EXCLUSIVE: Dick Williams retiring from ‘The Georgia Gang’ on Fox 5 after nearly 40 years

"The Georgia Gang" (L-R): Tharon Johnson, Lori Geary, Phil Kent, Alexis Scott and Dick Williams.

"The Georgia Gang" (L-R): Tharon Johnson, Lori Geary, Phil Kent, Alexis Scott and Dick Williams.

Originally posted Thursday, March 7, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Geary, who joined the show last year after covering news and politics for 19 years at Channel 2 Action News, will take over as host.

The show originated at WSB-TV in 1981 as “Sunday News Conference” as a reaction to the Atlanta missing and murdered children case that riveted the nation at the time. It lasted six years, then was revived in 1989 by Williams on WATL-TV and renamed “The Georgia Gang.” It moved to Fox 5 in 1996 and has survived another 23 years.

"I'm proud to be the last man standing from the original group," said Williams, who also runs the Dunwoody Crier going back 23 years and has been considering retirement for two years. "We've always tried to disagree without being disagreeable."

The show is calmer than it was when liberal Tom Houck was on the panel. He was considered the most pugnacious panelist and he'd have feisty battles with both Williams and fellow conservative Bill Shipp. "Houck was like getting into a bar fight," Williams mused. "Nothing subtle. If he didn't know the facts, he'd just pound the table. One of the greatest moments of taping was when Shipp flung a clipboard at Houck. It grazed his ear but didn't draw blood. We kept taping."

<<RELATED: My profile of “The Georgia Gang” in 2011

"I think the show lasted 30-plus years because Dick's role of provocateur got a rise out of viewers and panelists alike," said Jeff Dickerson, a public relations specialist and former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor who was a panelist for many years on "The Georgia Gang" until he left in 2017. "His conservative stances demanded equally sharp retorts, making the show not just informative but entertaining- and sometimes enraging - to viewers of all political stripes."


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Grayson Daughters, a media consultant, has hate watched the show for many years and misses Houck, who now does a civil rights tour. "I will miss Dick's relentless steadfast racial and gender bias," she said.

Mike Rose, who worked at WGST-AM from 1985 to 1998, was far kinder. "He was always very conservative but always respectful of different viewpoints," Rose said. "You could talk to him." (Rose noted that Williams in the 1990s almost got a job at WGST-AM as a solo talk-show host but the gig went to Sean Hannity instead.)

Rose considers “The Georgia Gang” a “throwback. “They seem to be friends,” he said. “Liberals, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats with different viewpoints who can disagree on things but when the show is over, they could have drinks together.”

Bill Nigut, a panelist on the show in the 1980s and now a Georgia Public Broadcasting TV and radio host, said Fox 5 deserves credit for keeping the show on the air all these years. "Dick has over the years established himself as guy who knew politics well, who had a lot of contacts inside the world of politics and displayed that well on the show," he said. "He was a pretty gregarious host, too."

Nigut worked with Geary at WSB-TV and anticipates “she’ll be terrific” as a host.

Williams’ journalistic career goes back more than 50 years and includes a long stint at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where his column ran for many years. He grew up in Kansas and graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s in journalism at Columbia University.