Pete Williams, the esteemed NBC News correspondent who has covered the U.S. Supreme Court and the Department of Justice for nearly 30 years, plans to retire from the network and the news business in July.
“He is quite simply one of the most respected, trusted, and steadfast names in news,” NBC News president Noah Oppenheim said in an email to employees Thursday announcing the news.
In a journalism career that spanned five U.S. presidential administrations, Williams established himself as one of the most dedicated reporters in Washington, known by colleagues and viewers for his calm authority and peerless expertise.
Williams, 70, has been synonymous with accuracy and steadiness, reporting quickly on some of the defining Supreme Court cases of the modern era, including the 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and the decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“Pete’s reporting has always been ironclad,” Oppenheim said. “His ability to break down the most complex and fast-developing situations is uncanny.”
Williams was an indispensable reporter during network coverage of several major national events, such as the 9/11 terror attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, bringing audiences essential updates from law enforcement sources and federal agencies.
Oppenheim praised Williams for landing “too many scoops, firsts, exclusives and interviews to count.” Williams broke the news that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer planned to retire, and he has reportedly doggedly on the Jan. 6 investigation.
“Stephen Breyer is leaving, so I think this is a good time for me to go, too,” Williams said on the network’s morning editorial conference call Thursday.
“We’ve got 35 Supreme Court decisions to go through, so there’s still a lot of work to be done and probably some surprises from the Justice Department,” Williams said.
Williams has been a cherished colleague for generations of reporters, producers, writers and editors inside NBC News, treasured by teams from the “NBC Nightly News” and the “TODAY” show to the company’s digital news units.
“In short, for generations of NBC News reporters, working alongside Pete has been a daily masterclass in journalism. But perhaps more importantly, it has been a masterclass in what it means to be a good colleague,” Oppenheim said.
“Pete’s decency, kindness, and generosity are unmatched,” Oppenheim added. “For those that know Pete well, it’s his warmth, humor, wit, and compassion that will be missed most.”
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Willie Geist paid tribute to Williams on the air Thursday morning, saying he was “one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet.”
Williams joined NBC News in 1993 after working on Capitol Hill and in the Wyoming news business.
Williams, a native of Casper, Wyoming, and a graduate of Stanford University, worked as a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and radio in Casper from 1974 to 1985.
In 1986, Williams joined the staff of then-Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyo., as press secretary and a legislative assistant. Three years later, when Cheney was named assistant secretary of defense, Williams was appointed assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
In that role, Williams was named Government Communicator of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Government Communicators.