In Memoriam: Gerald Ivar ‘Jerry’ Williams, Pioneer in Assistive Listening Technology & Founder of Williams Sound

Published: January 8, 2024
Gerald Ivar ‘Jerry’ Williams, a  visionary and pioneer in the field of assistive listening technology, passed away on November 30, 2023, at the age of 96.. Photo courtesy of Williams AV.

Gerald Ivar ‘Jerry’ Williams, a  visionary and pioneer in the field of assistive listening technology, passed away on November 30, 2023, at the age of 96. A native Minnesotan, Williams’ journey into the world of electronics began during World War II when he enlisted in the Navy and served as an Electronic Technician’s Mate aboard the USS Artemis. The rapid technological advancements in electronics during the war ignited Williams’ passion for the field, setting the stage for a remarkable career.

After graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota, Williams made significant contributions to the rapidly developing electronics industry. He played a pivotal role in developing color TV receivers for Zenith and was part of the team that developed the UNIVAC File Computer at Engineering Research Associates. In 1958, Williams co-founded Transistor Electronics Corp, where he designed and manufactured computer displays. His journey continued at Control Data, where he served on the technical management staff until 1979. By the time he left Control Data, Williams held seven patents covering a variety of digital data displays, electrical circuit switching and signal controls.

Related: Williams AV Launches WAV Pro Wi-Fi Receiver as Dedicated Assistive-Listening Device

Crafting Innovative Listening Solutions

Jerry Williams with Personal PA

Photo courtesy of Williams AV.

However, Williams enduring legacy lies in the company that bears his name and the products he created. In the mid-1970s, prompted by a request from his pastor to help those with hearing loss in the congregation, Williams conceived a revolutionary wireless listening system – The Personal PA Broadcasting System. By broadcasting the service from an AM radio transmitter, listeners with a pocket radio receiver and earphones could sit anywhere they chose, control their own volume and hear the service directly without background noise. However, the FCC issued revisions in 1975 that limited the power of unlicensed low-frequency transmitters. With two trips to the FCC, Williams negotiated a nationwide frequency for hearing assistance transmitters to operate with increased power.

Williams and his wife, Lorraine, established Williams Sound Corp. in 1976, which is dedicated to providing solutions for people with hearing loss. Following the Personal PA, Williams next innovation was a personal amplifier called the Pocketalker, which established the Assistive Listening Device, or ALD market. Per Williams AV, since 1982, the Pocketalker remains the leading product in the ALD marketplace and has helped millions of hard-of-hearing people worldwide, including veterans who suffered hearing loss. Throughout the years, Williams commitment to aiding those with hearing loss led Williams Sound to continue to trailblaze the AV industry’s assistive listening space. He introduced groundbreaking FM radio and Infrared assistive listening products with features such as multi-channel operation and frequency agility.

Williams AV: A Legacy of Innovation, Quality & Compassion in the AV Industry

Apart from technical innovations, Williams also established a unique culture that lives on at Williams AV. His deep faith guided him to create a work environment that was family-oriented, professional and respectful, with a strong service orientation. A servant leader, Williams fostered a “Golden Rule” approach within the company and especially with customers that lives on today.

Gerald 'Jerry' Williams Producttion Photo_

Photo courtesy of Williams AV.

Williams retired from Williams Sound in 1987, but his passion for helping others persisted. Even in retirement, he generously volunteered his expertise to enhance the sound systems of local churches and mentored aspiring audiovisual and recording professionals.

Nearly 50 years since its inception, Williams Sound, now Williams AV, remains dedicated to ensuring public spaces are accessible, with assistive listening products at the core of its business. Moreover, the company has broadened Williams goal of enhancing communication through assistive devices for language interpretation, wireless intercom, guided tours and entertainment. Today, the company’s products are available in more than 60 countries, expanding Williams vision to connect people through improved communication.

The name Williams has become synonymous with innovation, quality, and customer service, a testament to the strong foundation Williams built. His legacy lives on in the millions of lives touched by Williams Sound products and his ongoing pursuit of excellence, which the company continues today. Williams will be remembered as a visionary founder, technical pioneer and compassionate leader whose impact will continue to reverberate through the decades.

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