Charles Williams ’54

Charles Williams ’54, 78, of Burlington, N.C., died May 24 at his home. A native of Halifax County, N.C., Williams was born on July 1, 1931, to Rosa A. and Carey A. Williams, who preceded him in death. He grew up in Rocky Mount, N.C. Williams is survived by his wife, Nancy Lavender Irwin Williams, 505 Edgewood Ct., Burlington, NC 27215; his two daughters, Nancy Anne Williams (Bryan Pennington) and Mary Katherine Williams (Marc Dreyfors); his two sisters, Elise Williams Blackwell (Bill) and Ellen Williams White; and many nieces and nephews. Williams received his undergraduate degree from Davidson and his master of theology degree from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va. While a student at Davidson, he served as moderator of the N.C. Synod of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) youth group and also as moderator of the general assembly for youth groups of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree from King College, Bristol, Tenn., and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Elon College (University). Williams served pastorates at Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church and Baker Memorial Church in Mt. Olive, N.C.; Westminster Presbyterian Church in Durham, N.C., where he served as the organizing pastor; First Presbyterian Church, Bristol, Tenn.; and came to Burlington in 1980 as senior pastor and head of staff of the First Presbyterian Church. He served on the board of the William Black Home in Montreat, N.C., president of the board of directors of the alumni association at Union Theological Seminary and board of trustees at Union Theological Seminary, Davidson College, and Barium Springs Home for Children, Barium Springs, N.C. Williams believed strongly in volunteer work, in giving something back to a community in which you live, and earning your living. He, with other members of the Downtown Ministers Association, envisioned and started Allied Churches Food Kitchen and Shelter, Alamance Cares, and Habitat for Humanity. Williams played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement in Durham in the 1960s, believing all of God’s children are created equal. He also believed women had a right to be ordained in ministry. He had the first woman pastor on his staff to serve in a downtown church in Burlington. He also had a woman pastor on staff at First Presbyterian Church in Bristol. He became active in the Burlington community and served for many years as chaplain of the United Way. He was on the board of the Burlington chapter of the Red Cross, Allied Churches, Alamance Human Relations Committee, Downtown Ministers’ Association, CROP Walk, Alamance Cares, and Presbyterian Local Ministries. Williams also helped in organizing the local Habitat for Humanity ministry. He and Mrs. Williams were honored by the First Presbyterian Church by naming a Habitat for Humanity home for them and creating an ongoing Habitat fund in their names at the First Presbyterian Church. At his retirement the chapel at the church was named the Charles Williams Chapel. Williams served on several committees of the newly-formed Salem Presbytery. Locally he participated in the ARMC chaplain’s program, Lenten services in downtown churches, an ecumenical outdoor Palm Sunday service with the Blessed Sacrament congregation, and Boy Scout Troop 17 Eagle Award ceremonies and graduation services at area high schools. He extended an invitation to Hospice of Alamance for office space when the agency began their service in this county. The local Meals on Wheels program was also housed at the church while Williams served as pastor. While serving with the First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, he worked with the capital projects committee in the late ’80s to enlarge parking and renovate office space, Calvin Hall, the sanctuary, the John Knox Room, the library, and the children’s area. A sacristy was created, as well as two elevators, a new entrance, and office space. He loved teaching children and developed the “Children in Worship Too,” which included weekly worship services and a weekday playschool.