On Sunday, the United States lost one of the most famous pianists of his time. At the age of 87, Roger Williams died of complications from his pancreatic cancer, according to the Associated Press
. Jacque Heebner, his personal assistant, said Williams passed away at his Los Angeles home.
“The pianist to the presidents” played for several U.S. Presidents from Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush. The famed American musician was the only piano instrumentalist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts for his 1955 hit “Autumn Leaves.”
“Roger Williams was called the 'pianist to the presidents' for having performed for nine administrations, and Ronnie and I were especially pleased to welcome him to the White House,” said Nancy Reagan, who was one of the first to pay tribute and remember Williams, in an interview with Agence-France Presse
“Ronnie and Roger had met as young men, each just getting started, and had been friends for decades. Neither could have guessed that their careers would take them both to the White House someday.”
Williams – birth name Louis Wertz – was born in Nebraska and began to play the piano at three years old. Six years later, he mastered several instruments and could play anything by ear. Years later, he studied at the renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York.
He also was a recurring guest on popular television shows, including “The Steve Allen Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Perry Como Show.” Williams gained a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Unfortunately, in March of this year, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Williams leaves behind his daughters, Laura Fisher and Alice Jung, and five grandchildren.
“Roger was one of the greatest pianists in the world and could play anything to classical music to jazz. He was one of the greatest personalities I’ve ever known,” said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in an interview with the Lake County News-Sun