Walter Williams was born in Boonville, Missouri. Though he quit attending school at age 13, he was graduated from Boonville High School in 1879. He served as an apprentice at the Boonville Topic where he made 75 cents a week, and then moved to the Boonville Advertiser in 1884, becoming editor. In 1888 he worked doing press releases for the Missouri State Penitentiary. After the warden began censoring his releases he resigned and began editing the Columbia Herald in 1889 and began making contributions to Jefferson City, Kansas City and St. Louis newspapers and was named president of the Missouri Press Association. In 1895 he was named president of the National Editorial Association.
In 1902, Williams traveled to 27 nations on four continents to publicize the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair to the international press. As dean of the School of Journalism he continued to travel the globe, serving as a relentless publicist for both the school and the profession of journalism. In 1915, he was elected president of the Press Congress of the World.
Williams wrote the Journalist’s Creed which is often evoked as the definitive code of ethics for journalists. It is posted in bronze at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and at the School of Journalism.
Williams never attended college, although honorary degrees were conferred upon him by Missouri Valley College in 1900; Kansas State University in 1909 and Washington University in 1926. A member of the university’s Board of Curators, Williams became president of the University of Missouri in 1931 until his death in 1935. Before his death, he was initiated as an honorary brother of the Acacia Fraternity. He was buried in Columbia Cemetery.
A new journalism building on the Columbia, Missouri campus was named for him in 1936. A World War II Liberty ship, SS Walter Williams (hull MC No. 2291), launched in 1943 was named in his honor.
I am on the process of becoming a journalist and I am at a crossroad!
Walter Williams must be screaming and wailing the Journalist’s Creed in his grave:
I believe in the profession of Journalism!
I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust!
I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism!
I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true!
I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible!
I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends!
I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service!
I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world!
It shook me to my core that I was so scared. I was suddenly drowned with extreme loneliness to despair