Rev. Cecil Williams, longtime leader of Glide Memorial Church, dies at 94

rev.-cecil-williams, Rev. Cecil Williams, longtime leader of Glide Memorial Church, dies at 94, Local News & Views News & Views
“Growing up, there were members of the African-American community who inspired us to dream and to serve, and Cecil Williams was at the top of that list,” says Mayor London Breed. – Photo: Glide Memorial Church

by Robbie Jackson

On Monday, April 22, San Francisco lost one of its strongest soldiers. Rev. Cecil Williams was known for many things. He was a champion of the people and the pastor who ushered Glide Memorial Church into the place of worship we know it as today. Three years after the passing of his wife, Williams at 94 years old leaves a legacy of inclusiveness and love as the city mourns the passing of the social justice giant. Last year, Williams announced he was formally stepping down. Rev. Williams retired several years ago, but remained an active member with Glide until the very end.

The Rev. Jim Mitulski, former senior pastor at the old Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco, recalled working with Williams, saying: “I worked with both Rev. Cecil Williams and with his wife and partner in ministry, the poet Jan Mirikitani, for many years, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s … These were important years in LGBT and in HIV/AIDS liberation. Through his work on the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which he and others at Glide Church helped pioneer in the 1960s, he modeled an intersectional approach to social change and the collaborative approach to community work.” Mitulski added “On a very personal level, he was always kind to me and always had time to give me advice, even when we didn’t agree,”

Mayor London Breed issued a statement on Rev. Williams’ passing, stating: “Rev. Cecil Williams was the conscience of our San Francisco community … He spoke out against injustice and he spoke for the marginalized. Cecil and Jan showed how supportive housing, wraparound programs and love can uplift troubled communities and create dignity, hope and opportunity. … 

“He led with compassion and wisdom, always putting the people first and never relenting in his pursuit of justice and equality. His kindness brought people together and his vision changed our city and the world … What he created at Glide Memorial Church, along with his partner Janice Mirikitani, saved and transformed countless lives … Their impact will never be matched.” 

“As a young girl, I would never have dreamed I’d grow up to work with him,” Breed added. “We all benefited from his guidance, his support, and his moral compass. We would not be who we are as a city and a people without the legendary Cecil Williams.” Glide says they will allow people to gather at their church, located on Ellis and Taylor streets, to mourn and remember the Reverend.

Robbie Jackson is a senior journalist with a focus on Black lives, Black love and Black joy and a graduate of the San Francisco Bay View’s Community Journalism Class. Contact: .