IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pete Williams retires after nearly 30 years at NBC: 'Absolutely the gold standard'

TODAY celebrated the legendary NBC News Justice Correspondent as he retires after 29 years of covering the nation's biggest stories.

The legendary career of a reporter who became the "gold standard" for news across his nearly 30 years at NBC was celebrated on Friday as he heads off to retirement.

Friends and colleagues of NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams shared their sentiments on TODAY about the Washington-based reporter known for breaking big stories and delivering the news accurately and concisely from the biggest events of the last three decades.

Pete Williams became known for covering some of the nation's biggest events during his 29-year career at NBC, including the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (above).
Pete Williams became known for covering some of the nation's biggest events during his 29-year career at NBC, including the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (above).TODAY

"What can I say, Pete Williams is absolutely the gold standard," TODAY co-anchor Savannah Guthrie said. "We all look up to him. And when Pete is covering a story, we all hang on his every word."

Williams, 70, whose retirement was announced in May, has covered the Supreme Court, the Justice Department, and some of the biggest stories in the nation since beginning at NBC in 1993.

"I'm just so proud to have been part of his organization," Williams said on TODAY. "I grew up watching David Brinkley and Chet Huntley back when I was growing up in Wyoming, and the thought of being part of this organization for 29 years is just a dream come true. And I'm just so proud."

He was still delivering scoops right up until the end, breaking the news in January that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer would retire after the current term.

Williams was known for his in-depth coverage of the Supreme Court, where he broke numerous big stories over the years.
Williams was known for his in-depth coverage of the Supreme Court, where he broke numerous big stories over the years.TODAY

"Nobody could explain it better, earlier, or faster," Chuck Todd, the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," said on TODAY.

"You know that when Pete speaks, it is fully vetted, you know that it is accurate, you know that it is fair," Savannah said.

Williams had a rare career trajectory in that the Wyoming native began his career as a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and radio in Casper from 1974 to 1985, then became a Pentagon spokesman under former President George H.W. Bush, and then left politics and returned to reporting when he began at NBC.

He covered numerous momentous stories, including the 9/11 attacks, mass shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing, but the Supreme Court was the centerpiece of his reporting. He covered landmark cases like the Bush v. Gore case in the 2000 presidential election, the decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and the recent decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Williams was prized for his accuracy, correctly reporting in 2012 that the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, when many other networks were reporting it had been overruled.

Meet the Press - Season 68
Colleagues hailed Williams as the "gold standard" for reporting during his 29 years with NBC. NBC

He also had a particular skill that dazzled his colleagues when it came to interpreting dense court documents filled with legalese.

"An incredible speed reader," said "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt. "Give him two minutes, and he’ll be able to explain the whole thing."

It was all part of the career of a reporter who is irreplaceable.

"There will never be anyone quite like Pete Williams," Lester said.

Known for his tireless work ethic, it's hard to imagine Williams sitting at home now that his career at NBC has concluded.

"I was petrified that I would suddenly be without any value at all sitting around wondering what I was going to do next, but I do have some ideas," he said. "I'm still a little bit in the exploratory stages, but I have plenty of new projects to take on."

There is one thing he does know he will do when Monday rolls around.

"Turn the alarm off and go back to sleep," he said with a laugh.