TRIBUTE TO THE LATE COUNSELOR JOSEPH EDWARD WILLIAMSON, SR - ERUDITE LAWYER, ASTUTE DIPLOMAT, STATESMAN, PATRIOTIC CITIZEN, DEVOUT CHRISTIAN AND LOVING FAMILYMAN
(APRIL 14, 1926 – DECEMBER 5, 2013)
NYONNOH-WLEH’S CHILD BECAME SOMEBODY!
AARON VON WILLIAMSON, ESQ.
The death in his 87th year of Counselor Joseph Edward Williamson, Sr., represents the last Patriarch of Fourth Generation Williamsons in Liberia. The First Generation was among the first settlers that landed in Sinoe County in the 1830’s; that was the father of Robert Williamson. Robert Williamson married Martha Birch Williamson; who gave birth to Cornelia Williamson, Maggie Williamson and Henry Calvin Williamson. Cornelia did not have any child. Maggie Williamson married Shadrach Minor and gave birth to E. Berkine Minor (father of Ambassador Charles Minor, Reverend Cornelius Minor and Reverend Shadrach Minor). My grandfather, the Reverend Henry Calvin Williamson, Senior; flipped the script when he married a native woman from the Kru tribe, named Nyonnohwleh. Nyonnohwleh and Henry gave birth to Nancy, Francis, Henry Calvin”Cicero” Williamson, Jr.(my father); Maggie Williamson, Joseph Edward Williamson and Rebecca Williamson. Henry Senior’s last child was Elizabeth Nyonobae Williamson; whose mother was Ma Gbeh.
As the result of the farsightedness of Henry Calvin Williamson, Sr., his offsprings and the new generation of Williamsons now consist of children, grand children, great grand children and great great grand children whose DNAs are interwoven into the Liberian multi-ethnic fabric. Today you will find Williamsons who are Kru, Sarpo, Bassa, Lorma, Vai, Gola, Krahn, Kpelle, Americo-Liberians, etc.
The late Counselor Joseph E. Williamson, Sr, celebrated his roots and prayed that his grand and great grand children will live in a Liberia that is free from ethnic rivalries ( “Congo-ism” and “Country=ism”). His thoughts on a united peaceful and prosperous Liberia are well documented in his memoire- “The Journey of Faith”.
The great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “Lives of great men all remind us; we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time” Longfellow also said that: “The heights that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night”
Counselor Joseph Edward Williamson epitomizes the two great quotations above. This is a man who was not born with “silver spoon”. Nor did he grow up on “a flowery bed of ease.” According to family history, the late Henry Calvin Williamson, Senior; was told his children were country children and that they will be” nobodies. One family man even told him that Francis, Henry, Jr.; and Joseph will be servants to his children, carrying their bags to the courthouse. But as Providence will have it Joseph became primus inter pares lawyer and diplomat; and my father became a member of the House of Representative; and was elected the First Deputy Speaker in Liberia’s history.
My grandfather Henry Calvin Williamson had to take residence outside of the Americo-Liberian settlement –Lexington. He resided in Koon Town with Nyonnohwleh, the mother of his children. At one point he was about to give in to pressure by sending Nyonnohwleh back to “War Country”. He even took an Americo-Liberian woman to marry; but for the intervention of his first cousin, Henry Calvin Birch a.k.a “Papa Calvin; he would have abandoned Nyonnohwleh. Papa Calvin told him: “Henry, you nohn have six children by this country woman; who you think ‘gahn’ mind your children? Put a dress on this country woman, give her a civilize name and take her to the church and marry her. My grandfather did just that. He put a dress on my Grand Mother, Nyonnohwleh; changed her name from “Nyonnohwleh to “Julia” and took her to the Thankful Baptist Church in Lexington, Sinoe County where he married her with Papa Calvin (a.k.a Henry Calvin Birch as the officiating clergy man).
My venerable uncle and his siblings experienced great hardship growing up. But for the good grace of God and the love care his parents, siblings and Professor S. J. C. Davies, the man we know today as Counselor Joseph Edward Williamson, Sr. Would have ended up being an unfulfilled talent looming in swamps, ravines and forest of Koon Town and Lexington setting baskets for fish, hunting for animals and making cassava and rice farms.
But God had a purpose and plan for the life of Joseph Williamson; as well as for all those who diligently seek Him. His father, the Late Reverend Henry Calvin Williamson, Sr, raised my Venerable Uncle and his sibling with the fear and admonition of God. Thus from an early age, my “Uncle Joe” developed a close relationship with his Creator. Therefore he was able to overcome many dangers, toils, snares, drowning, attempted suicide, lung cancer and the Liberian Civil War.
God’s unmeritorious Grace found him an enlightened foster father in the person of Professor S. J.C. Davies; took him to the University of Liberia; where he established many lifelong friendships; landed him a job his first job at the Department of Treasury (now Ministry of Finance); brought him to the Executive Mansion to “hang out” with President Tubman as Assistant Business Manager; oversaw his admission into the Montserrado County Bar as an Attorney –at-Law; predestined his appointments as his country’s diplomat to the Federal Republic of Germany and later to Cairo, Egypt where he and his loving wife, the Late Reverend Alzetta Bhanti Williamson, were able to establish lifelong friendship with several dignitaries from around the world, including the great Maya Angelou. God’s amazing grace made him one of Liberia’s chief prosecuting attorneys; saw him as a top notched Counselor of the Supreme Court bar of the Republic of Liberia; arguing and winning several high profile cases before this honorable court. Because of his dexterity, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice James A.A. Pierre appointed him as Amicus Curiae to advise the Court on an important legal matter before the Court. God’s Divine Favor also saw Counselor Williamson, being appointed as Legal Counsel of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment; prior to that he served on the legal team of Maxwell and Maxwell; and served the legal profession with high distinctions in many other areas.
Yes indeed! My venerable uncle was a Great Man! To paraphrase the poem “IF” written by Rudyard Kipling:
Joseph Williamson, kept his head when all about him were losing theirs and blaming it on him; He trusted his God and himself when people doubted him. He dreamt, but never made dream his master. He met with triumphs and disasters and treated “those two imposters just the same.” He talked with crowds and kept his virtue. He walked with kings and queens, but he never lose the common touch. He did not allow loving friends nor foes to hurt him. All men and women counted with him, but none was too much. He filled the unforgiving minutes with sixty seconds worth of distant run. Yes indeed, his absolute reliance on God made him a Man who lived a Fulfilled Life of Faith, Family, Fame, Fortune, Fashion and every good thing that was in it!
The great legacy of my Venerable Uncle Counselor Joseph Edward Williamson, Sr. and his loving and dedicated late wife, Reverend Alzetta Bhanti Williamson will continue unabated through the worthy and honorable lives of their children, grand children and great grandchildren. To my beloved cousins - Ambassador Henry D. Williamson, Mrs. Edwina Williamson, Mr. Joseph E. Williamson, Jr., Mrs. Saydah Williamson Taylor, Mr. Joel Eric Williamson, Mrs. Chu-Chu Williamson; and their spouses, children and grandchildren; let us celebrate your Dad’s triumphant entry into Paradise to join your Mom and all those departed family members; and resolve to live exemplary lives so we too can meet them at the appointed time.
PRAISE GOD FOR THE PEACEFUL, PROSPEROUS AND PROGRESSIVE LIFE OF COUNSELOR JOSEPH EDWARD WILLIAMSON, SENIOR. MAY HIS SOUL AND THE SOULS OF ALL WHO WENT BEFORE HIM, REST IN PERPETUAL PEACE! AMEN.