Elna B. Spaulding Founder’s Award Partners for Peace Celebration
Honoring Rev. Mel Williams, Durham Activist & Baptist Pastor Emeritus
“I come alive with my family as I rediscover the bond of love and laughter. I come alive in my community as I invest myself — with passion and perseverance — in advocating for economic justice, pushing to open opportunities for our neighbors to move toward economic stability.”
-Rev. Mel Williams
The Rev. Mel Williams is the coordinator of End Poverty Durham. Before his retirement, he served as pastor of Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., for 24 years. While in that role, he served as president of Durham Congregations in Action in 1991-1992. Rev. Williams was the co-founder of Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham in 1992 and led the creation of the Walltown “Neighbor to Neighbor” mission in 1995. For five years, Williams chaired the Committee on Baptist Studies at Duke University, which later became the Baptist House of Studies. He is also a founder of Peace Hill, a solidarity contemplative community that meets regularly for interfaith spiritual practice.
In 2004, he co-founded the interfaith coalition End Poverty Durham, the mission of which is to support existing anti-poverty efforts and promote other initiatives that address the underlying causes of poverty. End Poverty Durham sponsored a 2013 faith summit on Child Poverty, and is sponsoring the March 2019 Faith Summit on Racism and Child Poverty. This summit seeks to remove racialized policy barriers that impact Durham children in poverty.
Rev. Williams, a native of Aberdeen, NC, is happily married to Jan Williams, clinical social worker, founder of Healthy Families Durham and One World Market on 9th Street. He is also the proud father of daughter Jenna, MSW clinical social worker and music therapist at El Futuro, a Latino mental health center in Durham, and son Mark, a graduate of New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and opera singer (tenor) in Germany. In addition, his daughter Jenna is married to Chris Horgan, Physician’s Assistant at Lincoln Community Health. A tenor himself, Rev. Williams is a member of Bloomsbury, a folk singing group. He has sung in various local choruses, and he has been known to sing in the middle of his Sunday sermon.