Marjorie Williams, 1958 – 2005

Washington Post columnist Marjorie Williams passed away this week at age 47

The D.C. media community has been mourning this week for the passage of Marjorie Williams, an accomplished reporter in New York and Washington who finished her career as the author of a Post column that the paper called called, “a weekly present, exquisite prose wrapped around a treasure of intelligent analysis. Known for the “wicked wattage of her penetrating gaze,” Williams died on Sunday at age 47 after a three-and-a-half year battle with liver cancer.

She’s received a full 21-article salute from the Washington press corps, including a glowing tribute from Slate’s editor Jack Shafer, who works with her husband, Timothy Noah: “[Williams] could see character the way most of us see the visible spectrum. She could have been a detective or a psychotherapist, a novelist or a professional poker player, a businesswoman or a platoon leader. But after dropping out of college and working as a book editor, she chose journalism, much to the benefit of our profession and her readers.”


As the Washington Post’s obituary, written by David Von Drehle, remembers, “A portrait by Ms. Williams was seen as a ritual signifying that a person had reached the center of the political universe. First came the charm, then the withering scalp-to-toenails examination under her all-seeing eye. Her conclusions were published for millions to read in keen and crystal prose.”

Former Post Executive Editor Ben C. Bradlee said, “She had that miracle touch. She made people feel so good — about life and the paper and everything.” The Post’s editorial marking her death, began “to write aboutcolumnist Marjorie Williams is to know one thing with awful certainty: She would have done it better herself, and went on to call her column.

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly wrote, “It’s impossible to exaggerate what a fantastic person Marjorie was. She possessed in abundance qualities you don’t normally find in the same person. She was brilliant and sweet, self-assured and self-effacing, ruthlessly honest and unfailingly considerate. She had a dazzling mind, a delightfully tart tongue, and a generous heart.

She is survived by her husband, who’s a Slate columnist and Washington Monthly contributing editor, as well as her two children, Will and Alice. You can read her heart-breaking final column, reflecting on what she knew would be her final Halloween, here.

(Other recent columns were collected here.)