Famous Mississippi Evangelist Promotional Card (c1931)
In 1917, Howard S. Williams moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, after a long career in journalism. Previous to his time in Hattiesburg, he worked for newspapers in Alabama (Anniston Hot Blast and Birmingham Age-Herald) and wrote for the Associated Press in Atlanta and Mexico City. Upon moving to Hattiesburg, he was among a group of men who bought the Hattiesburg Daily Herald and renamed it the Hattiesburg American, with the first issue printed on October 1, 1917. Williams served as the newspaper’s first editor.
In 1922, Williams attended a revival meeting featuring the British evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith where he experienced a conversion. Williams left his career as a journalist, bought a large tent, and dedicated his life to travelling the country leading religious revivals.
He was known for his ability to convert attendees. In fact, an often-reported instance relates to his success at Herrin, Illinois, in 1925, where over seven weeks he was able to bring “an end to feudist and gangster terrorism in the coal fields.” In Cairo, Illinois, he converted “five steamboat captains, the general manager of one of the largest privately-owned towboat companies in the Ohio River, a professional football star, a retired professional baseball manager, a railroad yardmaster, many business men, and hundreds of young people – and the modern youth can be classified among those of ‘hardboiled’ temperament.”
The undated promotional card above advertises Williams’ 2-week revival outside the Fayette County Court House (state unknown). Assisting Williams with his “uplifting” and “soul stirring” sermons was Rev. Carl Welborn, who arranged the musical accompaniment for the revivals. The photograph above was taken early in his career (c1925) after his performance in Herrin.
To learn more about the Howard S. Williams Papers, review the guide to his collection. If you have any questions about this item, contact Jennifer Brannock at or 601.266.4347. To see more Items of the Month, click here.
Text by Jennifer Brannock, Curator of Rare Books & Mississippiana