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William Taylor

Colonel William M. Taylor helped the U.S. military manage media scrutiny in times of crisis for twenty-seven years. Born on December 24, 1930, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Taylor's media savvy served him and his country well as the military officer responsible for public affairs support to the secretary of defense.

Taylor grew up in Muncie, Indiana, and earned a journalism degree from Indiana University in 1952. He entered the U.S. Air Force in 1953 and soon after began working in public information posts for the Air Force. During the Vietnam War, Taylor was a public information officer stationed in Saigon, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand. When he returned to the United States, Taylor worked at the Pentagon, and in July 1977 became the director of defense information. During his tenure, Taylor helped manage publicity for the military on a number of sensitive issues, from missing nuclear bombs to returned prisoners of war to the failed Iranian hostage rescue.

After retiring in 1980, Taylor became a public affairs adviser to the American Petroleum Institute. He served as a contact person for media on the oil industry and helped manage public awareness for petroleum issues. For eight years, Taylor organized and managed the oil industry's annual crisis management and communications seminar. This expertise became invaluable in 1989, when Taylor went to Alaska to provide on-site assistance to Exxon in the aftermath of the Valdez oil spill. Beginning in 1996, Taylor ran Action Image, a public relations consultancy and sports photography enterprise. He also served as a public affairs emergency response reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Taylor and his wife, Phyllis Moxley, had three children and three grandchildren.

Taylor passed away on September 14, 2019.

Colonel William M. Taylor was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 13, 2003.

Accession Number

A2003.241

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/13/2003

Last Name

Taylor

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

M.

Schools

Muncie Central High School

Indiana University

Boston University

McKinley Elementary School

Lake Elementary School

Wilson Junior High School

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

St. Paul

HM ID

TAY05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Minnesota

Favorite Vacation Destination

Asia

Favorite Quote

Do ye next thing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/24/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Death Date

9/14/2019

Short Description

Federal government administrator and public relations manager William Taylor (1930 - 2019) served as the Director of Defense Information for the U.S. Army, and has worked as an advisor to the oil industry.

Employment

Department of Defense

American Petroleum Institute

Action Image

Favorite Color

Air Force Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20016">Tape: 1 Slating of William Taylor interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20017">Tape: 1 William Taylor's favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20018">Tape: 1 William Taylor describes his father's background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20019">Tape: 1 William Taylor describes his maternal grandfather and family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20020">Tape: 1 William Taylor remembers his parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20021">Tape: 1 William Taylor discusses changes of residence and race awareness during his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20022">Tape: 1 William Taylor recalls his first awareness of racial differences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20023">Tape: 1 William Taylor shares memories of Minnesota, his childhood home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20024">Tape: 2 William Taylor remembers the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, St. Paul, Minnesota</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20025">Tape: 2 William Taylor recalls encounters with black celebrities in his youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20026">Tape: 2 William Taylor discusses his childhood interests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20027">Tape: 2 William Taylor recalls his school days</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20028">Tape: 2 William Taylor describes life in Muncie, Indiana in the 1940s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20029">Tape: 2 William Taylor recounts his entry into a new tough school in Muncie, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20030">Tape: 2 William Taylor discusses his early interest in the Third Reich</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20031">Tape: 3 William Taylor discusses his interest in written communication</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20032">Tape: 3 William Taylor discusses his high school activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20033">Tape: 3 William Taylor remembers influential school figures</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20034">Tape: 3 William Taylor discusses his college choices</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20035">Tape: 3 William Taylor discusses his experiences as a journalism student at Indiana University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20036">Tape: 3 William Taylor recounts an event in his college track career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20037">Tape: 3 William Taylor recalls the start of his professional life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20038">Tape: 4 William Taylor discusses his search for a journalism job</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20039">Tape: 4 William Taylor recounts his first overseas tours with the U.S. Air Force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20040">Tape: 4 William Taylor describes his experiences in the U.S. Air Force dealing with the press</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20041">Tape: 4 William Taylor discusses public relations changes resulting from today's 'instant news'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20042">Tape: 4 William Taylor discusses his ventures in the public relations field</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20043">Tape: 4 William Taylor discusses African Americans in the U.S. Air Force's public relations department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20044">Tape: 4 William Taylor shares his professional philosophy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20045">Tape: 4 William Taylor recalls his military travels in Southeast Asia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20046">Tape: 5 William Taylor recalls his PR involvement during catastrophic events in recent history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20047">Tape: 5 William Taylor preserves the stories of African Americans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20048">Tape: 5 William Taylor repeats a story from his friend Ernie Fears</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20049">Tape: 5 William Taylor reflects on the state of the black community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20050">Tape: 5 William Taylor considers his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20051">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor, age ten, with two unidentified boys before a church outing, Omaha, Nebraska, 1940</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20052">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor and other military personnel at the 58th parallel separating North Korea and South Korea</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20053">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor in Omaha, Nebraska, early 1940s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20054">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor at a Pearl Harbor memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20055">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor on the set of an Air Force training film, ca. 1966</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20056">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor reading with his grandson, ca. 2000</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20057">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor, age five, at a birthday celebration, ca. 1935</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20058">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor's mother, 1920s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20059">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, ca. 1948</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20060">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor with a group of Japanese industrialists, early 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20061">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor with other Muncie Central Bearcats players, Indiana, 1948</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20062">Tape: 6 Photo - Co-captains of the Indiana University track team, 1952</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20063">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor with U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird at a government ceremony in his honor, early 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20064">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor in his official military photograph, ca. 1970</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20065">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor with family members upon his retirement from the U.S. Air Force, 1980</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20066">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor with future wife at a Indiana University Christmas formal, Bloomington, Indiana, 1952</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20067">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor makes a one-handed shot, 1947</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20068">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor at a daily meeting with the Director of Defense Information, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., late 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20069">Tape: 6 Photo - Col. William Taylor with Defense Department personnel, Southeast Asia, 1971</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20070">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor informs U.S. Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland of military information, ca. 1965</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20071">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor's ancestors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20072">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor golfing, n.d.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20073">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor's daughters and their husbands, n.d.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20074">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor and Ray Connelly, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ca. 1989</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20075">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor's grandmother and two unidentified women, ca. 1920s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20076">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor's grandfather, ca. 1930s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20077">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor's grandfather while working on the Great Northern Railroad, n.d.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20078">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor with his cousin, aunt and unidentified woman, n.d.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20079">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor and Myrtle Carden, ca. early 1930s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20080">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor and his mother, St. Paul, Minnesota, ca. 1930s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20081">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor and Myrtle Carden, St. Paul, Minnesota, ca. early 1930s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/20082">Tape: 6 Photo - William Taylor featured in a 'Muncie Star' newspaper article, May 31, 1980</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$2

DAStory

8$6

DATitle
William Taylor recalls his military travels in Southeast Asia
William Taylor recounts his entry into a new tough school in Muncie, Indiana
Transcript
You served in the Defense Department [U.S. Department of Defense] in a similar capacity in the [President James 'Jimmy'] Carter Administration too, right? You served in the Pentagon?$$In--understand the operat--the news operations of the Pentagon. There is, there is the news department. And the news department has several, several branches, the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps, the civilian representation, the audio visual, the same thing, Army, Navy, Air Force and there's still, still photography. And all of that comes under a manager, and that manager is called the, the chief, the director of defense information. Or to put it in laymen's terms, the chief, chief of the Pentagon press operation. My first tour in the, in the building, I was--I began, at that time they had the Southeast Asia, just having come from Southeast Asia, I was on the Southeast--I was the Air Force representative on the Southeast Asia desk. And then from that position, I moved up to the military assistant position. And when the [Secretary of Defense Melvin R.] Laird Administration [1969-1973] ended and that tour of duty was over, I went to Japan as the, as the senior public affairs representative of the Armed Forces, U.S. Forces Japan, in Japan. And then the second job, as you wore two hats, as they say, I was the chief of information for the fifth Air Force, which included all Air Force units in Japan, Okinawa [Japan] and Korea. Language-wise, I studied the Japanese language, spoke Japanese. When I was in Thailand, I spoke Thai. I always believed that you, that you, you know and understand more about the country you're in if you understand the language. And it does, it opens doors and opens, and gives you a recognition and a realization that--even though you don't speak well, you can still--and sometimes it's to your advantage not to speak too well because you throw, you throw your, your host off guard. But you have to speak well enough so that you can, you could understand what's being--and it's difficult to become proficient, but you should become proficient enough so that you can communicate in, in the local language. And we were fortunate enough to--Thai, I had trouble with because it's a tonal language, and I, you know, I can't sing anything on, on key. So, but as long as you keep things in context, you can, you can offset the, the inability to be accurate on your, on your tones.$Did you like Muncie [Indiana]?$$It's difficult to answer because very seldom do--my practice is to, you know, take things as they are. And situations that you are not in control of, that to, to view those situations negatively only makes that situation more difficult. So my practice has always been to try and deal with positives of the situation, regardless of, of, you know, the circumstances that brought about the negatives that exists, recognizing that there're always negatives, and recognizing that there're always positives. So if you dwell on those positives, in the long run, you'll just feel more comfortable and can make the best of whatever particular circumstances you're cast into.$$Okay, well, did you have to do that in Muncie (laughs)?$$Oh, yes (laughs). For example, I was told--they said that, that the really poor section of, outside the African American community was in, was right in the heart of the Wilson [now, Wilson Junior High School] area. It was called Shed Town. Shed Town was right--so they said, awe, that's a tough school, tough school, said, you'd better, you know, get ready. So I had a couple of weeks before I went to school, and not knowing, I mean this is gonna be a whole new adventure to me, so not knowing exactly what I was gonna be faced with, my mother [Alice Melker Taylor] had a sewing dummy. And I had read in 'Life' magazine about this new technique for defending yourself or fighting. It was called Jujitsu. And they had demonstrations of, of Jujitsu. And this was, this would have what? 1941 or '42 [1942], something like that, '42 maybe. So she had this sewing dummy. So I practiced with the sewing dummy. I'd grab it--I'd throw I around and toss it around, over my back and knew all the moves and everything. So I felt I was proficient in this new (laughs) unknown sport, Jujitsu. So on my first day in school, you know, I didn't know anyone, and so, you know, guys coming up, "Who are you?" And I told them who I was. " Where are you from?" I told them where I was from, "Moved here from Minnesota." I forgot and left out Nebraska. So they said, "Can you fight?" And I said, "Well, I don't, I don't box so good, but I'm a Jujitsu expert." And they said, "Oh, man (laughs), said, you don't want to mess with him, he's a--." So that then gave me a nickname. And no one ever tested my--I guess I was big enough so that, you know, as a, as a thirteen year old, you know, I'm 5 [feet] 10 [inches] or something. So people are just gonna take you at your word, you know. And so that then--in junior high school, that was nickname, 'JuJu'.$$'JuJu', after Jujitsu.$$Yeah, after Jujitsu. No one ever challenged it, but good thing, (laughs) cause I had never tried it except on that, on that sewing dummy.