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J. Paul Williams made notable contributions to the field of church music. His catalog of published lyrics exceeds 925 songs, running the gamut of sacred and secular texts. A leader of choral clinics and composer symposiums, he was also a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP).
James Paul Williams was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on December 29, 1937. He was the only child of Ferris Woodrow Williams (a taxi driver) and Violet Simonton Williams (a bank supervisor). He was a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City until he left for college. Williams admired the church’s minister of music, and he decided to pursue that career, even though he had never had a music lesson of any kind before attending college.
He entered Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in 1956, where he was selected to sing in the Bison Glee Club. He was also in an elite men’s quartet called the Fallen Angells (named for his choral director, Dr. Warren M. Angell). At OBU, he met Donna Liane Shiplet and married her on June 5, 1959; they had two children. Williams completed his voice major in the spring of 1964. During college, he worked part time at West 10th Street Baptist Church in Oklahoma City as choir director.
He began his career as a minister of music full time at Highland Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, serving from 1962 to 1966. There, he initiated a program of graded choirs. After writing music for use in his choir program for several years, he began to be published in 1963.
Williams received his master’s degree in composition and theory at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1969; during his degree program, he served part time at First Baptist Church in Quanah, Texas. After graduating from seminary, he spent two years working as a salesman for Thermacor Pipe Company before returning to church work, serving as music and youth minister at Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas. After serving that church for four years, the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to serve Calvary Baptist Church. Williams’s tenure stretched from October 1975 through May 1992, when he resigned from the church to write lyrics on a freelance basis.
He maintained his home and church affiliation in Little Rock as he wrote lyrics and oversaw choir clinics and composer symposiums, collaborating with more than sixty people who wrote the music. Williams had more than 900 published songs at the time of his death, and twenty-five more of his songs have been published posthumously.
Some of his best-known lyrics are for the songs “Who Are the Brave?,” “With Wings as Eagles,” “Creation Will Be at Peace,” “Because of Love,” “Brushstrokes,” “Goliath,” “I Am His Lamb,” “No Night There,” “Sometimes I Hear God’s Music,” “Talitha Kum!,” “Our God is God,” “Walk Worthy,” “God Made the World,” “Heroes of the Faith,” “Waterfall,” and “He Chose to Die.” His works have been published with Broadman Press, Shawnee Press, Lorenz Publishing, Alfred Publishing, Beckenhorst, Lillenas, Hal Leonard, Hope Publishing Company, Warner Bros., and Fred Bock Music Company. Most recently, two of his lyrics were set to music and included in the Celebrating Grace hymnal. The Houston Children’s Chorus has released an album of his songs.
Williams died on February 17, 2010, and is buried in Pinecrest Cemetery at Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties).
For additional information:
J. Paul Williams. http://jpaulyrics.com/ (accessed May 4, 2017).
Outstanding Young Men of America. Chicago: Outstanding Young Men of America, 1971.
Donna Liane Williams
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/4/2017
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