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Southern Nazarene University - Character Culture Christ

Dr. Roy T. Williams (1883 - 1946)

The young pastor sat in his barn, praying. The sweet odor of the hay filled his nose as he poured out his heart to God. For quite some time now Sam Holiday had asked for a revival at his church. But there was no money to pay an evangelist. Again and again, Sam took himself to the solitude of his barn and prayed to his Lord. "Father, you know I want to have revival at any cost!" he breathed into the silence. He was quite unprepared when he heard an answer loud and clear: "Well, what about selling your cow to pay the evangelist?"

"But, God, "the pastor hesitated. "That cow feeds my family with her milk and butter! How can I possibly get along without her?"

"Didn't you say revival at any cost?" the Lord gently chided.

The pastor struggled. But after a while he agreed to sell the cow, getting $25.00 out of the bargain.

At the same time, his wife prayed a similar prayer, a prayer for revival at any cost. She, too, heard the Lord's voice.

"What about selling your sewing machine to pay the evangelist?"

"But, God, you can't really... With that sewing machine I make clothing for the whole family! What would we do without it?"

"Didn't you ask for revival at any cost?"

The sewing machine sold for an additional 8 dollars, and with the 33 dollars the church could pay for an evangelist. A neighboring pastor came to hold the first meeting. After a powerful message he gave the call to come forward. One single person, a 16-year_old boy, stepped to the altar to receive the Lord. This young man was Roy Williams.

Everybody who knew him would agree that Dr. Roy T. Williams was a remarkable person. He was a great leader and a great speaker, he was good-looking, and people loved him, also outside the Church of the Nazarene. Williams was one of the first two graduates of Texas Holiness University, and in 1911 he was elected president of that very college at the age of 28. In 1916, when he was not quite 33 years old, he was elected General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, becoming the youngest general ever in the church's history (at a later General Assembly the age limit was set to at least 35). Had he been in the military, he would have been a general. Had he been in the business, he would have been a CEO.

He was a person marked for greatness, and people almost worshipped him; many highly respected him. If there was a group of preachers standing around between services at a District Assembly, laughing and talking, and Dr. Williams walked in, everyone would unconsciously straighten up their shoulders.

He was authoritative, but kind. If a church was in a crisis and needed a good strong hand to lead them, Dr. Williams was there and helped out.

From 1916 on till his death in 1946 he served as General Superintendent, the longest period any general ever served.

Roy Tilman Williams was born to Norris and Anna Williams on Valentine's Day 1883, in Milam, Texas, as the fifth child of the family. Three more children followed.

When he was just five years old, the family moved to Many, Louisiana. As a young boy, he faced hard work, but also leisure time. The school year only lasted three months during the summer, and in his free time he loved to swim and hunt. The Williams family also had their own string band, in which Roy played the violin.

Though the Williams had no religious notions during Roy's boyhood, he nevertheless attended a revival at a Baptist church when he was 16 years old. It did leave an impression on him, even though he made no move to accept Christ as Savior. Shortly later, he went to a meeting in a nearby Methodist church, mainly for two reasons: first of all, a girl was there he liked to see, and secondly, he liked to hear the Methodists shout. However, during that meeting, Roy Williams made his way to the altar to receive God into his heart. Later that week, during the same holiness revival, he went to the altar a second time to receive the blessing of entire sanctification.

Even though his family first mocked him and rejected his decision, they soon followed his example. After a while Williams felt a distinct call to preach.

After attending Fort Jesup High School for a year, he went ahead to Texas Holiness University, where he met and married his wife, Eunice Harvey, who also was a student at Peniel. On December 26, 1906, the wedding was held, and after that they were both engaged in teaching for some time.

While studying at Chicago University for graduate work, they became acquainted with the Church of the Nazarene. They liked the church's doctrine and polity very well, and so they decided to attend the General Assembly at Pilot Point in 1908. It was there that Dr. Williams was ordained by Dr. H.F. Reynolds, thus finally breaking his connection with the Methodist church.

In 1911 Dr. Williams was elected as president of Texas Holiness University. During his two-year presidency he changed the name to Peniel University, which was later changed to Peniel College by Dr. Chapman. In 1913, Williams resigned from the presidency to pursue a life as an evangelist, where he stayed until his election for General Superintendent in 1916.

Only shortly after the General Assembly in 1915 both General Superintendents Bresee and Wilson died. Ballots were send out, and with a great majority Dr. Williams and Dr. Goodwin were elected. Even though Williams did not see himself fit for the job and wanted to reject, he finally accepted it as God's will and agreed.

On October 21, 1945, Dr. R.T. Williams was scheduled to speak in Columbus, Georgia. However, when he got up that morning he found he was quite ill, and above all, he was unable to speak. The pastor of the church, then, took him to hospital.

Dr. Williams had a special cabin in the Ozark Mountains in Southern Missouri. That is where he desired to be taken when he was finally able to travel again. Only a few days after he arrived at the cabin, on March 25, 1946, Dr. Roy Tilman Williams passed away.

Dorli Gschwandtner

Our Nazarene Heritage
Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university - a service of the Church of the Nazarene. Located on a 40-acre campus just west of Oklahoma City, SNU grew out of several small colleges committed to educating people for lives of service to God, leadership, and reconciliation toward their neighbors and within the global community. More than 32,000 alumni work and serve throughout the United States and the world. Read About Our Heritage

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