Meet the Powerful Voice of the Presidential Inauguration

2021 presidential inauguration

There are the voices we’re all familiar with, the ones we hear on a near-daily basis: Allison Janney in the Kaiser Permanente radio spots, Sean Kenin and Phil LaMarr as more celebrity sound-alikes than you’d realize, David Attenborough as the narrator of the natural world, and Frank Welker as, well, nearly everything. 

But there are voices we hear less frequently that are no less iconic. For instance, there’s Randy Thomas‘s yearly gig at the Academy Awards, where she introduces the presenters and provides commentary on the winners’ careers as they approach the stage.

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the national anthem.

And every four years, we might hear Courtney Williams as the announcer of the presidential inauguration at the US Capitol. He announces the politicians, dignitaries, and performers as they arrive on the dais. A senior chief petty officer of the US Navy, Williams also bears the mantle of the Voice of the Navy. He moderates concerts for the Navy Band, as well as singing in his rich basso profondo. Check it out in the video below!

Williams explained his role in the inauguration for Tennessee news station WKRN. “My role is the platform announcer for this inauguration, so I stand near the door where the dignitaries walk through and, as each of them walk through, I announce them to the platform. I sort of serve as the moderator for the events of the day.”

Courtney Williams, the Voice of the Navy

He’s had the distinction of announcing the last four presidential inaugurations, including for Joe Biden, on January 20. “It’s such a humbling experience,” he said. “It is exciting and fun and just a blur of activity.” We can only imagine the pressure of acting in such a crucial, yet easily overlooked role in a ceremony so many moving parts. He deftly shrugs it off, however, calling it, “The honor of my life.”

Cover photo by Chang W. Lee / New York Times