JOHN NEWMAN WILLIAMS
APRIL 12, 1949 – SEPTEMBER 18, 2011
John Newman Williams was born in Amite, Louisiana and grew up on Hog Branch between Montpelier and Pine Grove. His parents, Pat and Glady, were dairy farmers and John’s years on the farm shaped his life in profound ways. From his father, John learned hard work, responsibility, and independence. From his mother, he learned patience, kindness, and theology. They were his models for partnership in marriage and work. As John reached his teenage years, Rev. Ted Smith asked him to lead the morning worship service in the Montpelier Methodist Church. This was his first invitation to worship leadership and the beginning of his understanding of his call to ministry.
John graduated as Valedictorian from Pine Grove High School and then attended Southeastern Louisiana University. During his college years he was active in the theater department and the Wesley Foundation. His leadership at the Wesley Foundation included serving on Deputation Teams, which went to area churches to lead worship services, and as the President of the Wesley. All these activities were negotiated around his travel home on weekends to work on the family farm. John graduated from Southeastern in 1971 with a degree in Speech Education and a minor in English, with plans to teach high school.
However, those plans changed during that summer when he served as the summer youth intern and pastoral assistant First UMC, Houma with Rev. Jerome Cain. Rev. Cain encouraged John to go to seminary and helped him apply to Perkins School of Theology at SMU. John was accepted and began his studies at Perkins in the fall of 1971, and it was there that John met his future wife, Marie Helen Palmer. John and Marie married December 30, 1972, and they graduated from Perkins in May 1975. Their marriage and ministry broke new ground as an ordained clergy couple in the Louisiana Conference.
John was ordained as a Deacon in the Louisiana Conference in June 1972 and as an Elder in June 1976. For 38 years John served churches throughout Louisiana until he was forced by illness to take disability in 2010. His appointments included: Broadmoor, Baton Rouge; Vinton; Logansport–Bethel; Caddo Heights–Keithville; Cedar Grove; Wynn; Luling; St. Andrew’s, Baton Rouge; First, DeRidder; Mt. Zion, Calhoun and Aldersgate, Slidell.
John’s years of service to the Louisiana Conference included two eight-year terms on the Board of Ordained Ministry, and he served the last four years of his tenure as Chair of that Board. He also served for eight years on the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, chairing it for four years as well. John’s love of and commitment to youth was seen in his many years of service working with the Conference Youth, serving on DCYM and CCYM and as Spiritual Advisor for The Louisiana United Methodist Happening.
Throughout his years of ministry John was known for his kindness and his gentle spirit. He loved the people in the congregations he served, and they in turn loved him. He loved his three children, James Newman, Sarah Palmer and Jared Roland, with all his heart and was a wonderful father and mentor. As a husband and partner he shared equally in household and family responsibilities and along with Marie made the “family business” of ministry a joy to share in.
John’s love of life emanated from his deep faith in God and was a blessing to those with whom he worked and lived. It can be said that he was truly a man of God.