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


In 2015 the number of visitors to Yellowstone exceeded four million for the first time. David Quammen, writing in the May 2016 edition of National Geographic magazine, asks "Can we hope to preserve, in the midst of modern America, any such remnant of our continent's primordial landscape, any such sample of true wildness-a gloriously inhospitable place, full of predators and prey, in which nature is still allowed to be red in tooth and claw? Can that sort of place be reconciled with human demands and human convenience? Time alone, and our choices, will tell. But if the answer is yes, the answer is Yellowstone."

Consider the $20 bill.


It has no more value, as a simple slip of paper, than Monopoly money. Yet even children recognize that tearing one into small pieces is an act of inconceivable stupidity. What makes a $20 bill actually worth twenty dollars? In “Naked Money,” the third volume of his best-selling Naked series, Charles Wheelan uses this seemingly simple question to open the door to the surprisingly colorful world of money and banking.


French Photographer Caroline Planque was on the USU campus recently to present portraits of, and interviews with, individuals affected by capital punishment in Texas. The Utah legislature recently considered (and did not pass) a bill that would have abolished the death penalty in the state. Planque first became interested in people who are impacted by capital punishment while attending college in Austin.

Charles Bock's daughter was 5 months old when his wife was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His wife died two and a half years later, just before their daughter's third birthday. Charles Bock has written a new novel that's based on that experience. It’s titled "Alice & Oliver."  


The award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Children has created an unflinching yet deeply humane portrait of a young family’s journey through a medical crisis, laying bare a couple’s love and fears as they fight for everything that’s important to them.

University Press of Colorado

The West, especially the Intermountain states, ranks among the whitest places in America, but this fact obscures the more complicated history of racial diversity in the region. In his new book "Making the White Man's West: Whiteness and the Creation of the American West" (University Press of Colorado), Jason E. Pierce argues that since the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the American West has been a racially contested space. 

Jane Mayer, who joins us for the hour today, says that rather than what we might have thought of as a recent popular uprising against “big government” leading to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement, what has really happened is the creation of a network of very wealthy people (led by the Koch brothers) with extreme libertarian views who have bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.  

We have established an Access Utah tradition: On or near Earth Day each year we invite Utah writer Stephen Trimble and other guests to talk about the earth, the land, and the environment. Here is Trimble’s suggestion for this year: “For our Earth Day program, how about addressing the future of recreation on crowded and imperiled public lands in Utah? 

According to the Salt Lake Tribune “Brigham Young University students who are victims of sex crimes say they are investigated by the school and sometimes disciplined after reporting their abuse, a consequence that critics say silences victims and emboldens offenders.” Several thousand people have signed an onlinepetition urging BYU not to investigate rape victims for Honor Code violations. BYU says it is studying the connection between its Title IX Office, which investigates sexual assaults, and its Honor Code Office.



Riverhead books


Barbara Bradley Hagerty joins us to talk about her new book “Life Reimagined: The Science, Art,  and Opportunity of Midlife” She says: “When I was in my early 50s, I became quite convinced I was having a midlife crisis. I was an on-air correspondent for National Public Radio -- with a partly paralyzed vocal cord that left me without a voice for days or weeks at a time and with chronic pain that dominated my every waking hour. I wondered if my career at NPR had reached its peak as I observed the new opportunities going, understandably, to younger journalists."

Henry William Brands holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He writes on American history and politics, and his books include “The Man Who Saved the Union,” “Andrew Jackson,” “The Age of Gold,” and “TR”. Several of his books have been bestsellers; two, “Traitor to His Class” and “The First American,” were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Brands lectures frequently on historical and current events and can be seen and heard on national and international television and radio.

On Monday’s Access Utah we’ll talk with biographer Ron Chernow as a part of the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative. Chernow’s “Alexander Hamilton” is the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton!” We’ll ask Chernow if he thinks the musical faithfully represents Hamilton’s life and ideas, and why it is resonating so powerfully with audiences. Chernow says that Hamilton “was a messenger from a future that we now inhabit.” We’ll ask Chernow what Hamilton has stood for over time and what he stands for now.

Jonathan Diaz

Tom Williams spoke with Braelyn, a brave little girl battling leukemia, who is featured in a book of photography and stories called “True Heroes.” We also speak with Braelyn’s mother Kristen about becoming a “cancer mom.”

Hollie Smith grew up in Tooele, went to Southern Utah University and became a journalist. After a key incident experienced as a reporter, she changed careers. She’s now Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Rhode Island. She gave a presentation recently at Utah State University titled “Journalists as Storytellers: The Media’s Role in Shaping Environmental Attitudes.” We’ll talk about how the media covers climate change.


Hospital intensive care units have changed when and how we die--and not always for the better. So says medical researcher and ICU physician Samuel Brown. In his new book “Through the Valley of Shadows: Living Wills, Intensive Care, and Making Medicine Human” (Oxford University Press) Dr. Brown uses stories from his clinical practice to outline a new way of thinking about life-threatening illness. 


Red Hen Press

Former Utah Poet Laureate and current Professor of English at the University of Utah, Katharine Coles is author of two novels and several volumes of poetry. The latest, published in March by Red Hen Press, is titled “Flight.”


In her new book, “Epiphany in the Wilderness: Hunting, Nature, and Performance in the Nineteenth-Century American West,” historian Karen Jones uses the metaphor of the theater to argue that the West was a crucial stage that framed the performance of the American character as an independent, resourceful, resilient, and rugged individual. 

University Press of Colorado

Plural marriage is the next frontier of North American marriage law and possibly the next civil rights battlefield.  

The practice of polygamy occupies a unique place in North American history and has had a profound effect on its legal and social development. “The Polygamy Question”,  a new volume from USU Press, explores the ways in which indigenous and immigrant polygamous practices have shaped the lives of individuals, communities, and the broader societies that have engaged with it. The book also considers how polygamy challenges our traditional notions of gender and marriage and how it might be effectively regulated to comport with contemporary notions of justice.

Matt Lewis’ book “Too Dumb to Fail” is an impassioned argument that to stay relevant the Republican Party must look beyond short-term electoral gains and re-commit to historic conservative values. As we navigate the 2016 presidential season, Lewis has an urgent message for fellow conservatives: embrace wisdom, humility, qualifications, and inclusion--or face extinction.

Many are responding to an invitation from the LDS Church to participate in a new effort to help refugees. The church has launched a new website,, and Utah Refugee Center executive director Deb Coffey told the Deseret News that her phone has been ringing off the hook. "I've got people all over the state doing service projects," Coffey said. "My phone is blowing up; my email is blowing up. It is unbelievable what's already happening." We talked about refugees and Utah in December, when Gov. Herbert was the lone Republican governor to say his state would accept Syrian refugees. We’ll talk about refugees again today in the wake of this groundswell of energy on this issue.

Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva are producers of the duPont-Columbia Award-winning NPR series Hidden Kitchens, and two Peabody Award-winning NPR series, Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project, with Jay Allison. They are also the producers of the Hidden World of Girls and the Hidden Kitchens heard on NPR Morning Edition. The series inspired their first book, Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More from NPR's The Kitchen Sisters, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2005 and nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Writing on Food.

During a long and distinguished career with the U.S. State Department, Ambassador Christopher Hill was sent to some of the most dangerous outposts of American diplomacy, from the Balkans to North Korea to Iraq. In his memoir, “Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy,” he takes us from one-on-one meetings with Slobodan Milosevic, to Bosnia and Kosovo, to the Dayton conference, where a truce was brokered. He draws upon lessons learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon early on in his career and details his extensive experience as a U.S. ambassador. 


All her life, Emily felt different from other kids. Between therapist visits, sudden uncontrollable bursts of anger, and unexplained episodes of dizziness, things never felt right. For years, her only escape was through the stories she crafted. It wasn’t until a near-fatal accident when she was twelve years old that Emily and her family discovered the truth: a grapefruit-size brain tumor at the base of her skull. In her new memoir, “All Better Now,” Utah writer Emily Wing Smith chronicles her struggles with both mental and physical disabilities, the devastating accident that may have saved her life, and her way through it all: writing.



Marta Nimeva Nimeviene

  We recently received an email from a listener: “I wanted to suggest a potential topic to explore in an upcoming show. I came across an article in the [Odgen] Standard Examiner the other day about a man getting arrested for an unpaid ambulance bill. He died while in jail."

Temple Grandin didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. Instead, she went on to become professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a world leader in designing humane facilities for livestock. She is a prominent author and activist in the autism field, and her life is the subject of a 2010 HBO movie.

Chalmers Butterfield

The murder/suicide involving a prominent Cache Valley couple has shocked the community and highlighted issues of suicide, depression, mental illness, and other issues among the elderly. We’re going to talk about these issues on Access Utah today. Tom Williams is joined by Pat Sadoski, with Cache Valley Senior Consulting; and Amy Anderson, with the Sunshine Terrace Foundation. We’ll also hear some recorded comments from commentator Thad Box.