Famous Mississippi Evangelist Promotional Card (c1931)

Hear Howard S. Williams in Gospel Messages Fayette County Court House. Every Night at 7 ocolock. Sundays 3 p. m.  Begins – Sunday, December 3. Ends – Sunday, December 17. You are Invited. Fine Singing. Inspiring. Uplifting. Soul Stirring. Rev. Carl Welborn, Song Director, Soloist, Trombonist, Worker with Children.

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.

This photograph shows Howard S. Williams on an old, wooden stage pointing to the first or second row on his left. His right hand is pointing to the sky. In front of him is a podium with an early microphone devise that looks like a horn. Behind him is a section of a large American flag that only shows the lines of the flag. There are approximately eight rows of wooden folding chairs behind him with maybe 10 chairs per row. Behind him to the left is a window that is closer to the roof. Williams is wearing a tweed-looking suit with a vest, white button down shirt, and a polka dot tie. He has a pocket square in his suit pocket on the left.

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