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Rev. Joe Priest Williams

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WILLIAMS, REV. JOE PRIEST, 85, of Louisville, peacefully passed out of this life at Baptist Hospital East on Sunday, October 26, 2008 after a long period of illness and declining health. He was a Baptist minister, theologian, educator, and advocate for the under privileged in society, born March 10, 1923 on a farm in Henderson County, KY, to Frederick Silas Williams and Dora Priest Williams. He attended Western Kentucky University and Georgetown College, graduating in 1946. He received his bachelor of divinity and master of theology degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Prior to moving to Louisville he served as director of the Baptist Student Union at Murray State University. His 50 years of Christian ministry and involvement in many peace and justice movements included 27 years of service as pastor of Baptist Tabernacle in Louisville's west end. He was called by his commitment to Christ to challenge the injustice of racial inequalities during the tumultuous Civil Rights era, joining with other local clergy and community leaders in support of desegregation and open housing laws. In 1963 he was invited to lead a week of revival services at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church by senior pastor Dr. Frederick G. Sampson II. He served on the Board of Trustees at Georgetown College and at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, TN. Since 1975 he was a member of the faculty at Boyce Bible School in Louisville for many years, teaching courses on ethics and leading the supervised ministry experience. He faithfully served as assistant secretary to the Kentucky Baptist Convention for 12 years and held a position in the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He received the Victor T. Glass award for Distinguished Service in Racial Reconciliation in 1982. In 1989, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary honored him with the Alumnus of the Year Award. He received the Long Run Baptist Association's Clarence Jordan Award for exemplary application of the Gospel in 1990. In his many years as pastor he officiated at over one thousand funerals, which provided a great ministry to those families in their time of need. He also took pride in performing over 1,000 wedding ceremonies, the very last celebration being that of his middle son. Following his retirement from Baptist Tabernacle in 1988, he and his wife attended Walnut Street Baptist Church, then Crescent Hill Baptist Church, where he became a deacon and served on several committees. He was preceded in death by his brother, Rev. Robert Owen Williams of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville. He is survived by his devoted wife of 60 years, Emily Elam Williams; sons Joseph David Williams (Debbie), Mark Elam Williams (Suzanne) and Stephen Frederick Williams (Joy); brother, Fielding Griffin Williams; sister, Laura Delaware Marquess; and grandsons, Joseph Elias Williams, Samuel Clayton Williams, and Payton Silas Williams. Special thanks to the very caring and professional staff at the Palliative Care Unit. Family will receive friends 3-7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Arch L. Heady-Cralle Funeral Home, 2428 Frankfort Ave., Louisville. Services will be held at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, 2800 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, 11 a.m. Thursday. Interment will follow at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville. Expressions of sympathy are requested to Habitat for Humanity, or Crescent Hill Baptist Church Homework Helpers.
Published in The Courier-Journal on Oct. 27, 2008
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