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'True wordsmith' Richard Williamson has died

Sunday Mercury chief feature writer Richard Williamson, one of the Midlands’ best-loved and most respected journalists, has died following a suspected heart attack. He was 56.

For the past 35 years, Dick’s unique brand of journalism has been gracing the columns of the Birmingham-based newspaper. His family, friends and all those who knew him are mourning the man described by many as the finest reporter of his generation.

Dick was born in Birmingham, and after gaining his A-levels went on earn a BA (Hons) in History and Geography at Swansea University.

He always yearned to be a journalist and virtually the whole of his working life was spent on the Sunday Mercury where he covered some of the biggest stories of the last four decades, including the Birmingham pub bombings of the 1970s, the Handsworth riots of the 1980s, and the march to save Rover in 2000.

He became chief feature writer of the paper in April 1978 and gained a reputation for his thoughtful columns which won a string of awards. His writing style was thought-provoking, trenchant, angry, sad, funny and was delivered with a deep love of the greatest language in the world – English.

Dick, a divorcee, was also a film buff and a voracious reader of books which made him the ideal choice to be both the Mercury’s film critic and book editor.

Dick passed away on Sunday night while visiting the home of his parents. Details of his funeral are expected in the next day or two.

Sunday Mercury editor David Brookes said: “Dick’s columns and features have graced the pages of the Sunday Mercury for the past 35 years.

“His was a unique talent. He had a love of the English language like no other journalist I have known, and exploited it in every sentence he wrote.

“But more than that, he was a genuinely lovely man.

“Journalism has lost one of its finest writers. Dick’s colleagues and everyone that knew him have lost a true friend.”

Mid Devon Gazette series editor Mary-Ann Bloomfield, Richard’s former wife and colleague from his earlier years in Midlands journalism, said: “He was a hugely talented, intelligent journalist – he was the first person I recall to describe journalists as wordsmiths… and indeed he was one, of the highest order.

“He was such a well-known newspaper personality on the Midlands scene, held in enormous affection and professional regard by many people.”

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