Memorial services for veteran news cameraman Artie Williams III, who may rank as the most beloved local camera journalist ever, were pending Wednesday. Williams, who was 59, died Saturday during a diving accident at the Santa Catalina Island isthmus, it was reported. He would have turned 60 on Sunday.
Williams, an experienced scuba diver, apparently experienced difficulties while swimming from a dive to a boat at the Santa Catalina Island isthmus reef on Saturday morning, sheriff’s deputies said. He and another diver had surfaced at about 9:25 a.m. and Williams was unconscious.
County lifeguards from the nearby Baywatch Isthmus station were summoned, and Williams was rushed to the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber within sight of the reef, where he died.
The cause of death has not yet been determined by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
The Black Journalist Association of Southern California (BJASC) issued this statement:
“The Black Journalists Association of Southern California and NABJ joins the Los Angeles and national journalism community in mourning the untimely death of ABC7 Eyewitness News photojournalist Artie Williams III.
“Williams was a beloved colleague and respected competitor. He also mentored countless aspiring broadcasters during his 30-plus year career at KABC. Artie, as he was widely known, quietly gave back to the community in a host of ways including his recent presentation to teen scholars at L.A.’s Urban Media Foundation.”
The Los Angeles City Council was adjourned Tuesday in honor of Williams, on a motion by Councilman Bernard C. Parks.
Councilman Parks said Williams was “a strong but gentle presence with a positive attitude toward life.”
“Williams was a role model to inner-city students, teaching them about “drive and perseverance,” Councilwoman Jan Perry said.
“No job was too large or too small for him, and he did each with equal enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that he’s gone, but he will truly be missed.”
The Board of Supervisors also adjourned in honor of Williams on a motion by Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“In broadcast journalism, it’s often the on-air reporter or the anchor who we most associate with bringing us the news, but in many respects, it was Artie Williams, who with unparalleled skill, also brought the stories of this region’s struggles and successes to the entire world,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.
ABC7 evening news anchor Marc Brown told the City Council that Williams was “a friendly guy. He was a big, burly guy. He had broad shoulders and smile to match.”
Brown said ABC7 staff calculated that Williams worked on more than 15,000 stories during the 30 years he worked at the news station.
“Judging by the expressions of love and support we are getting from the community, from leaders, from people from all walks of life, he made at least that many friends while working for ABC7 as a cameraman,” Brown said, adding that Williams had two passions in life, scuba diving and the Lakers.
“I think if Artie could have done all 15,000 or so stories with the Los Angeles Lakers, I think he would have done that,” Brown said.
NBC4 reporter Beverly White called Williams a “perpetual motion machine, but also a gracious human being, not just a newsman, a gentleman.”
“We will miss him in the field. We will miss him in the industry. We will miss him in the community that is Southern California, because Artie loved L.A.,” she said. “We were honored to know him. We will miss him every day.”
City News Service contributed to this story.