It is an obit I read as if it were a legal thriller, much better than anything Grisham has written. The New York Times honored the death of a guy named Merrell Williams Jr., who pretty much by himself pushed for the legal actions against Big Tobacco. He was a whistleblower, he stole important documents, and was seriously punished for it.
But somehow, unlike Jeffrey Wigand — the central character in the terrific movie, The Insider, in which Wigand was played by Russell Crowe who should have won every award for his performance and if you didn’t see the film, get it, see it, it’s great filmmaking — Williams was such an eccentric character that he coped better, it seems, that Wigand did.
I think this portrait of Williams maps the psyche of an ideal whistleblower: ornery, weird, daring, indignant, flawed and blind to ramifications, especially his own future. He sees one thing only: he has discovered a big, bad wrong, he is pissed and he needs to get that news out.
In case that makes you think of Edward Snowden, Mr. Williams did not make himself the center of the universe in exposing the lies of Big Tobacco. He did not present himself as a superhero who demanded that he be honored for what he did. If Williams is thought of as a superhero, someone else called him that. That is, Merrell Williams Jr. wasn’t a grandiose paranoid. He was just a righteous, courageous nut.
It’s a great story, by Douglas Martin: Merrell Williams Jr., Paralegal Who Bared Big Tobacco, Dies at 72 – NYTimes.com.