For more than four decades, Oklahoma Baptists have enjoyed stories from someone I consider one of the best writers in Oklahoma’s history. At the end of this month, this talented individual—the Baptist Messenger’s own Dana Williamson—is retiring.
Having worked with the BGCO for virtually her entire career since graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Dana has become a dear friend and champion for Oklahoma Baptist churches. While a garden variety journalist can “get the story,” Dana has demonstrated over time a unique ability to tell the story in compelling ways. Known by the Messenger staff as the “Queen of Feature Stories,” Dana is an award-winning writer who has covered a wide array of topics.
On her 40th work anniversary, a story (‘From Hand-Me-Down Typewriter to a PC’) in the Baptist Messenger catalogued some of the accomplishments of this wonderful Christian lady from Maysville. It said, “‘Miss Dana Beth Williamson of Maysville has been named staff writer for the Public Relations Department of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma effective Oct. 14, 1968.” That news release sent to Williamson’s hometown newspaper, The Maysville News, marked the beginning of a 40-year career telling the stories of Oklahoma Baptist events, churches and people.
“When asked about the secret to her interviewing techniques, she explained: ‘I just try to get people talking about themselves and often the story just happens. Only once did I have a very reluctant subject to interview and only got two or three usable quotes. That story was salvaged after I visited with the person’s youth minister for more information.
“‘I sometimes do interviews by phone, but the better ones are done face-to-face. Usually, I visit with the people for 30 to 40 minutes, but some have lasted up to an hour.’ Her interviews have taken place on a boat about a lake ministry, while flying in a private plane or airliner and behind prison doors.”
Whether missions or sports, Dana is gifted at weaving together a work that will move you. Since becoming part of the Baptist Messenger staff in 1994, she has worked with five editors, Glenn Brown, John Yeats, Ray Sanders, Douglas Baker and me. On a personal level, I attest to her keen insight, godly character and ability to inspire the reader.
Miss Williamson has interviewed prominent people including OU football coach Bob Stoops and then Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. It is not the stories about VIP’s alone, however, that make Dana special. She can point to the handiwork of God among people not necessarily in the spotlight. I think back to a time in which she interviewed a young lady with a terminal illness, and was able to paint a portrait of God’s hope.
She has served as a trusted voice in Oklahoma Baptist life. Yet Dana, who is an active member of her church, Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, is more than a great writer. She is a splendid person and true friend to Oklahoma Baptists.
When the Baptist Messenger successfully reached its 100th year in 2012, it did so in large part to the work and efforts of Dana. I mentioned a moment ago she was known as the “Queen of Feature Stories,” but it seems more accurate to call her the “Queen of the Baptist Messenger.” So on behalf of all our readers and the Baptist Messenger family, I offer a hearty congratulations and say, “Long live the queen!”