Tom Williams

Program Director | Access Utah Host

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996.  He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.)  He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah” and “Opera Saturday.”  He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.

Ways to Connect

When Michael Copperman left Stanford University for the Mississippi Delta in 2002 - recruited by Teach for America - he imagined he would lift underprivileged children from the narrow horizons of rural poverty. Well-meaning but naïve, the Asian-American from the West Coast says he soon lost his bearings in a world divided between black and white. Trying to help students, he often found he couldn’t afford to give what they required―sometimes with heartbreaking consequences.



In the wake of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s recent visit to the area being proposed by some for designation as Bear’s Ears National Monument, we’ll consider anew public lands issues in Utah. Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz have released their Public Lands Initiative legislation for consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Chris Stewart has introduced an amendment to the Interior Appropriations Bill that would restrict the president’s ability to create national monuments in Utah and other areas, under the Antiquities Act. And the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is pushing for President Obama to create a national monument in southern Utah.

  Medical researcher and ICU physician Samuel M. Brown says “While writing a book about death culture and American religion before the Civil War, I read hundreds of accounts of the ‘good death.’ I began to wonder why good dying was incredibly rare in the hospitals where I practiced medicine.”


Fandom & Ownership

Jul 26, 2016

In December 2015, Paramount and CBS sued the producers of a proposed fan-supported feature length movie called "Axanar" which was to be set in the Star Trek universe. Included in the issues at dispute was the question: who owns the Klingon language and can a language, albeit an invented one, be copyrighted?

Backbeat Books

The banjo is emblematic of American country music. It is at the core of other important musical movements, including jazz and ragtime, and has played an important part in the development many genres, such as folk, bluegrass, and rock. The instrument has been adopted by many cultures and has been ingrained into many musical traditions, from Mento music in the Caribbean to dance music in Ireland. Virtuosos such as Bela Fleck have played Bach, African music, and Christmas tunes on the five-string banjo, and the instrument has had a resurgence in pop music with such acts a Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers.


  It’s been several months since we got together as a community and compiled a UPR book list. Public radio listeners are famous as avid readers. We want to know what you’re reading. What’s on your nightstand or on your device right now? Fellow listeners may not know about it and may love it.

We have avid reader and UPR friend Elaine Thatcher with us in studio and we’ll talk with several booksellers who will tell us what’s coming out this Fall that they’re excited about.

We’ll speak with booksellers Anne Holman from The King’s English Book Shop in Salt Lake City, Andy Nettell from Back of Beyond Books in Moab and Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City.

Terry Reith/CBC News via Reuters

In several cases this summer, efforts to fight wildfires have been hampered because of drones in the area. Utah lawmakers recently voted to allow authorities to disable or damage unauthorized drones near wildfires. The bill would also impose harsher penalties on people caught flying the aircraft. Tuesday on AU we’ll discuss this legislation, and talk about fighting wildfires in general. We’ll also look into the future of fighting wildfires. We’ll be joined by Scott Bushman who is a former hotshot who trains firefighters. We’ll also speak with Sam Ramsey, Regional Aviation Officer U. S.

In his book “The Generals” historian Winston Groom tells the intertwined and uniquely American tales of George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and George Marshall - from the World War I battle that shaped them to their greatest victory: leading the allies to victory in World War II. These three remarkable men-of-arms who rose from the gruesome hell of the First World War to become the finest generals of their generation during World War II redefined America's ideas of military leadership and brought forth a new generation of American soldier. Their efforts revealed to the world the grit and determination that would become synonymous with America in the post-war years.

Award-winning author Brad Watson is a native of Mississippi who now teaches at the University of Wyoming. In his new novel “Miss Jane,” drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early 20th-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place—namely, sex and marriage.

Julie Berry was inspired to write her new historical novel, “The Passion of Dolssa,” while listening to a college lecture she found online about medieval France. Fascinated, Berry began a two-year dive into research on the era, learning about the lives of several medieval female mystics like Clare of Assisi, Marguerite Porete, and Catherine of Siena, women who rejected marriage, almost unheard of at the time, and bucked the authority of the church with their own religious visions. “The Passion of Dolssa” is set during the 13th Century in southern France (the area now known as Provence), in the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade.

Science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist Cory Doctorow joins us for Tuesday’s AU. In a recent column, Doctorow says that “all the data collected in giant databases today will breach someday, and when it does, it will ruin peoples’ lives. They will have their houses stolen from under them by identity thieves who forge their deeds (this is already happening); they will end up with criminal records because identity thieves will use their personal information to commit crimes (this is already happening); … they will have their devices compromised using passwords and personal data that leaked from old accounts, and the hackers will spy on them through their baby monitors, cars, set-top boxes, and medical implants (this is already hap­pening)...” We’ll talk with Cory Doctorow about technology, privacy, and intellectual property.

NPR reporter Kirk Siegler recently visited UPR while in Logan working on a story for the NPR elections desk. He sat down with Tom Williams for a wide-ranging conversation including discussion of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s Mormon problem;  the potential designation of a Bear’s Ears National Monument; Seigler’s interview with Cliven Bundy and reporting on the stand-off at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; how Seigler got started at NPR and his life as a reporter for NPR’s national desk; and parallels between Australia and the American West. 

“Oceans are a sonic symphony. Sound is essential to the survival and prosperity of marine life. But man-made ocean noise is threatening this fragile world.” So say the producers of a documentary film, “Sonic Sea,” which takes us beneath the ocean’s surface to uncover the consequences of increased ocean noise pollution, including the mass stranding of whales around the planet, and looks at what can be done to stop it.

University of Utah Press

"Nine Mile Canyon's role in the Old West--a story of fur trappers and miners, ranchers and homesteaders, cattle barons and barkeeps, outlaws and bounty hunters Nine Mile Canyon is famous the world over for its prehistoric art images and remnants of ancient Fremont farmers. But it also teems with Old West history that is salted with iconic figures of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Last Chance Byway lays out this newly told story of human endeavor and folly in a place historians have long ignored.

Two leaders in the Cache County Republican Party have resigned from the party over presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump. In a letter to members of the Cache County Republican Party Executive Committee, Andy Rasmussen and Jonathan Choate say, "The decision by the Executive Committee to take no public action disavowing our presidential nominee has left us in a difficult position...Donald Trump is directly antithetical to nearly every traditional Republican value...His unapologetic racism, xenophobia, and misogyny disqualify him from consideration as a precinct chair, let alone the presidency.”

  When Bloomberg Businessweek told him it was going to give him the whole magazine to write a single article about computer programming, Paul Ford, a soft-spoken programmer and writer, sat on his couch with a pillow over his head and just let out a long “aaaaaaahhhhh,” like he had just stuck his finger on the ‘A’ key. Ford’s piece started out as a 2,000-, then 4,000-word piece. It grew much longer from there, demanding the efforts of a team of editors, graphic artists and web  developers to make it what it is now: An interactive primer that not only teaches how computers process code, but commits code as part of its narrative. This turned into “What Is Code?”  


The acclaimed author of “Refuge” and “When Women Were Birds” and many others is one of the most thought provoking and articulate people you’ll meet and an hour with her is unfailingly interesting.

At twenty-two, Judith Freeman was working in the LDS Church-owned department store in the Utah town where she'd grown up. In the process of divorcing the man she had married at seventeen, she was living in her parents' house with her four-year old son, who had already endured two heart surgeries. She had abandoned Mormonism, the faith into which she had been born, and she was having an affair with her son's surgeon, a married man with three children of his own. It was at this fraught moment that she decided to become a writer. 


In this moving memoir, Freeman explores the circumstances and choices that informed her course, and those that allowed her to find a way forward. 


Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2001)

  With this episode we inaugurate a new series on AU: Our Favorite Books:

In “The Basque History of the World” (published 1999) Mark Kurlansky writes “They are a mythical people, almost an imagined people.”

Straddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction—they are Europe's oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques' language, Euskera—the most ancient in Europe—is related to no other current language on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce.

The monthly DOCUTAH@TheELECTRIC series presents a film of particular interest to the four state Southwestern community and the Native American reservations in the area.  It tells the story of the haunting consequences of the invention of the atomic bomb and the man who led the development teams. "The Day After Trinity: J. Robert Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb," will be presented Friday evening, June 24th in St. George Utah.

Island Press

There exists a category of American cities in which the line between suburban and urban is almost impossible to locate. These suburban cities arose in the last half of twentieth-century America, based largely on the success of the single-family home, shopping centers, and the automobile. The low-density, auto-centric development of suburban cities, which are largely in the arid West, presents challenges for urban sustainability as it is traditionally measured. Yet, some of these cities—Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake, Dallas, Tucson, San Bernardino, and San Diego—continue to be among the fastest growing places in the United States.

In his new book, Apocalyptic Anxiety: Religion, Science, and America’s Obsession with the End of the World” (University Press of Colorado), Anthony Aveni explores why Americans take millennial claims seriously, where and how end-of-the-world predictions emerge, how they develop within a broader historical framework, and what we can learn from doomsday predictions of the past.

Aimee Cobabe

It's an Access Utah tradition. Every year we gather with members of the band Evening in Brazil in UPR's studio C to enjoy some great Bossa Nova and Samba.

Christine McKinley is a mechanical engineer, musician, and author. Her musical Gracie and the Atom, won a Portland Drammy for Original Score. Her book Physics for Rock Stars was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House. Christine hosted Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on History Channel and Under New York on Discovery Channel.

Christine McKinley is a licensed mechanical engineer and hosts the History channel’s series Brad Meltzer’s Decoded. Her twenty-year engineering career has included projects in power generation, industrial facilities, and commercial construction. She lives in Portland, Oregon

As a part of a new series of events called ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the Environment, presented by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, a Land Writers Panel will be held on June 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library, Main Library. This moderated panel of scholars and Utah-based creative writers will explore the relationship between man and nature in the literature of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.