Williams Brothers a crowd pleaser

Gospel group headlines benefit concert

W.D. Watkins, center, seated, gets into the music at Ignite Life Center during a concert to benefit the Walter Camps Sr. Scholarship Fund.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 1:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 1:43 p.m.

The late Bishop Walter Camps Sr. promoted concerts in Gainesville featuring the Williams Brothers long before they were ever nominated for or won any Stellar or Grammy awards.

And last Friday night, the group returned to Gainesville to perform at a concert to benefit the Walter Camps Sr. Scholarship Fund.

"It's been a minute since we've been in Gainesville," said Melvin Williams, who performed with his brother, Doug Williams, at the concert held at Ignite Life Center. "I can't remember the last time we were here."

Camps was the founder and overseer of Holy Temple of God Inc., which has churches in Florida, Georgia and Illinois. He was also founder and pastor of Landmark Holy Temple of God in northeast Gainesville until his death in December 2007.

He was known as a kind-hearted, giving person who believed in education, and upon his death, his widow, Wilma Camps, decided to start a scholarship fund in his memory. The annual benefit concert serves as the main fundraiser for the scholarship fund, which is awarded annually to deserving high school seniors in Alachua County.

The benefit concert this year not only raised funds, but lifted the spirits of many in the audience, as some people wiped away tears, while others danced their hearts out as the Williams Brothers sang such hits as "Cooling Water," "I'm Still Here," "I'm A Living Testimony" and "Jesus is Love" by The Commodores.

"Come on up here, brother," Melvin Williams told a man from the crowd who was dancing in the aisle. The man then went on stage and danced for five minutes to the sounds from the musicians.

Williams also asked 4-year-old Da'vian Reed of Landmark to come to the stage after seeing him shouting and dancing in his seat in the front of the sanctuary. Da'vian responded by going on stage and dancing with the Williams Brothers while shouting praises to God.

Earlier in the service, Melvin Williams led a call and response shout of "Jesus" with the crowd that was estimated at 800 by Beverly Crawford, the Stellar-Award winning daughter of Camps.

The Camps Crusade Reunion Choir also sang several songs. The choir was made up of Landmark members and those who have sang with Walter Camps Sr. choirs in the past, including three of his daughters — Crawford, Evelyn Camps and Janet Camps-Boone.

The sisters talked about how much their father loved the Lord and how they used to sing at tent revivals.

The benefit also featured comments from Apostle Robbie Williams of Ocala, who talked about the influence Walter Camps Sr. had on his life. He began his comments by saying the choir "still got it. They are like fine wine, they get better with time."

He said he remembers coming to Gainesville from Ocala to a tent revival led by Camps one Saturday night years ago and saw the entire Camps family singing and playing music. Williams also said he was leading a tent revival in Hawthorne one time when he got word that the authorities were going to come and stop the revival. He said he called Camps and Camps told him to come to Gainesville and have the revival at his church.

"He touched many lives in many places," Williams said. "Don't let anything stop you from keeping his legacy going."

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