FARGO – If you needed to laugh, Earl Ellis Williams was the guy to see.
Williams, co-host of “The Earl and Don Show” on WDAY radio, kept listeners laughing from the late 1960s to 1981.
Whether your radio was tuned to WDAY, or you met Williams at a coffee shop, you’d know him as the man with the wit that wouldn’t quit.
“Earl was the kind of guy, who you always walked away from smiling and laughing. He always had a funny story,” said Larry Gauper, a copy writer and radio commercial producer for WDAY from 1967 to 1975.
“Every time you’d see a group of people (at WDAY), and they’d be standing around in a circle and they’d be laughing and roaring, I’d go over there and there would be Earl, telling a story,” Gauper said.
Williams died Tuesday at Essentia Health in Fargo, about a week after suffering a stroke, friends said. He was 79.
Williams was also “The Voice of the Bison” for WDAY, calling North Dakota State University football and basketball games.
“He did a little bit of everything. He was multi-talented,” said Bucky Maughan, former longtime head wrestling coach at NDSU and a friend of Williams. “He was more of a color man. He’d ad-lib and keep things moving.
“Anything he was involved with, he added his special sense of humor to. He’s one of a kind,” Maughan said.
As WDAY’s “morning men,” Williams and Don Dresser traded puns and jokes and riffed on the oddball news of the day.
“He was a fun guy, quick, sharp,” said Dresser. “He had a lot of good stories. We just had a lot of fun together.”
Dresser said Williams was a master of the punch line.
“He never forgot any,” Dresser said.
“Earl could never leave a line alone. If you said a funny joke or some fact, or something, he always had a funny comeback. That always worked well with Don,” Gauper said. “Some of it was off-color, a little on edge. But he (Williams) always relished that.”
Williams, the son of Roy and Loena (Ellis) Williams, was born May 8, 1935, in Bemidji, Minn.
He grew up and attended grade school in Doran, Minn., then moved with his family to Breckenridge, Minn., where he graduated from high school in 1953.
He later graduated from Brown Institute in Minneapolis.
He told The Forum that he began his radio career May 15, 1954, in Glendive, Mont., at KXGN.
According to Forum files and recollections of co-workers, Williams also worked at radio stations WJON and KKAM in St. Cloud, Minn., and at KOVC Radio in Valley City, N.D., before moving to Fargo in 1965. He worked for a time at KXGO radio in Fargo, before joining WDAY.
Williams ended his run on the WDAY morning show in 1981, returning to the air at Fargo’s KVOX 1280 AM in April 1983.
Williams told Forum columnist Janna Anderson that he would have liked to have returned to WDAY.
“Like I say in the banquet circuit, I’d return to WDAY if they’d take back what they said to me … ‘You’re fired!’ ” he said.
Williams worked in radio until 1986. Then he worked as a tour director for several tour companies. He was also in demand as a speaker on the local banquet circuit.
Gauper said Williams will be sorely missed.
“He was the guy who you always enjoyed seeing. He lit up a room. People always walked away laughing” from Earl. “It’s just sad, just very sad.”
Williams is survived by his wife, Sharon; daughters April Williams, May Tomporoski, June McCammon, and Kim (Jerome) Colvin; and two grandchildren.
There will be a memorial service at 10 a.m. Friday at Hope Lutheran Church, South Campus, 3636 25th St. S., Fargo. Visitation will be one hour before the service at the church.
Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home, Fargo, is in charge of arrangements.