Garland William Willis, 51, of El Dorado passed away Monday, October 15, 2018, at his residence.
At 1:20 p.m. on April 24, 1967, a baby boy was born at the home place on Nick Springs Road in Lawson, Arkansas. Later in the day during a trip to the doctor’s office in El Dorado, he was named Garland William Willis by his step-grandfather, William King and the doctor’s nurse, Mrs. Bamma Washington. Garland was in honor of the family’s late doctor (Dr. Garland Murphy, Jr.) who had died a few months before the birth. William was in honor of his step-grandfather, William King who he would spend many years with. It had become very clear to everyone that this child would be very different! Earlier in the day when the midwife, Mrs. Virginia Stanley, had made a face at him to get Garland to cry and take his first breath, he laughed instead! Also, the new family doctor, Dr. Garland Murphy, Sr., had told everyone that the baby would come in May! His reply was that he was a little early!
Garland’s early education was in Lawson and later at Old Union School. Later the family moved to El Dorado. Garland was a 1986 graduate of El Dorado High School, where he had been an active member of the Beta Club, BASIC (Brother And Sisters In Christ), the Oratorio Choir and Boy’s State for two years. After graduation Garland enrolled at Commonwealth College of Funeral Service (now Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service) in Houston, Texas. Garland was the only person from Arkansas in his class and he was given the honor of being elected class chaplain. He graduated from Commonwealth in the Fall class of 1987. Graduation was on a Friday and he reported for work the next day at Andrews Funeral Home in El Dorado (August 28, 1987). While at Andrews, Garland served as a licensed funeral director #2723, an agent for Andrews Burial Association, agent for Selected Funeral and Life Insurance Company in Hot Springs, an at-need minister and as the funeral home’s historian/researcher. He remained there until his death.
Garland was a member of Providence Lodge #94 Knights of Pythias, where he served as Prelate. In the Grand Lodge of Arkansas Jurisdiction. He served in the office of Grand Master of Finance. In the year of 2000, Garland became a member of Kiwanis Club. He served as vice president, as a board member a number of times and in 2003 he became the first black man in the El Dorado club’s history to serve as president. Also for many years Garland served as chairman or co-chair of Spiritual Aimes and was in charge of the Kiwanis/Ministerial Alliance Prayer Luncheon in honor of the National Day of Prayer.
On Sunday, February 23, 1992, Garland became a member of First Baptist Church of El Dorado. In 1997 Garland was given the high honor of being the first black man to be elected to the office of deacon in the 150-year history of First Baptist. Years later Garland felt a tug at his heart and in 2009 he was licensed by First Baptist as a Southern Baptist minister. Then on September 11, 2011, Garland was ordained to the gospel ministry. Garland used his gift by filling in on Wednesday night at prayer meeting and by filling in at other churches. In 2014 Garland started attending First Presbyterian Church of El Dorado, where he became a member on Sunday, December 21, 2014. While a member here, Garland served as a member of the Chancel Choir, lay reader, deacon and as an at-need minister for First Presbyterian and other churches in the Presbytery of the Pines. To the surprise of many people, Garland was still a member of the men’s Chapel Bible Class at First Baptist and still served as their song leader. He always said that no one else wanted to job! His bass voice could be heard all over South Arkansas across the airwaves. This was a longtime part of the radio ministry of First Baptist Church.
Unknown to most people, Garland was an Anglophile. He had a great love for Great Britain, for its history and traditions. He was also a great admirer of the Royal Family. It was Garland’s dream to one day visit London and see all those places that he had read about!
One of Garland’s fondest memories was from back in August of 1994. This was when First Baptist their single adult ensemble (One Voice) went on a two-week mission trip to Poland. Here they sang in churches and tent revivals. This was Garland’s first ever plane ride, first mission trip, and first overseas trip!! There were many prayers sent up on his behalf. After landing in Poland’s capital (Warsaw) he found out that there were very few black people there and in some towns there were none! In most of the towns they went to, Garland was the first black person they had ever seen! He spoke of how people would stop talking and stare at him. One pastor’s son even rubbed his hand to see if the brown would rub off and if he was white underneath! It was a time of great fellowship and seeing God’s Spirit move in a mighty way!
Garland was preceded in death by his mother, Daisy Lee “Tiny” McDaniel’ his father, F.B. Willis; his stepmother, Everteen Ross Robinson Willis; his stepfather, Charles “Doc” McDaniel; two brothers, Paul Willis and Robert Lewis Willis; a stepbrother, John Henry Robinson; a sister, Erma Louise Willis; a stepsister, Florice Robinson.
Survivors are three brothers, The Rev. Daniel J. (Lois) Willis of El Dorado, AR, Frances Shears of Denver, CO and Albert “Pappy” Richmond of San Francisco, CA; two foster brothers, Richard Kelly McMurry of El Dorado, AR and Brandon Scott McMurry of Norphlet, AR; two sisters, Margaret “Margo” Williams of Florrissant, MO and Tyisha Willis of Louisiana; his mother, Candy McMurry; and a great host of other relatives and friends.
Funeral services will be 10:00 a.m. Saturday, October 20, 2018, at First Baptist Church with Rev. Lynn Worthen officiating. A viewing will begin at 9:00 a.m. until service time at the church. A private burial will be held at Mt. Zion Cemetery under the direction of Young’s Funeral Directors.
The family request no flowers, but please make memorial donations to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 2222, Little Rock, AR 72203-9984, the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home, P.O. Box 552, Little Rock, AR 72202, or to the American Red Cross South Arkansas Chapter, 404 Southwest Ave., El Dorado, AR 71730.
An online guest registry will be available at www.youngsfuneralhome.com