Williams holds a song in his heart

Published 10:13 am Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dan Williams leaned back in his “easy” chair and wrinkled his brow. Then, he shook his head.

“I just don’t know,” the retired Baptist minister said. “I just can’t answer that.”

Like many who are blessed with many years, Williams had no magic formula for living a long life. He just knew that he had been richly blessed.

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Williams celebrated 95 years on Oct. 13 and was treated to a festive party at Troy Manor by the Monday prayer group that meets there weekly.

He usually leads the singing and sometimes will “supply” if there’s no guest speaker.

“They had told me that if my birthday ever came on Monday, we would sing all four verses of my favorite song, ‘At Calvary.’ We usually sing two verses but, on my 95th birthday, we sang them all.”

Williams said that it’s the great message of that song that has made it his favorite:

“Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.”

Williams was born in a log cabin between Henderson and Goshen in 1913. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Columbus, Ga.

There, he quit school and went to work in the cotton mill for eight dollars and five cents a week.

“I started out sweeping floors and worked my way up to straw boss,” he said. “At night, I was taking a business course.”

At the same time, Williams was feeling the nudge of God’s call. He had served his church as a deacon, song leader and youth leader but had not found the fulfillment he desired.

In 1957, a group from his church was going to an event at Ridgecrest, N.C. and one of the drivers couldn’t go. Williams was asked to go along as a driver.

“At Ridgecrest, they had a prayer garden and, early one morning, I went out in the garden and me and God made the decision that I was to go into the ministry,” Williams said. “I attended Bible College at Graceville, Fla. for three years. Then I served churches in Georgia and Alabama for the next 30 years.”

Williams said he preached the Word of God and, at times, his sermons might have reached the level of fire and brimstone.

“I guess my preaching was a mixture, according to the congregation,” he said, with a smile.

“But I was more of a preacher than a teacher. I preached the Word.”

Williams found favor with Jonah and identified him as his favorite Old Testament character.

“There are a lot of ‘favorites’ in the New Testament,” he said. “But Jonah was a man on the run. He ran from what the Lord told him to do. He ended up in the belly of fish and it spit him out. Then he repented and did what God called him to do.”

Williams said people today are either obedient or disobedient to God’s will or they are trying to stay ahead of God.

“Sometimes God has to hold us down,” he said. “He’s had to hold me down at times. God would tell me to preach a sermon and I wouldn’t do it because I didn’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings. He had to hold me down.”

For Williams, life has been good. At age 95, he can’t do the things he used to do and he misses his wife, Audrey Mae, who died in 1995. But he has the love of his family and friends and a faith that will see him through anything.

And, he still has the special gift of song that God gave him and he continues to use it to God’s glory.