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Williams in 1953.
|Born||Rhoda Elaine Williams
July 19, 1930
Denver, Colorado, US
|Died||March 8, 2006
Eugene, Oregon, US
|Cause of death||Cardiac arrest|
|Spouse(s)||David Van Meter
(m. 1952–2006; her death)
Rhoda Elaine Williams was born in Denver, Colorado. She began her acting career at age five, when she and her family moved to Hollywood from Galveston, Texas. She was the daughter of Edgar P. Williams, Superintendent of the Grain Elevators from 1900–1929 and Mrs. Jessie Williams, who was active in the First Methodist Church in Galveston. She had learned to read at age three, and performing on radio came naturally to her. She soon had her own local weekly show on KMPC's, "We Who Are Young."
Early radio 1937–1957
Her move to national radio came when she was nine years old and was cast as a small boy on NBC's "I Want a Divorce!" During the next several years she appeared in almost every major show emanating from Hollywood, including "Dr. Christian", "One Man's Family", "Arch Oboler Presents" and "Life of Riley". During her teen years, she was also featured or co-starred on many productions of "Lux Radio Theatre" with such stars as Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland, Van Johnson, Deborah Kerr, Walter Pidgeon, Rosalind Russell, Clifton Webb, Loretta Young and many others. In 1949, she began a five-year stint as Robert Young's oldest daughter, Betty, on NBC Radio's "Father Knows Best."
Early life and filmed television
With the advent of television, Williams moved into the new medium on such early live shows as Lights, Camera, Action! and Slice of Life and, with the advent of film TV, Date With Judy, Chrysler Theatre, Laredo, The Big Valley, Run for Your Life, Dragnet, Ironside, Project UFO, Marcus Welby, M.D., Policewoman, and Barnaby Jones. She appeared on Superior Court and General Hospital and provided alien voices for Star Trek IV and Star Trek V.
She also specialized in voices and dialects and was the "voice" for Brigitte Bardot in the American version of The Night Heaven Fell, as well as voicing a nine-year-old French boy in The Jayhawkers!. She returned to Walt Disney Studios as the voice and model for the AudioAnimatronic mother and teen-age daughter at the General Electric '"Carousel of Progress. at Disneyland. She also did uncredited voice work for an episode of The Twilight Zone, "Little Girl Lost".
Graduate study and teaching
In 1968, she started work on her Master's degree at California State University, Northridge. While studying for her degree, she began a second career as a teacher of dialects and speech for the stage. First at CSUN's Summer Teenage Drama Workshop. then during the regular sessions. She also created a filmstrip on "Medieval Theatre" which was distributed by Oleson Films to high schools and colleges throughout the country. She received her Master of Arts degree in Theatre in 1972 and continued to teach at CSUN intermittently. She also taught Voice and Speech at Estelle Harman's Actor's Workshop in Hollywood.
Work for the union
She began a long association with various civic and professional organizations in 1959, when she served as PTA President for Alexandria Avenue School in Los Angeles. Since then, however. most of her activities had been linked to her unions, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, since 1938, (AFTRA) and Screen Actors Guild, (SAG), since 1937. While she was a member of the Los Angeles Local, she was a Local and National Board member, Local Education Committee Chair. Co-Chair of the L.A. Women's Committee. Western Region Chair of the National Women's Committee and member of the joint AFTRA-SAG Merger Study Committee. She also edited the Los Angeles Local publication, DIALLOG. from 1974 to 1987.
From 1978 until 1981, she was West Coast Coordinator for a CETA project to increase employment for professionals in the performing arts. From 1981 to 1982, she was Assistant Executive Director of the Los Angeles Local of AFTRA. In January 1993, after her move to Oregon, Williams was elected to the Local Board of the Portland Local of AFTRA, where she was Treasurer and Alternate to the AFTRA National Board. She and her husband were also editors of the SAG/AFTRA Portland newsletter for AFTRA and SAG.
In Los Angeles, she was a Vice-President and Secretary of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). She also served several years as an appointee to the State Wage Board for the Broadcasting Industry and was an AFTRA delegate to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. For the California State Federation of Labor, she coordinated and conducted the Communications Skills workshop at the Federation's "Women In The Workforce" conferences from 1977 until 1989.She has also taught Communication skills at the AFL-CIO's Western Section Summer School for Labor Union Women.
From 1984 until 1992, she was Secretary-Treasurer of the UCLA Theater Film and Television Alumni Association and was one of the Charter members of that organization. She has also been Secretary of the InterGuild Women's Caucus. an organization of women in the entertainment industry guilds and unions. which awarded her its Distinguished Service Award. She was a founding member of the Education Council of the Los Angeles Music Center, with special interest in the Music Center on Tour program; a past member of the Glendale Arts Council Board; a founding member of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters; and an honorary member of REPS (Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound) and of SPERDVAC (The Society for the Preservation of Radio Drama. Variety and Comedy).
On March 8th, 2006, Rhoda Williams died of a cardiac arrest at her home in Eugene, Oregon at the age of seventy-five. She was survived by her husband of 44 years David Van Meter, her daughters Janis Van Meter-Hayes and Debra Van Meter-DePew, two sons Jon Van Meter and Steve Van Meter, twelve grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
- "Father's children". Radio Television Mirror. 36 (3): 18. August 1951. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
- AFTRA FLASH. April 2006. American Federation of Television and Radio Actors. Online. November 27, 2007.
- Life in Legacy. Week ending March 11, 2006. Online. November 27, 2007.
- Variety, April 3, 2006 v402 i7 p84(1). Reed Business Information, Inc. Online. Gale Biography Research Center. November 27, 2007.
- This Day in DisneyHistory.com for March 8. Online. November 27, 2007.
- This Day in DisneyHistory.com for July 3. Online. November 27, 2007.