We should light a candle for the late Boston talk-show host Jerry Williams today, as the Legislature and Gov. Mitt Romney are on the verge of tightening the state’s seat-belt law.
In the 1980s, Williams — then the king of afternoon drive time on WRKO Radio (AM 680) — whipped the public into hysteria over plans to make seat-belt use mandatory. Williams, a staunch civil libertarian, saw the law as an infringement on personal freedom. I disagreed then and disagree now, seeing a seat-belt law as no different from making drivers stop at red lights. But I agreed with him on principle, and cheered on his equally vociferous efforts to end such police-state it’s-good-for-you tactics as highway road blocks, where you’d be handed a pamphlet on the hazards of drunk driving — and, of course, given the once-over.
No one could make the switchboard at the Statehouse light up the way Williams could, but he was fighting a losing battle. Eventually, when his ratings started to slip and his show was rescheduled, a mandatory seat-belt law was passed, although it couldn’t be enforced unless you were observed doing something else, like speeding. The stronger law now under consideration will eliminate that anomaly.
Here is what Tony Schinella wrote about Williams at the time of his death nearly three years ago. Schinella, a one-time candidate for the Boston City Council, is now program and news director at WKXL Radio (AM 1450) in Concord, N.H. And here is anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson’s tribute.