Reverend Reuben Erskine Williams

Senior Pastor (1961-2002)

Reverend Williams was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. While being educated in the public schools
of Norfolk, Virginia, he held typical jobs that were available. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School of that city.
At the age of thirteen, Reverend Williams confessed his belief in Christ, and from time to time worked faithfully in the pastorates of his father, the late Reverend Jimmerson R. Williams. He served in many capacities at the Calvary Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later at the Trinity Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia.
Following his graduation from high school, Reverend Williams entered the Maritime Service. His first assignment was aboard the S.S. Booker T. Washington, under the command of the first Negro captain of the Maritime Service, Captain Hugh Mulzac. After two years, he left the Maritime Service to enter Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia with the thought of becoming a doctor. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in June 1950, with a major in biology.
Reverend Williams returned to the Maritime Service, and this time remained for one year. Again, he resigned and returned to Norfolk, Virginia where he opened and operated his own business, Reuben’s Cleaners.
He was inducted into the United States Army on January 25, 1952. As a Counter Intelligence Agent with the Counter Intelligence Corps, he was stationed most of his four years in Norfolk, Virginia. He was honorably discharged from the army, as a sergeant. Upon discharge from the army, he worked for the United States Post Office, while still operating his own business.
Shortly after the death of his father, Reverend Williams “accepted the call from God to preach the gospel.” He evaluates it by repeating Isaiah 6:1 and 8, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, saying:”Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then said I, “Here am I! Send me.”
In June 1957, Reverend Williams was licensed to preach by Trinity Baptist Church, Norfolk, Virginia which was founded by his father. He resigned from the United States Post Office, closed his businesses and in September 1957, he entered the School of Religion, Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia. This time, his thoughts were to prepare for the ministry.
Reverend Williams was called to pastor Trinity Baptist Church in November 1957. He was ordained in January 1958 and installed as pastor shortly afterwards. He pastured this church while completing his religious training in Richmond, Virginia.
In June 1960, the Reverend Mr. Williams received his Masters of Theology degree, with honors from the School of Religion, Virginia Union University in Richmond Virginia. In September 1960,
he resigned the pastorate of Trinity Baptist Church in Norfolk to continue training in the field of chaplaincy, serving as a chaplain intern, Hospital Division, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
Through the School of Religion at Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia, Reverend Williams accepted an invitation to be the Sunday morning guest speaker for Messiah Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut on November 27, 1960. He was extended a second invitation for December 25, 1960 and a third one for January 1, 1961. On January 17, 1961, this church unanimously elected him pastor of its congregation.
Reverend Williams accepted the call to pastor Messiah Baptist Church; however, he continued his training in Richmond, Virginia and traveled to Bridgeport on weekends for approximately four months. He was installed as pastor June 25, 1961.
Reverend Williams met Catherine Sneed of Durham, North Carolina who had recently moved to Bridgeport. They were united in marriage in Messiah Baptist Church on June 30, 1962. They were blessed later with a daughter.
Shortly after coming to Bridgeport, Reverend Williams became involved in religious and civic organizations on the local, state and national level. In May 1963, he traveled to Birmingham, Alabama along with ten area pastors in support of the civil rights struggle there. He was one of the organizers and participants with the local group that traveled to Washington, D.C. for the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
Reverend Williams served as Vice-President of the Council of Churches’ Evangelism and Worship Department, President of the local Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and Vice-President of Hall Neighborhood House Inc. and the Greater Bridgeport National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was President of the Connecticut Baptist Missionary Convention. The organization was comprised of 63 black Baptist churches throughout the state. He was Vice-President of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc. and the New England Baptist Convention.
He has served on the boards of director of the following: Hall Neighborhood House, Inc, Action for Bridgeport Community Development, Goodwill Industries and Opportunities, Industrialization Center, Inc., United Way of Fairfield County, Family Services of Fairfield County, Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center of Easter Fairfield County and advisor to the pacesetters.
He has also worked through the political system to help numerous minorities obtain important positions. He initiated the formation of the Minority Agenda Political Action Committee that addressed concerns of the minority community. He served as commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, State of Connecticut; and a two year elected term on the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.
In 1983, he was appointed to fill an un-expired commissioner’s term on the Zoning Commission, City of Bridgeport. He was appointed to a five year term on the commission in December 1985. He served as its chairman for three years.
He also served as Secretary and Vice-President of the Hampton’s Ministers Conference.
Reverend Williams was the “Pastor of Pastors” in the Bridgeport Community; and a humanitarian. He served for 40 plus years as Pastor of Messiah Baptist Church. He retired, but continued to do what the Lord would have him to do in the community and he served as a resource bank to others. He was bestowed the title of “Pastor Emeritus”. After retirement, he and his wife, Cathy, moved to Matthews, North Carolina.
Reverend Williams, at age 79, went home to Glory on Saturday, August 19, 2006 in Presbyterian Hospital in Matthews, North Carolina leaving to cherish his memories and love, his lovely wife, Catherine S. Williams; daughter Roslyn C. Hill; son-in-law, Richard Hill; grandsons, Christian and Zachary Hill of Charlotte, North Carolina; and other relatives and friends, along with this church family and this community.
His funeral service was held Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 12:00 noon at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3301 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, North Carolina with Pastor Dr. Clifford A. Jones, III officiating. The wake was 10:00 am until time for service. Interment was in Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery in Matthews, North Carolina.
Pastor Tyrone P. Jones, IV along with members of the Messiah Baptist Church traveled by a chartered bus, van and cars to attend the funeral service and be with the Williams family. They were joined by former members of Messiah, Pastors and Clergy, community leaders and friends who had traveled from different states to Bridgeport, Connecticut to be with the Messiah Baptist Church Family. They were joined by State and City officials, Pastors and Clergy, community leaders, friends, and people who just wanted to pay tribute to a man who had touched their lives, while he served here in the Bridgeport community, the State of Connecticut, surrounding areas and even in foreign lands.