Jake Williams was born October 17, 1886 to John Rhoderick Williams, Sr. and Tarley Ann Tyson Williams. He was the sixth of eight children. His parents were Baptists and his father was a Baptist preacher. Jake remembers that his father prayed for two of his sons to be preachers. When Jake was only seven years old, his mother died. Fourteen months later, his father also died, leaving all the children orphaned. While on their death beds, both parents asked their children to meet them in heaven. Some of the oldest children took in some of the youngest children to raise and the others were raised by other family members. Jake did not get along well. He was shuffled from home to home and was told he was the meanest boy in the family. In his autobiography, titled, “The Life and Way to Heaven” Jake recounted a bleak childhood. After the death of his parents, he felt he no longer had any one to pity him or love him. He remembers working hard for the men he lived with but only received one pair of shoes each year just before Christmas. Many cold frosty nights, he spent on the ground.
At twelve years old, Jake hired himself out to a wealthy old man for three dollars a month. During that time, the conditions were so discouraging for him, that he often considered taking his own life. After eight months, he left and went from home to home and soon took up gambling. During these years, he would work during the summer and save up enough money to pay for board to go to school in the winter. He tried his hand at various occupations, working for a farmer, a fisherman, a carpenter, a merchant, a brick mason, a butcher, a book keeper and finally a preacher. It was when he met the preacher, that he also met the woman that would become his wife. At 18, he was married, his life improved. Two years later, he took a walk in the woods and sensed the Spirit of God meet him to say he was coming for the last time. Jake recalled, “Then I fell on my knees and surrendered with tears running down my cheeks.” Afterwards, he prayed and fasted for ten days, recalling every mean thing he had done in his life. He felt that either Jesus had changed him completely or that the world itself had drastically changed.
One week after Jake was saved, he was sanctified. On the following Thursday, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and on Friday, he came home and invited all of his neighbors to a prayer meeting at his house. No one around there had ever done anything like that before and they didn’t quite know how to handle it. The neighbors asked him who would preach and so he told them to come and see. Jake remembered, “I opened my Bible to preach that night at about eight o’clock. I never knew what I said, but I preached all night. The services went on until Sunday P.M. I do not know how many were saved and sanctified, but there were seventeen that received the Holy Ghost.” What an intense start to ministry. No wonder he is so legendary.
Similarly, on his death bed, he sat up and began to preach, blind and with no Bible. For four hours he preached, turning the pages of an imaginary Bible and led everyone present through the 5 cardinal doctrines. He passed away soon after.
[Editor's Comment: Dr. Vinson Synan called my attention to a great find in the Archives Department in North Carolina by Karen Lucas. Dr. Synan wrote, "J. B. Williams first and last sermons were legendary. Give Karen Lucas credit. She is the excellent Archivist of the NC Conference." Karen is engaged in a master's degree program at Campbell University. She is to be commended for making the time to write this great historic article about J. B. Williams, the father of the late Bishop J. Floyd Williams, a former General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. I had the privilege to get to know Bishop J.Floyd Williams when I was president of Southwestern College, now Southwestern Christian University. After he left the office of general superintendent we remained friends when he moved back to North Carolina.. Every year at Harvest Train we would meet and dine together for the Thanksgiving Luncheon provided by Falcon Children's' Home.
Bishop J. Floyd Williams' father, J. B. Williams was born October 17, 1886, and my father, Hugh Henry Morgan was born December 12, 1884 in Denison, TX. Six years later Dwight David Eisenhower was born October 14, 1890, and died at the age of 78. My father lived to be 94. In the providence of God I became my father's pastor when I was called to be the senior pastor of Good Shepherd Pentecostal Holiness in Birmingham, AL, formerly the First Pentecostal Holiness Church. That happened soon after I resigned as president of Southwestern College. I was present when my father died of pneumonia in a hospital in Birmingham.
Bishop J. Floyd Williams was an orator, and a great preacher. He was brilliant. I believe he had a photographic memory. He was superb in presiding over General Conferences. I remember how he loved great choirs. He invited Lonnie Rex to lead the great General Conference choirs and orchestras; and Karl Bunkley invited Lonnie Rex to lead the choir and orchestra for our General Sunday School Conventions. We sang what our people wanted--the Great Hymns and Gospel Songs we love to sing.]