Seven decades of singing

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 9:09 PM CST
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He has a big voice and a heart to match. Josephus Williams, Jr. has been sharing his musical gift in Bay County for decades.

“I started singing when I was 8 years old,” said Williams. “I studied voice in South Bend Indiana from Miss Ann Devine. She taught at Indiana University.”

Williams has led a most interesting life. His powerful operatic voice has taken him to some interesting places.

“I’ve sung for 8 presidents,” said Williams.

Presidents aren’t the only ones who’ve been graced by his infectious personality and booming set of pipes.

His house is like a museum of who’s who. “Lady Di she was a gorgeous woman, said Williams. She was so sweet I loved her. She gave me 12 roses.” In everything from music. “First I was working for Mahalia Jackson,” said Williams. “Dianne Carroll, that’s me with Frankie Avalon, Charlie Daniels loved my mama.” To politics. “I sang for Reagan, both of the Bushes and I sang for Governor Bush too,” said Williams. “I didn’t get to sing for Obama. I sure wanted to.”

It doesn’t matter what political party or race Williams only sees people.

“I love people. I’m a people person,” said Williams. “Because my mother always taught me to be that way. She said Jr. she always called me Jr. You never get too big to speak to people.”

His love for his mother is what brought Williams from Chicago to Panama City.

“When I was retiring in Chicago from the police force she asked if I would come to take care of her, I told her I would,” said Williams.

His mother had started to go blind in her late thirties. “She was a seamstress. She made clothes for everybody in Panama City,” said Williams.

For the past couple of decades, he’s taken care of his mother taking her with him where ever he was invited to sing.”

“I love my mama I sure miss her,” said Williams.

His mother passed away in January. But he gives her the credit for his success.

“The first song I ever sung was the bluebird song. My mother taught me the bluebird song,” said Williams. “She made us learn Spanish. She said you know English so you don’t need to learn that you need to learn another language. That’s why I speak 8 languages.”

But it was his time in Chicago that led to him singing for presidents.

“I was working for the fire department. I was washing the fire truck and the secret service was sweeping because the president was coming to Chicago,” said Williams. “I was washing the fire truck and I was singing Caro mia ben. Agent Theo. I’ll never forget his name. He says Josephus, I said yes sir. Would you like to sing for President Reagan? I said. say that again sir.”

The secret service agent sent him to the 10th floor of the Hyatt Regency to audition.

“I started singing the National Anthem and all the people down on the 1st floor heard me and started clapping. That’s how I started,” said Williams.

At the age of 77, he has no plans to stop because he has a song in his heart.

Some other stories he shared include a marble tub he said Tina Turner sent him from France and he has a driver’s license given to him and signed by Elvis Presley.

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