Deb Williams - 2013 Award of Honor

Deb Williams

Class of 1976

When Canton, North Carolina, native Deb Williams entered East Tennessee State University her goals were quite simple: Obtain a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and upon graduation become a motorsports writer. However, the education she received at ETSU prepared her for a career she never envisioned, one that led her to six years with United Press International and the opportunity to cover numerous major stories ranging from the deployment of the 82nd Airborne Division to Grenada to David Kennedy's death in Palm Beach, Florida. In the sports arena, she covered Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball, NASCAR and LPGA tournaments. Before leaving UPI in 1984, she had served as the wire service's Charlotte, North Carolina, bureau manager, interviewed actor Burt Reynolds, and covered Richard Petty's 200th NASCAR career victory.

After leaving UPI, Williams spent a year as a reporter/writer for the TV show "Inside NASCAR". She then joined Griggs Publishing where she focused on her passion – motorsports. Initially, she was the managing editor for GT Motorsports, but when the sports car racing publication was sold, Williams was assigned to cover NASCAR's Cup series full time. She also worked as a freelance writer for USA Today and The Associated Press. Williams remained with NASCAR Winston Cup Scene for 18 years, serving as its editor for 10 of those years. During that time her stories ranged from traveling cross-country in a team transporter to spending a week on the road with a show car driver. She also covered NASCAR driver Tim Richmond's battle with AIDS, the deaths of 1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison and seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, and the 1992 retirement of Richard Petty.

In 2004, Williams joined Penske Racing South as its director of public/media relations. She remained with Roger Penske's organization until the end of 2007. Since leaving Penske she has worked as a freelance journalist. She has had books published on former NASCAR team owner and championship crew chief Ray Evernham and NASCAR driver Ryan Newman. Her book the Evolution of NASCAR: A Historical Collection was released in 2010. Williams' book on the history of Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled for release in May 2013. Her work also has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR, The Earnhardt Collection, NASCAR Trials and Triumphs; and American Racing Classics.

In the electronic media, she has appeared on shows that have aired on ESPN and the SPEED channel.

Since graduating from ETSU, Williams has received numerous awards. She was the first woman to receive the Henry T. McLemore Award for dedication to motorsports journalism. She also is a two-time recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association George Cunningham Writer of the Year Award and the first person to win the Miller Motorsports Award of Excellence in honor of Russ Catlin two consecutive years. She has won more than a dozen NMPA awards for news, features, columns and magazine articles, and a North Carolina Press Association award for sports feature writing. Also, before joining UPI she was the sports editor of The Mountaineer in Waynesville, N.C., a community newspaper where the NCPA named the sports coverage among the top three in the state for that division.

Her accomplishments, however, would not have been possible without the support of her parents – Ray and Cricket Williams – and her four enjoyable years at ETSU. During those four years: she was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta; president of Lucille Clement Hall; a member of the inter-dormitory council; sports editor of the East Tennessean; president of the Society of Professional Journalists; a member of the marching band's flag corps; and the first student assistant in the sports information office where she produced the university's first women's athletics brochure. Williams also was very active in the ROTC department. She was commander of the Sponsor Corps when it won the 1976 national drill championship, one of the first three women admitted to ETSU's Scabbard and Blade chapter, and editor of the cadets' publication Preparation for Leadership. Before graduating summa cum laude, she was named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and a recipient of the Richard Cobb Miller Memorial Scholarship, Pitman Prize for Excellence in Journalism and the Journalism Department award in 1976.

Today, Williams resides in Concord, North Carolina. She has taught the Evolution of Southern Motorsports at Appalachian State University, is on the advisory committee for the Stock Car Collection at ASU, is a member of the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame's board of directors, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame's selection panel. She is a senior writer for RacinToday.com, a columnist for FasTrack, is in the process of producing other books and works at NASCAR Productions.