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Published on April 23, 2024
San Francisco Mourns the Passing of Revered Activist and Pastor, Rev. Cecil Williams, at 94Source: Wikimedia Commons / Franco Folini
Reverend Cecil Williams and wife Janice Mirikitani of the Glide Church

Rev. Cecil Williams, the trailblazing social activist and spiritual leader of San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church, passed away at age 94, as confirmed by multiple reports. Williams, who led Glide for over four decades, left an indelible mark on the city with his unwavering commitment to social justice, equality, and compassion for the marginalized.

According to SFist, Williams retired as minister of liberation and chief executive of the GLIDE Foundation, which via the Glide Memorial Church, delivered a range of charitable works within the Tenderloin neighborhood. Services included counseling, treatment, and the provision of roughly half a million free meals per year through its programs. The foundation was particularly known for its high-profile holiday meals, including the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that brought together the city's diverse populace in the spirit of togetherness and celebration.

In a heartfelt statement, Mayor London Breed remembered Williams as the "conscience of our San Francisco community." She emphasized his role in advocating for those at the edges of society, saying, "He led with compassion and wisdom, always putting the people first and never relenting in his pursuit of justice and equality." The mayor's sentiments, obtained by SFist, echoed the broad impact Williams had on the city's culture and ethos.

Furthermore, those who worked closely with him noted Williams' unique approach to ministry and community. As Oakland resident Ernestine Nettles, who met Williams as a child, told ABC7 News, "One very special thing about Cecil was that he met everyone where they were—literally and spiritually." Nettles shared that Williams' version of Christianity was inclusive, extending love and non-judgment to all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Glide's president and CEO, Dr. Gina Fromer, shared a message on GLIDE's website, inviting those influenced by Williams to share in the grief of his passing. She hailed his tireless advocacy and wrote, "Today, he joins his beloved late wife and Co-Founder, Janice Mirikitani, in eternal peace." Detailed memorial plans are forthcoming and will be announced on Glide's website.

As Californians mourn the loss of a formidable figure in their community, Governor Gavin Newsom offered words of tribute, as reported by ABC7 News. Newsom praised Williams as a man whose "love for his community transformed the lives of so many people" and called on the public to honor his legacy by renewing their commitment to unity and acceptance.