Rebecca Chase Williams, a longtime national correspondent for ABC News and later the mayor of Brookhaven, died March 11 of cancer at age 70.
Rebecca Chase was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was graduated from Richwoods High School in Peoria, Illinois and the University of Illinois. A family move brought her to Atlanta after graduation.
After short stints with the Southern Regional Education Board and the promotions department of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, she began her career as a journalist, covering the state capitol as a radio reporter.
That led to her hiring as a reporter for WXIA-TV where in just a few years she won two regional Emmy awards for investigative reporting and an Emmy for best documentary. She was hired by ABC News in 1979 as a reporter in the southern bureau in Atlanta.
For the next 20 years, she covered a wide range of stories from the trial of Ted Bundy in Florida, to the Falklands War off the coast of Argentina, to political conventions and every hurricane that hit the Southeast.
Chase followed two candidates in presidential campaigns, but it was her work covering social policy that set her apart. She created a beat that studied taxes, welfare, entitlements, housing and poverty. Her work appeared on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Good Morning America and Nightline.
After 20 years, she retired to spend more time with her daughters and became a soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball mom. She served on the board of St. Martin’s Episcopal School, leading several committees. Almost in the background she operated Dunwoody Body Works for 18 years.
As her daughters grew older, she reported for The Dunwoody Crier, published by her husband, Dick Williams. Her detailed coverage of the effort to make Dunwoody a city led to a new interest in public policy. After voters approved the idea overwhelmingly in 2008, she became a pioneer in the effort to create the city of Brookhaven.
Her service as homeowners’ association president and a member of the DeKalb County Board of Zoning Appeals fueled her activism. She was part of two citizen groups that achieved passage of the cityhood referendum in 2012. That led her to run for Brookhaven’s first city council. She was elected to represent the northern part of the city.
When the city’s mayor resigned to run for another office in 2015, the city council chose her as the city’s second mayor. In that job, she advocated for park improvements, worked toward better traffic flow and won council approval for the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival, now the city’s premier event.
In retirement and in slowly fading health, she chaired the committee charged with passage of a $40 million parks bond issue.
Rebecca Chase Williams is survived by her husband, Dick; two daughters, Catherine Chase Cooper (Wesley) and Clare Margaret Stevens (William); her sister, Nancy Cheek Smith of Prescott, Arkansas., and brother, John Cheek of Snellville. A visitation was scheduled for Tuesday, March 17 from 6-8 p.m. at Patterson’s Oglethorpe, and her funeral mass set for Wednesday, March 18 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Sandy Springs. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Marist School and St. Martin’s Episcopal School.