Aretha Franklin eulogist, Rev. Jasper Williams’ sermons are diverse, political

With family roots in Mississippi, the late singer Aretha Franklin and Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. were born in Memphis, living on the same block as kids. 

“My uncle, my father, and Franklin’s family lived on Lucy St., which is the street that Aretha was born on,” Rev. Williams, 75, recalled in an Atlanta press conference on Sunday. “My father lived down the street from them.

“There’s a commonality that exists between myself and Aretha,” said Williams of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta. “It goes back to our heritage. My father, my uncle and (Aretha’s father) Rev. C.L. Franklin were all from Mississippi, and when they came to Memphis, they came for the purpose of pastoring.”

That commonality and connection —  rooted in faith, childhood memory, preaching, and the Deep South — likely led to Williams delivering the eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral on Friday at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. 

But Williams’ 50-minute eulogy has drawn intense criticism, including from the Franklin family for being inappropriate, too conservative,  negative, and distracting from Franklin’s funeral services. 

More: Aretha Franklin wears queenly golden gown at her funeral

More: Aretha Franklin family responds to eulogy: ‘Distasteful, offensive’

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