Passing of the Giants of the Human Spirit: Mr. C. Gerald Fraser, Mr. James Simpson, and The Honorable Apostle Edward E. Williams
February 3, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry
Mr. James Simpson
(July 16, 1926- January 11, 2016)
After graduating from Alexander Hamilton High School, Mr. James Simpson joined the United States Army. He served the famous Tuskegee Airmen as a Corporal Mechanic fixing B-14 and P-51 aircrafts. He joined our church in the early 1980s. He was a quiet man, but his loyalty and dedication were never in question. He was a part of the many marches and demonstrations which I organized, and a constant presence at our Timbuktu Learning Center.
We funeralized him at The House of the Lord Church at 415 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217 on Tuesday, January 19, 2016. In my eulogy, I said, “He has left a legacy. He has ‘put his footprints on the sands of time.’ While we mourn for him, let us be glad for the memories that we shared, and the many years that he sojourned on this valley of tears and sorrow. As a memorial to him, let us dedicate our lives to do the will of God and make the world a better place.”
The Honorable Apostle Edward E. Williams
(August 7, 1921-January 15, 2016)
The funeral for the Honorable Apostle Edward E. Williams was held on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at Calvary Cathedral of Praise in Brooklyn, NY. I first met Bishop Williams during the 1960s. He was a rare Pentecostal Bishop. He was known not only for his spiritual depth and commitment to the church but also for his activism. He participated in many demonstrations and protests even at the Poor People’s Campaign and the 1968 Sanitation Strike in Memphis, TN. He also demonstrated at the United Nations on international issues.
We shared a common parental pride. We put forth every effort to expose our children to all the people and places of our activism. We taught them our history and culture. He took his children to the March on Washington and to the funeral of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta, GA. My firstborn daughter was born on the day before the March, and, so, I missed it. However, 50 years later, she coordinated several of the major events in Washington, D.C. Of course, our children participated in the demonstrations and sit-ins. All four of my children went to jail to free South Africa and Nelson Mandela.
Our friendship deepened in Operation Breadbasket, the economic arm of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Rev. MLK, Jr. was the President. He realized that after we had won social mobility, we didn’t have the money to take advantage of the opportunities. Operation Breadbasket was organized to confront corporate America and persuade them that it was to everyone’s benefit for economic justice to prevail in the Black communities.
Rev. Dr. William Jones, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, was the Chair. I was the Executive Vice-Chair. One day, Bishop Williams said to me, “I hear you’re looking for a church.” “Yes,” I replied. “We have outgrown where we are on Pacific Street.” He said, “I hear there’s a church for sale at 415 Atlantic Avenue. Here’s the phone number of the contact person. You should check it out.”
When we made contact, we received the keys. We went inside the church, and that’s where we have been until the present day. The church was/is ideally situated for our prophetic/activist kind of ministry. The seats of power were easily accessible. The Downtown Brooklyn shopping area was nearby – which, at the time, was the 6th largest shopping district in America. The Board of Education was at 110 Livingston Street. The Borough President’s office was nearby. City Hall and Wall Street were right across the Brooklyn Bridge. Innumerable times for many reasons, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Eventually, a law was passed, or so we were told, prohibiting the use of the roadway for demonstrations.
In my remarks, I said, “We have called him, ‘Husband, father, grandfather, friend, Bishop, Apostle, and Pastor.’ He was all of these and more.
“To me, there was one name or title that was left out, but which was captured in all of your remarks. He was a Prophet. Bishop Williams was a prophet in the Biblical tradition, speaking truth to power. Surely, he cared for his people. Like a good prophet, he could foretell coming events. Preeminently, the role of a prophet was to speak truth to power, to be the voice for the voiceless, to take up the cause of those who had no power, and to stand with the poor, dispossessed, and the least of society.
“As a prophet, he was not afraid to confront the devil – the devil in the unseen world, and the devils in flesh and blood; the devils in state houses, municipal buildings, corporate officers, presidents’ residents, and king palaces. Courageously, he feared no one. Now, he’s gone.
“Marcus Garvey said, ‘Look for me in the whirlwind.’ So, we will look for Bishop Williams in the whirlwind of social change. We will look for him in the streets of Brooklyn and beyond, demonstrating and protesting for justice. We will look for him at the United Nations, crying out for peace and righteousness. We will look for him in the corridors and meetings rooms of the powerful, demanding that the poor not be forgotten. We will look for him in our churches and church gatherings. If they say, ‘Bishop Williams is dead,’ we will say, ‘He lives.’ I will miss him very much, but we will meet again one day soon.”