Reverend Martin Nicholas Williams was the only child born to Helen Viser Williams and Raymond Williams. He entered this world on Feb. 20, 1932, in Browns Chapel, Texas. After surviving conditions doctors found miraculous for a man of his advanced years, he quietly slipped away on his own terms Monday, April 3, 2023. He attended J.A. Greene School in Schulenberg, Texas, then graduated with a BS and MS in Agricultural Education and a certification in guidance and counseling from Prairie View A&M University. He faithfully served at St. Paul United Methodist Church (UMC) in various capacities, including becoming a lay leader, a lay speaker, and eventually the interim pastor.
After serving as interim pastor at St. Paul, he served as senior pastor at Wesley Chapel UMC in Altair, Wesley Chapel UMC in El Campo, Scruggs Chapel UMC in Edna, and Oakman UMC in Ganado. In his final years in the ministry, he returned to his hometown of Schulenberg, Texas, to pastor at Steven’s Chapel UMC. The churches were in the Cross Roads District and what is currently known as the Rio Grande Conference. During this period of his life, Martin decided to pursue a PhD in Theology at the Perkins Institute of Theology at Southern Methodist University. After successfully completing all but his last semester before graduation, he decided that, at age 70, he would “let the younger folks have it.” In line with this train of thought, he mentored and brought five new ministers to the conference, one of which was his wife, Pastor Willie Mae Axel Williams.
Rev. Williams was a quiet man with a subtle but great sense of humor. He had a dedication to education, a strong sense of family, a spirit of service, unlimited compassion, and the ability to quietly talk you through any situation. His unwavering commitment to these principles was demonstrated throughout his lifetime through his military service; 30 years as an educator; 22 years on the Columbus city council; 15 years as a minister, a volunteer ambulance driver, and his service on too many committees to count. He was also a mason, but those are just titles. His true essence showed through when he was helping people, his beloved family, friends, and the community. Over the years, he worked with hundreds of students and people in the community to ensure they had educational opportunities if they wanted to go to college, and sometimes even if they didn’t. He always spoke up for what was right, even when it was unpopular. The recurring theme in relation to Reverend Williams was his spirit of service. Spirit of service is defined as a complete dedication and commitment to duties carried out with love, sympathy, and empathy. Reverend Martin Williams was the embodiment of this term.
There is another word that is strongly associated with him: The Farm. His absolute favorite place to go and relax - was his farm in Browns Chapel. Any and everyone who knew him knew about the farm. Every member of his family and a huge number of his friends have been in service there doing something, even if it was digging holes, fixing fences, or hauling hay. All his children learned to drive in that safe environment, and all his family and friends experienced the joys of his beloved farm.
In 1958, he married Rose Mary Griggs, who preceded him in death in 1983. He is also preceded in death by his son, Martin Williams Jr. and three cousins who were more like siblings: Betty Jo Viser Kellum, Maxine Viser Jackson, JR Viser; two grandsons, Donald Ray Jackson Jr. and Terrence Speed; and daughter-in-law Elva Jackson and godson Curtis Griggs Jr.
He is survived by his loving wife of 37 years, Pastor Willie Mae Axel Williams. His children Donald Ray Jackson, Sheila Marie Williams, Katherine Nichole Williams, Raylon Nicholas Williams; grandchildren Dr. Donna Horton (Jay), Kathy Houston (Ray), Nikita Glass (Emmitt), Cekedra Howard, Martin Jamar Williams, and Noah James Dawson; thirteen great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren. Sisters: Barbara Burford, Thelma Axel, Sharonda Axel, and Donna Sue Jenkins; goddaughters Mary Greene (Connell), Josslyn Todd (Matt), JaMya Wright, Sharon Thomas, and godsons Craig Griggs (Hattie) and JaVonte Gaddis, along with numerous nieces and nephews who he loved and supported in all their endeavors.
Services were held Saturday, April 8, 2023, at 11 a.m. at the Columbus High School Auditorium. Rev. James Bryant officiated, and Rev. Dr. Marcus Freeman gave the eulogy.
Burial is at Willing Workers Cemetery in Columbus, Texas.