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

Twitter: @mdlaplante

The world's largest land mammal could help us end cancer. The fastest bird is showing us how to solve a century-old engineering mystery. The oldest tree is giving us insights into climate change. The loudest whale is offering clues about the impact of solar storms.

For a long time, scientists ignored superlative life forms as outliers. Increasingly, though, researchers are coming to see great value in studying plants and animals that exist on the outermost edges of the bell curve.

Unsplash: @perrygrone

We’re heartened by all the good being done in our communities by dedicated individuals and nonprofits. They sometimes don’t get the recognition they deserve, and you may want to help but don’t know where and how. Today we’re opening the phone lines, email and Twitter to give you the opportunity to spotlight a nonprofit or individual doing good in your community.

U of U Press

Though photographers Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams were contemporaries and longtime friends, most of their work portrays contrasting subject matter. Lange’s artistic photodocumentation set a new aesthetic standard for social commentary; Adams lit up nature’s wonders with an unfailing eye and preeminent technical skill. That they joined together to photograph Mormons in Utah in the early 1950s for Life magazine may come as a surprise.


A terminal cancer patient rises from the grave. A medical marvel defies HIV. Two women with autoimmunity discover their own bodies have turned against them. Matt Richtel's An Elegant Defense uniquely entwines these intimate stories with science's centuries-long quest to unlock the mysteries of sickness and health, and illuminates the immune system as never before.

Colorado Springs Gazette

May 1943. The Battle of Attu—called “The Forgotten Battle” by World War II veterans—was raging on the Aleutian island with an Arctic cold, impenetrable fog, and rocketing winds that combined to create some of the worst weather on Earth. Both American and Japanese forces were tirelessly fighting in a yearlong campaign, and both sides would suffer thousands of casualties.


Generations of Ogdenites have grown up absorbing 25th Street’s legends of corruption, menace, and depravity. The rest of Utah has tended to judge Ogden—known in its first century as a “gambling hell” and tenderloin, and in recent years as a degraded skid row—by the street’s gaudy reputation. Present-day Ogden embraces the afterglow of 25th Street’s decadence and successfully promotes it to tourists.

Here is the opening passage from Angelica Shirley Carpenter’s book “Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist:”

“In 1893, a deputy sheriff knocked on Matilda Joslyn Gage’s door in Fayetteville, New York. He had come to arrest her. ‘All of the crimes which I was not guilty of rushed through my mind,’ she wrote later, ‘but I failed to remember that I was a born criminal—a woman.’ Her crime: registering to vote. The verdict: guilty as charged.

Wikimedia Commons


We’re compiling another UPR Community Booklist and we want to know what you’re reading. What’s on your nightstand or device right now?  What is the best book you’ve read so far this year? Which books are you suggesting to friends and family? We’d love to hear about any book you’re reading, including in the young adult & children’s categories. One suggestion or many are welcome.


“Northern Indigenous Crees were native to Montana and the northern Plains long before the US-Canada border divided the region. But bisected by the line, Crees became asylum-seekers on their own lands 150 years ago. Though some were granted political refugee status, Crees were still denied basic rights. Instead, many were killed, ignored and deported on both sides of the border. … The Chippewa Cree story is little-known outside the tribe, but it echoes the uncertainty in the immigration crises the US faces today.”

Bookshop Santa Cruz

On her 120-acre homestead high in the Colorado Rockies, beloved writer Pam Houston learns what it means to care for a piece of land and the creatures on it. Elk calves and bluebirds mark the changing seasons, winter temperatures drop to 35 below, and lightning sparks a 110,000-acre wildfire, threatening her century-old barn and all its inhabitants. Through her travels from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska, she explores what ties her to the earth, the ranch most of all.

In Eager, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb reveals that our modern idea of what a healthy landscape looks like and how it functions is wrong, distorted by the fur trade that once trapped out millions of beavers from North America’s lakes and rivers. The consequences of losing beavers were profound: streams eroded, wetlands dried up, and species from salmon to swans lost vital habitat.


Throughout its history, America has been defined through maps. Whether made for military strategy or urban reform, to encourage settlement or to investigate disease, maps invest information with meaning by translating it into visual form. They capture what people knew, what they thought they knew, what they hoped for, and what they feared. As such they offer unrivaled windows onto the past.

Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune

Today on the final day of UPR’s Spring Pledge Drive, my Access Utah co-host is Craig Jessop, Dean of the USU Caine College of the Arts, and Music Director of the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra.

USU Office of Research and Graduate Studies

Folklorist and USU Assistant Professor of English Lynne McNeill joins me for this special pledge drive edition of the program. We’ll hear a segment from a recent episode featuring Chef Nephi Craig, founder of the Native American Culinary Association. We’ll also feature a portion of one of our most memorable episodes, an interview (from 2011) with Utah author Lee Cantwell. His novel “Mother George” tries to flesh out an incredible true story for which there is little information: Mother George was a black midwife who practiced her art in a small southeastern Idaho town for 40 years.

Dani Hayes | Utah Public Radio

On this special pledge drive edition of Access Utah. My co-host is Access Utah founding host and former UPR Program Director Lee Austin. We’ll feature new conversations with USU Associate Professor of Journalism Matthew LaPlante and BBC host Dan Damon. We’ll be talking about the media landscape in the U.S. and the U.K. We’ll also talk about all the latest twists and turns in the Brexit saga.


Visit Salt Lake

It’s a pledge drive special edition of Access Utah today. My special guest for the hour is Ken Sanders from Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City. We’ll reach into the archives for parts of some of our favorite recent episodes of the program.

Twitter: @usubrazil

On the first day of UPR’s Spring Pledge Drive Tom Williams and co-host USU Communications Studies Assistant Professor Jason Gilmore will present parts of several recent Access Utah interviews: We’ll hear some of our listeners expressing opposing viewpoints. StoryCorps founder David Isay will urge us to try to overcome our differences by truly listening to each other.

Today on Access Utah: the music of Gustav Mahler from his Third Symphony. Our guests include USU Music Professor Sergio Bernal, Austrian conductor Christoph Campestrini  with Vienna Hofmusikkapelle, and mezzo-soprano and USU Alumna Tamara Mumford of Metropolitan Opera. Immerse yourself in a universe of awakenings, nature, humankind, and eternity envisioned by Mahler, a composer for whom ''a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.''

Twitter: @BrendaEkwurzel

Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel is Director of Climate Science for the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. She will be in Utah later this week for events in Salt Lake City and Ogden. She says we can adapt to and reduce risks from changing weather patterns and other consequences of releasing heat-trapping emissions to the atmosphere, and that we can switch to a lower emissions trajectory. Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel will give us specific examples for Utah on the program today.

Southern Utah University

Richard Saunders is librarian and professor of history at Southern Utah University. He has written widely on the Mormons and American history topics. He will deliver the 36th annual Juanita Brooks lecture on Thursday, March 28, at 7:00 p.m. in Cox Auditorium on the campus of Dixie State University in St. George.

He says “My lecture revolves around Juanita Brooks and her place as a "heroic" writer, examining what "history" meant in her context and how that shapes the modern understanding of Utah and its past.”


Wikimedia Commons

Michele Anderson says “I am what you might call a ‘homecomer.’ Wendell Berry, the Kentucky writer and farmer, uses that word to describe people who have spent some time away, usually to pursue better opportunities in cities, and then choose to return to their rural roots.” Her recent opinion piece in the New York Times is headlined “Go Home to Your ‘Dying’ Hometown.”

Sheridan School

Jessica Lahey’s The Gift of Failure focuses on the critical school years when parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.

UC Davis School of Education

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye says “I grew up in Ferguson, Mo. No one ever heard of it, unless you lived elsewhere in St. Louis County. Then my family moved to Palestine – my father’s first home. A friend says, ‘Your parents really picked the garden spots.’ In Ferguson, an invisible line separated white and black communities. In Jerusalem, a no-man’s land separated people, designated by barbed wire.


Here is the unforgettable story of Captain Tom Barnes, whom we first meet as he is leading British troops in Afghanistan. We then meet two young Afghani boys—and the man who trains one of them to fight against the infidel invaders. Finally, there are the family and friends who radiate out from these lives: the people on all sides of a war where virtually everyone is caught up in something unthinkable.

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls―the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser―the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series―masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography.