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Gregory L. Williams (affectionately known as ‘Greg’) was born, on April 4, 1956, at Mercy Hospital in Benton Harbor, Michigan; to the union of Thelma Jean and Oscar Lee Williams. Gregory was a born musician, with big hopes and dreams. He accepted Christ at 7 years old at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, under the leadership of the Bishop W.E. Ellis. At Pilgrim Rest, Gregory was a musician, he played the Bass Guitar, he sang and played for the Angelic Choir, the Inspirational Choir and Band, Flames of Soul, and the Senior Choir. Gregory was a very committed member of Pilgrim Rest and served under three pastors: Bishop W.E. Ellis, Rev. Ellis Hull and Rev. Emery Mack Varrie. Gregory began singing at 8 years old in the church choir and with the “Sons of the Sensational Six” which included: Larry and Gilbert Hamilton, Pete Gilmore Jr. Gerald Steverson. He taught himself how to play the bass guitar at the age of 14 years old. Greg also played the keyboard, drums, upright Bass and was a vocalist. Gregory was known for his music and love of others. As his love for music and music ability grew, Greg became an in-demand musician. He played the bass and lead guitar for the following churches in Southwestern Michigan: Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Second Baptist, St. Mark Baptist Church, New Paradise Baptist Church, and Hopewell Baptist Church. He also played and participated in several local concerts as part of various bands in and around the Southwest Michigan Area. During his time in Benton Harbor, Greg also played with various bands, one of which was named Moon Rise, the Gospel Construction, the Benton Harbor Community Choir, and the Southwestern Michigan and Great Lakes Chapter Choirs of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. He worked with many youth groups and has written music of his own.
Greg was a 1974 graduate of Benton Harbor High School where he played in the Jazz Band, and he was in the Madrigals.
He attended and graduated from Lake Michigan College (LMC) where he received an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts in 1977. While a student at LMC, Greg was a member of the Jazz Ensemble and he represented the college in a Jazz festival at Aquinas College and won 1st place in 1977. Greg has studied with various musicians such as Gene Barks, Barbara Bowings and Dr. Don Moley; all at Lake Michigan College. He also studied with the Larry Hudson Jazz Quartet and Bobby Davison on the Tonight Show.
Greg then went on to attend Western Michigan University (WMU). At WMU, Greg was a part of the Jazz Ensemble, the Day and Night Band, and various off-campus bands in 1978 and 1979. Greg also attended VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois in 1980, there he studied Music Theory. In 2005, Greg completed a Computer Science Certification program at Eastern Michigan University.
Greg’s hobbies included: playing Chess, tennis, repairing electronic equipment, and meeting all types of people.
In 1979, he attended the Montradamn Jazz Festival and in 1980 he went on a tour in Boston, Massachusetts, playing for various groups throughout the city. Greg also studied at the Berkeley School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, the Collective School of Music, and The Julliard School, both in New York, New York.
Greg was a member of the Wolverine State Convention, and in 1976, he participated in an album with Charles Nicks, one of the founders of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. Greg was also a Professor of Bass Guitar with the Gospel Music Workshop of America for several years. Greg along with Charles Wingate wrote and published a book on how to play the bass guitar in the Black church. He appeared on local television in the early 1980’s on the Channel 3’s Accent Show in 1977, he also opened up for James Brown. Greg also wrote commercials and jingles for local radio stations in the Southwestern Michigan area.
Greg always stated that his source of motivation was his father. His favorite saying/quote was “Live each day to the fullest, but always plan for tomorrow, for tomorrow is not promised to you,” and “always set your goals high for there is a reward in the end.”
Gregory received countless awards and accolades while serving the Benton Harbor community. These included his annual participation in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration for 34 years.
He leaves to cherish his memory, his loving mother, Thelma Jean (Calvin) Williams (Benton Harbor, Michigan), sister Tasha L. Williams (Detroit, Michigan); Uncle Thomas Smith of Ontario, California Special cousins: Willie Williams and Lynn Smith of Albuquerque, New Mexico and Dana Parker of Austin, Texas. God children: Skyla Brown, Malajiah Reevey, Mariyah Brown, Coreyion Miles. God Sisters: Marilyn Jones (Mishawaka, Indiana) and Ana Marie Brown (Benton Harbor, Michigan) God Brother: Ronnie London (New Orleans, Louisiana), Carl Brown (Slidell, Louisiana), Jeffrey Brown (Jonesboro, Georgia), Robin Lee Finch (Benton Harbor, Michigan) and many other members of the Benton Harbor High School Class of 1974.
Gregory was preceded in death by: Sam and Truelove London (Godparents), Rosalyn London (God sister) Samuel Williams (uncle), Bessie Smith (aunt), Susie Boyd (aunt), Maggie Williams (aunt), Gloria and Willie T. Greene (Great-Aunt and Uncle), Richmond and Danny Larry (Great-Aunt and Uncle), Illinois and Louis Calvin Jr., (Maternal Grandparents), Sam and Annie Williams (paternal Grandparents), Grayling L. Williams (brother) and his father Oscar L. Williams.