Bishop R. F. Williams was born in St. Francisville, Louisiana, 33 miles
from Baton Rouge; he was born 5 miles in the country on the farm,
in May 1897, to Albert and Vina Williams. His father died before he was born,
but he was reared by an uncle, Frank Haywood, a deacon of the Mt. Olive
Baptist Church. He was converted under the pastorage of Reverend C. C. Richardson
in the Mt. Olive Baptist Church at the age of 12 years, and was also called
to the ministry of the same church at the age of twelve.
He remained in the Mt. Olive Baptist Church until he received the
baptism of the Holy Ghost on Easter Sunday, 1914. He then
became a member of a Holiness Church in New Orleans, under the
pastorage of R. W. Clark.
He was married in New orleans, Louisiana in 1917, with
Reverend R. W. Clark officiating, to Sadie Williams. Five Children
were born to this union.
He began his ministry in New Orleans, Louisiana,
preaching in churches and on
street corners. His first message in the
Holiness Church was taken from Matthew 3:11, Text: "I indeed baptize
you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is
mightier than I; whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire."
R. F. Williams was licensed by Reverend R. W. Clark of New Orleans, Louisiana.
After laboring with Elder Clark, Williams helped establish churches
in Algerias, Louisiana and New Orleans. His first pastorage was in
Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Outstanding members of this first church were
Rev. Samuel Bell of California and Rev. U. E. Miller, National Secretary
of the Churches of God in Christ of Detroit, Michigan. U. E. Miller was the
first minister saved under R. F. Williams. R. F. Williams' second church was
at Burton, Louisiana. He also established a number of other missions in
Louisiana and on the coast of Mississippi.
R. F. Williams moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1918 and was identified
with the Church of God in Christ in the National Convocation.
March 1919, he was ordained at the Wellington Street Church by Bishop
C. H. Mason and other members of the ordination board. He established a
church in Nortn Memphis, called the King Street Mission, that same year,
but later he dissolved the membership into the Wellington Street church.
After this church he co-founded a church at Jackson, Mississippi with
hPaul Brown, and at Jackson, Mississippi with Elder D. R. Curry. He was
a very anointed man of God who was usually found preaching on the streets
while playing the guitar or praying for someone on the road,or preaching
in a corn field--starting missions and turning them over to others to pastor;
He was more of an Evangelist! While traveling through Georgia, Florida
and other states, he managed with meager funds given to him, to support
himself and his family. Bishop Mason had appointed R. F. Williams
to represent the Churches of God in Christ at the Great Unity Council
at Valdosta, Georgia, overwhich Bishop Mason and Pastor I. S. Stafford presided.
Following his speech at the Council 160 churches were united with the
Church of God in Christ. R. F. Williams gave them the right hand of fellowship.
Among these churches were 22 churches in Florida.
Some outstanding men from these churches included such men as
Reverends A. M. Cohns, W. R. Nesbitt and McCrary of Philadelphia.
Bishop C. H. Mason had also advised R. F. Williams to go back to Florida
to take the office of Overseer of Fl.orida, but he was so financially
impoverished that he
was unable to attend the
National Convocation of the council; He was misrepresented by a minister
of Florida, who was instead appointed as Overseer of Florida.
R. F. Williams was so broken-hearted that he resigned
all the work in Florida, but he never felt bitter in his heart towards anyone.
After this, Williams moved to Thomasville, Georgia, and by the sanctioning
of Bishop Mason, he was to take over Alabama; but he could not
borrow his fare to Alabama; so he continued to preach on the streets every day,
and the Lord restricted by ration every day to ten cents per day
with which he purchased liver and white potatoes. In the morning his family
had liver and potatoes, and gravy and potatoes for supper.
One day Williams said to himself "If the postman
leaves me a letter from Bishop Mason with some money in it, I will go to
Alabama". Sure enough, the postman stopped at his gate with a letter;
He ran to the house and opened his letter.
It was from Bishop Mason who was in Los Angeles, California. It read
Dear Sir: While praying this morning your suffering came before me.
Here is a little help of seven dollars. May the Lord bless you.
He went into the house and told his wife, whose baby was 3 weeks old,
"that the Lord had sent me my fare to Alabama". He gave an old lady $1.00 to
nurse his wife, he bought $1.25 worth of groceries, and he left Friday night
for Samson, Florida (keep in mind that the cost of living at that time
was drastically cheaper than in today's economy). He met Sis. Berry at
Dothan, Alabama; She was 95 cents short of her fare. He had $1.00, so he
bought her ticket and got on the train. The Lord moved on the heart of
some of the passengers to give him food. He arrived in Samsom
at about 2:00 PM with 5 cents. He found ministers J. M. Mainer, J. H. Thomas,
A. L. Burke, the Smith brothers, L. H. Ford, and 44 scattered members
that had dissented from the Triumph Church. They were to organize an
independent church of which J. M. Mainor was slated to be the leader.
R. F. Williams preached that night at the Methodist Church. Merchants closed
their doors and the people placed their groceries on the doorsteps and all around.
Services continued until midnight. People were outside in the trees, on top of cars
and there was no standing room inside. All were eager to hear the gospel. That
Sunday at about 2:00 P. M., the dissenting group and the Methodist Church
agreed that if the leaders would all get together, they made a motion to all
join the Church of God in Christ; so, the Church of God in Christ was born in the State
of Alabama. There was great joy in the city; People were left rejoicing on the street.
As R. F. Williams walked to the train, people followed him. He returned to
Macon, Georgia to conform the Ash Street Church of which Elder F. W. Winan
began pastoring. After his successful ministry in Georgia and Alabama,
strengthening and indoctrinating the churches, he left for Memphis. From
the Memphis Convocation, Elder J. L. Croon was appointed Overseer of Georgia,
and Dr. I. S. Stafford was appointed Overseer of Michigan.
For several years, Williams confined his activities to the State of Alabama.
He pastored and built churches in High Bluff, Dotha, Abbeville, Sapp and East
Birmingham. Among this group of churches, he presided and remained the pastor
of Abbeville and East Birmingham. In East Birmingham he bought three lots
and built a church and pastorage. The church was 40 x 63. The Abbeville church
was 36 X 55. There are three acres of land, on which there is located the
Franklin Baldwin Institute of the Church of God in Christ. Two teachers
were furnished by the state board of education to teach at the
Franklin Baldwin Institute. The Smithfield church was 43 X 82. R. F. Williams
was appointed as Overseer of Georgia in 1920, and was ordained to Bishop in 1933.
He served the state of Georgia as Overseer for 23 years. During this period,
the church grew from seven original missions to 33 churches, then to 123
churches now in Georgia. As of 2016 the numbers of churches have grown exponentially.
Williams was appointed National Chairman of the Church of God in Christ,
President of the Home and Foreign Mission Board, and Vice-President of
the Board of Education. In 1931, he was appointed Overseer of Ohio during the
Annual Convocation and took over the work in 1932. Of course,
many churches continued to join the Church of God in Christ.
The National Temple at 958 S. Fifth Street had been destroyed by fire in
Memphis, Tennessee for several years. In preparation for building the New
National Temple, which was Mason Temple, during a conference,
Bishop Mason appointed Bishop
R. F. Williams as commissioner of building for the project in 1940.
Williams secured Elder Tayor as the architech and
Elder U. E. Miller as Superintendent of Construction. He then went about
securing a budget under the supervision of Bishop Mason;
With R. F. William's professionalism and wisdom, Mason Temple was completed
in 1945. R. f. Williams was a knowledgeable, powerful and anointed man of
the cloth. He was destinied for great things.
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