Tobacco whistleblower dies in Mississippi

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A paralegal who supplied documents that set off a legal assault that staggered the nation's biggest tobacco companies has died.

Merrell Williams Jr. died last week in Ocean Springs, Miss. He was 72.

Williams unearthed memos and studies concerning smoking and health that gave anti-tobacco lawyers newfound ammunition against cigarette makers. He took the documents from the Kentucky law firm that represented Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.

A few years later, the tobacco industry agreed in the late 1990s to a massive settlement with the states over smoking-related health costs.

Williams is remembered by former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore for supplying information that "changed the course" in the fight against Big Tobacco.

Moore said Monday the documents helped beat the industry and resulted in declines in smoking rates.