Reverend Cecil Williams, Leader of Glide Memorial Church, Dies at 94

The Reverend Cecil Williams, the longtime pastor of a San Francisco church that became famous worldwide as a refuge for the city’s poor and oppressed, has passed away at the age of 94.

He is most recognized for the six decades he spent overseeing community outreach programs at Glide Memorial Church in the city’s Tenderloin, where he helped hundreds of thousands of low-income people.

Williams was born and brought up in the segregated town of San Angelo in West Texas. In 1963, he relocated to San Francisco to serve as pastor at his renowned house of worship in the heart of the city’s primarily impoverished Tenderloin district. 

In partnership with poet Janice Mirikitani, he turned Glide Memorial Church into a sanctuary for the city’s LGBTQ+ population, as well as people battling substance abuse and homelessness. Mirikitani passed away in 2021 at the age of 80.

Even after he stepped down as pastor in 2000, Glide’s decades-long mission to feed the hungry and homeless persisted through its day-to-day assistance programs, which honored people’s inherent worth and dignity, no matter their station in life.

Glide’s enormous Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts were available to anybody who requested or needed one.

According to Glide’s statement, Williams passed away on Monday at his San Francisco home with his loved ones at his side. No reason for death was specified.

Williams attracted the interest of politicians, celebrities, and businesspeople for his work on social justice and civil rights issues. One of these was Warren Buffet, who helped Williams generate funds for the church for many years by auctioning off a private lunch with the hedge fund manager.

The Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Will Smith and based on the true story of a homeless father and son who had previously sought refuge at Glide, featured Williams and Mirikitani. Williams’s primary concern has permanently been alleviating poverty.

Williams and Mirikitani revolutionized the church by adding a jazz band and a gospel choir to Sunday services. With 10,000 souls baptized, the church surpassed all others in northern California and was among the nation’s most significant.

From LGBT rights to homelessness to drug addiction, Williams never shied away from political and social topics.