Aretha Franklin herself picked Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. to deliver the eulogy at her funeral on Aug. 31, and for good reason. Find out why!
Only the best should be chosen to commemorate someone with as grand a title as “The Queen of Soul.” That’s why Aretha Franklin selected Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., 75, for the honor before passing away on Aug. 16 at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer. The revered pastor will deliver the deceased queen’s eulogy at her funeral in the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan on Aug. 31. He will be closing out the final hour of her life celebration, right before a final musical tribute by Stevie Wonder, 68, and the recessional. Learn why this pastor, who has a surprising connection to Aretha, was picked for the job!
1. Rev. Jasper has a jaw-dropping number of church followers. He is the Senior Pastor of Salem Bible Church, with two locations in Georgia: Atlanta and Lithonia. The locations combined boast a whopping 10,000 members, the church reported in 2017. The pastor also has two honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees.
2. The pastor grew up with Aretha! His family and Aretha’s were very close. His brother, uncle and Aretha’s father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, all came from the state of Mississippi, the pastor shared during an Aug. 28 interview on WAOK-AM. Furthermore, Aretha’s dad and the pastor’s uncle, Alton Roosevelt Williams, were best friends, AJC reported. From that friendship came another important relationship for the pastor.
3. This isn’t the first time he’s delivered a eulogy for a Franklin. Rev. Jasper’s son called Rev. C.L. his dad’s “long-time mentor.” So it was only appropriate that Rev. Jasper delivered the eulogy for Aretha’s father, whom was also heavily involved with church as a minister, at his funeral on Aug. 11, 1984. “My admiration, love and respect for Dr. Franklin is infinite. In other words, there are no boundaries. There are no limitations. And so I feel like what I was privileged to have done 34 years ago when I preached his funeral August the eleventh, I think it was, 1984,” Rev. Jasper shared in a Facebook video that his son Rev. Joseph L. Williams posted to his Facebook. “God put a comma there. To me and in my mind at the time, it was a period. It was the end of the greatest anticipation of what I ever wanted to do as a preacher. But when Aretha asked me to do her home going, I see God taking that period, putting the line down. Making it a pause or a comma at the time that [C.L.] Franlkin passed.”
4. He’s a decorated singer himself. The pastor has won an Award of Excellence from the Gospel Music Workshop of America, among other awards. His eulogy for Aretha’s father, the LP entitled A Good Soldier, reached the number 24 spot on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums in 1985.
5. The pastor has been preaching since the age of six — yes, really! Rev. Jasper recently celebrated his 60th anniversary as a preacher, starting professionally at the age of six, according to the Gospel Choice Awards.