important information for the people.”

Peter helped many people over years such as time spent volunteering with students at Hertford Grammar School, Jones Elementary School, Central Elementary School, Pilot Mountain Elementary School and Flat Rock Elementary School in Mount Airy.

Another testament to Peter’s character, he loved his family. After working at places from Florida to little Washington, Peter returned home to help his dad and mother. His dad passed away, but keep his mother Shirley in your prayers.

When news of Peter’s death was posted to the Perquimans Weekly’s Facebook page, the news reached more than 4,600 people who responded with 196 reactions, wrote 65 comments and shared the post 33 times – making this by far the most followed post since the newspaper started utilizing social media.

Laura Rollinson commented, “Prayers for his family. Just last month Peter sent in handwritten cards of Encouragement for our MOW clients. He gave back to his community to the very end. He will be so missed.”

Becky Mills wrote, “I am sorry. Peter was a good man and certainly an asset to Perquimans County and the surrounding area.”

Hannah Saunders posted, “I am so sorry to see this news. I became friends with Peter on accident one afternoon. I was walking down the street and we just struck up a conversation. For me, that says a lot about who he was and I’m glad I had a chance to know him.”

Staff writer Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com