Minister to the inmates mourned

St. Helena pastor dies after 15 years as part-time chaplain at the county jail

astice@islandpacket.comMarch 6, 2012 

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Nearly every day for more than 15 years, the Rev. Dr. Horace Williams Jr. walked the halls of the Beaufort County Detention Center, visiting inmates in their cells with a message of hope and healing, often delivered through his signature calling card.

Williams would hand the sealed, rainbow-stamped cards to inmates to spark a conversation about the sayings and Bible verses they contained.

That was just one of the ways the jail chaplain and long-time pastor of St. Helena's Faith Memorial Baptist Church, who died Sunday at Beaufort Memorial Hospital at 70, would try to reach people, jail director Phil Foot said.

"He'd come after-hours, show up at the hospital, just go wherever he was needed," Foot said. "He handled things not just for the inmates, but for my staff when they went through a crisis."

Williams' death has reminded jail staff members, some of whom will serve as pallbearers at his funeral Thursday, how much he helped them when they were in pain.

"I am having a hard time myself right now," Foot said.

Williams' flocks at Faith Memorial Baptist and at the county jail are among a long list of those he served, said the Rev. Sam Spain, Williams' close friend and the president of the Beaufort County Ministerial Alliance. Spain will speak at Williams' funeral.

Williams retired from teaching in the Beaufort County School District in 1996, which included a stint as principal of Battery Creek School.

Instead of taking it easy in retirement, he became a full-time pastor and part-time chaplain, served on several local boards and taught night classes for the Beaufort County Extension of the Morris College religious certificate program. He still found time to write three Christian books: "Never Give Up," "Life in a Cage" and "We Are Able."

Williams earned several degrees, including a master's from South Carolina State University and a doctorate in religious education from Bethany Theological Seminary in Alabama. But he didn't use his smarts to intimidate others, Spain said.

"He was truly a humble man," said Spain. "He had encouraging words for everyone who came in contact with him. One of his favorite sayings is, 'I love you, and you can't do anything about it. Goody, goody, goody!'"

Williams coordinated the volunteers from various ministries who visit the county jail, in addition to seeing to day-to-day spiritual needs himself.

In a 2007 article in The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette about his work as jail chaplain, Williams described his dedication to the job.

"I do my best, if I am here (when someone is being set free) to walk with that person and tell that person to try their level best not to return here," he said. "It's a totally different mindset in that you're dealing with individuals who need some in-depth love and tender care beyond that of people in the outside world."

Williams' funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Faith Memorial Baptist. He is survived by his wife, Louise Stroman Williams, a son and two grandsons.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at

Related content

  1. Building up and reaching out at St. Helena's Faith Memorial Baptist Church, Dec. 5, 2009
  2. Local man 'serves humanity,' Jan. 28, 2007

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