Remembering J. Paul Williams
Sunday, March 14, 2010
My friend and co-writer, J. Paul Williams went to be with the Lord on February 17, 2010. I spoke with him the day before he died. Paul, and all of us, had been surprised by his diagnosis of leukemia at the end of 2009. While I knew his illness was serious, I didn’t realize at the time that it would our last time to speak this side of heaven.
I had received a prompting from the Spirit both personally and by an email from Paul’s daughter-in-law, Tongua, suggesting it was a good day to call. When we talked, Paul brought me up to date on his prognosis and asked about my family and kids. I told him about my daughter’s participation on a gymnastics team and my son’s interests in his skateboard and his drumset. (“I’m so sorry,” he quipped.) When I told him we were thinking about moving Cole’s drums from his bedroom to the basement Paul said, “That will just make it worse.” Then he added, “Of course, maybe you’ll get another flood.” (We had some basement flooding a few years back.) Those comments were typically Paul: funny and yet with interest and concern for you and your family.
Paul complimented some of my latest work, (“You’re always so creative!”) and told me how he and his wife Donna had felt so supported by prayers, the scriptures, and friends. He told me I was a special guy and that he loved me. I told him I loved him as well. I had called to encourage Paul, and here I was the one receiving the encouragement… also very typically Paul.
I drove to Little Rock to attend and participate in his memorial service the following week. Several musicians (including composers Patti Drennan, Lloyd Larson, and Joseph Martin) performed before the service and I played “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Many of Paul’s anthems were a part of the beautiful service, and I was honored to accompany the Arkansas Master’s Singers combined with the Calvary Baptist Church choir in our piece “No Night There.”
If you’ve read my extensive bio, then you know that I owe a lot to J. Paul Williams. Paul and his church were the sponsor of the choral competition I won back in 1992, which is how I first met Paul, and how my first choral pieces were published. Paul was a great supporter, fan, and champion of my writing, and he was also the same for ME as a person. As his best friend Joe Martin said, “Paul always had your back.”
I’ve made a special tribute page featuring the choral pieces we wrote together. Paul lives on eternally in the presence of God, but his writing lives on right here on earth, and will continue for some time.