BY Dexter McCree, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Growing up in the Highland Oaks neighborhood on 23rd Street South, the children, especially the young boys, all had the encounter with “Mr. Johnny.” He was one of the “neighborhood dads” who encouraged you to work harder and strive further.
He encouraged the boys to be courteous to the girls and the girls to carry themselves like young ladies. He imparted principles while raking leaves in the front yard or in the back alley during the intermission of a street football game.
Williams had a way of talking to you that let you know that he cared and that the message was from his heart. He was impactful and instilled accountability to young men who were prone to error.
On Friday, Aug. 4, Williams was called home to his final rest.
“He was truly a man of God who always delivered the perfect mix of discipline and love,” said Derrick Williams, the younger of two sons. “My dad was a father to the world in every sense with his time, efforts, Godly advice and love. I have witnessed in my 53 years a true marriage what the Lord intended a union to be, undying love and sacrifice. All of his children are college educated and that was important to him. He was truly an example of what a man should be.”
Williams, a man of commitment, worked 21 years for the Department of Transportation. He also served two years in the United States Army. At church, he was an elder at Southside Tabernacle Baptist Church and one of the church leaders.
Along with serving on the elder’s board, he was the Sunday school superintendent, worked with the youth, was on the finance board, the benevolent committee and other ministries throughout the years.
He showed love to men like his beloved godson, Gregory Patterson, who stood by his side when he was needed. Williams’ leadership skills were impeccable and his personality made him well received.
“Elder Williams was someone who you could talk to. He took the time to talk and to listen,” said Ruby Aires, a longtime church member and family friend for nearly 50 years. “Seemly, he always had the right answer and gave wise Godly counsel. He was magnetic to young people. You know that he was amazing because his sons still spent time with him. When you left his presence after talking with him, you were not the same.”
Williams and his wife Margaret moved into the neighborhood in 1962. To their union were two boys, Johnny, Jr. and Derrick. He also has a daughter from a previous relationship, Sharon Morgan, who resides in Atlanta.
He had the privilege of watching his children grow from infants to adults who cared for their own families. Williams attended baby christenings, dance recitals, baseball games, high school and college graduations all while imparting words of wisdom that left lasting impressions.
“My father was a devout man in his relationship with the Lord, family and community. The one word that best describes him is ‘consistent.’” stated Johnny, Jr.
He said his father was consistent in his beliefs and he stood for what was right. Williams had no problem standing against wrong. Johnny, Jr. could not recall a single moment in his life where he witnessed his father take a drink, smoke or be violent.
“Dad was upstanding and we’ve heard that from a lot of people. He absolutely loved my mom and would do anything for her. He was everything that you could expect in a father. He made a difference in people.”
His final words were a testament to his faith and character. As he was laying in the family room with his wife and eldest son, he began to let out a shout: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Talk the talk and walk the walk.”
That was how he lived!
A wake service for Johnnie Lee Williams is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. at Southside Tabernacle Baptist Church, 3647 18th Ave. S. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12 also at the church.
To reach Dexter McCree, email email@example.com