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Oconee Enterprise Publisher Williams dies at 99

Vinnie Williams, 86-year-old publisher of the Oconee Enterprise, a Georgia weekly newspaper, poses in her office in Watkinsville, Ga., Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006. Newspaper circulation in large cities may be dwindling, but in many in small towns and rural counties, the weekly paper pulses with local information on school plays, church fundraisers and land deals. (AP Photo/Gene Blythe)

By Michael Prochaska/Editor, The Oconee Enterprise

Vivian "Vinnie" Williams, a prolific newshound, beloved columnist, novelist and doyenne of community journalism, died Jan. 17, 2020. She was exactly 99 and a half. 

A pacesetter in her field, Williams transformed The Oconee Enterprise from a failing weekly broadsheet to a dependable watchdog institution. Her tenure as editor began in 1981 at the age of 61 with noticeable changes to the front page, such as in-depth profiles of community leaders, exhaustive analyses of government meetings and her candid, stream-of-consciousnesses columns.

Her scuttlebutt-suffused Main Street column was evidence of the old adage, “Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” 

Although often playful or laudatory, at times the column read as an acerbic appraisal of someone in power.

Williams purchased The Enterprise in 1986 and maintained ownership the remainder of her life. While serving as publisher, Williams was committed to weekly reporting into her 90s and penned her last column well past her 99th birthday. 

Williams was named in Marquis Who’s Who in America in 2004 and was honored 10 years later by the Gold Club of the Georgia Press Association for a career spanning half a century. 

“Ms. Vinnie was a pillar of Oconee County and a pioneer in her field,” said Gov. Brian Kemp . “As a long-time subscriber to The Enterprise, I know she will be deeply missed at the paper and by the local community.” 

A celebration of life will be held at Lord & Stephens West on Thursday, Jan. 23. The time for the visitation and celebration is to be determined.

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