Dr. James Arthur Williams was a native of Columbia, South Carolina. He was born May 9, 1939 to the late George and Ophelia Taylor Williams. He was the youngest of five children.
He was educated in the Columbia, South Carolina Public Schools, Allen University, The University of Illinois, Columbia University and The Ohio State University. In 2003, Alma College honored him with the Doctor of Letters degree. During the summer of 1974, he spent six weeks in Poland studying Polish music and culture as a member of a select team of 18 Alabama college professors. He has served as guest conductor to numerous choral groups and frequently served as an adjudicator for District and State Music Festivals. He served as guest conductor of Alma College Choir. In 1992, he was guest conductor of the Tuscaloosa Festival Orchestra with Della Reese as soloist. In 1994, Alabama Public Television produced a documentary on him entitled “Lift Every Voice”.
Dr. Williams has taught in the Columbia, South Carolina Public Schools, Morris College, Urbana University and the University of Dayton. For 25 years, he was Chairman of the Fine Arts Department and Conductor of the internationally acclaimed choir at Stillman College. He served as Adjunct Professor of Voice at the University of Dayton, Professor of Music and Worship at Payne Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary In 1994, he became a Professor of Music and Choral Director at Wilberforce University. The Wilberforce University Choir appeared on “The Today Show” with Bryant Gumbel and recorded with the famous Ray Charles. In 1999, the choir was invited to tour Egypt for ten days during Black History Month. This tour was such a success that the U.S. Ambassador invited the choir to return for an encore performance on July 4 at the Cairo Opera House.
In 1994, the State of South Carolina awarded him it’s highest award, “ THE ORDER OF THE PALMETTO”. His arrangement of “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” has been orchestrated and performed by the Central State University Chorus with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, The Cincinnati May Festival Orchestra and the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. His numerous recordings include “God, Me, and Daddy”, a collection of sacred songs with his daughter, Dr. Melody J. Williams.
Dr. Williams has been a church organist since the age of 12 and served churches in South Carolina, New York City, Illinois, Alabama and Ohio. He is a member of McKinley United Methodist Church and associate member of First Baptist Church of Dayton. He served as Minister of Music at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Columbia South Carolina, Sidney Parks CME Church, Columbia, South Carolina, College Hill Church, Dayton, Ohio and Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Dayton, Ohio, Bailey Tabernacle CME Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; McKinley United Methodist Church, Dayton, Ohio and Central Chapel AME Church, Yellow Spring, Ohio.
He was Director of Music for the 1986 General Conference of the C.M.E. Church, Director of Music for the 1976 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUS) and served as Chairman of the Hymnal Commission of the C.M.E. Church.
He was a primary consultant for “Every Voice and Sing’, a five-part PBS documentary that chronicles the birth and rise of Black College Choirs. He was Adjudication Coordinator and Chief Adjudicator for the “Black College Choir Expositions” in Las Vegas, Nevada for 5 years.
He holds membership in the National Association of Negro Musicians, the American Guild of Organists, the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), and, he is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
He is survived by his sweetheart, Dorothy Bostic Williams.; three children- Angela, Melody and James; foster son- William Henry Caldwell; his pride and joy, grandson- Salih; sister- Cornelia Fair and a host of relatives.
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Allen Univ-Div of Inst Adv/James Arthur Williams & Dorothy Bostic-Williams Scholarship for Music
1530 Harden Street, Columbia SC 29204