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Our Beloved Father, Brother, Leader, Friend, Pastor and Theologian
This page is dedicated to providing information on the funeral services for Dr. Worsley, but also for sharing stories about his life and hearing from those who knew him. Please click here to learn more about the funeral services for Dr. Worsley and click here to write a message to the family or share a memory.
A Life Well Lived
Rocky Mount native, World War II veteran, Montford Point Marine, Presbyterian minister, college professor and civil rights leader, Dr. Rev. William Raymond Worsley, Jr. passed away peacefully on July 24, 2019 at 93 years of age at Sharon Towers (formerly known as the Presbyterian Minister’s Home).
Reverend Doctor William Raymond Worsley, Jr. graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in 1950. He was a star football player, one half of the “Thunder and Lightning” duo, as well as valedictorian (Summa Cum Laude) of his class. Prior to the completion of his undergraduate degree, Worsley served as one of the nation’s first black Marines in the Montford Point regiment and toured the Pacific Theatre during World War II as a ship’s gunner. Worsley and the Montford Point Marines were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor at the US Capitol under President Barack Obama and efforts are underway to construct a permanent monument in their honor.
Later, Worsley received his Master of Arts degree from Columbia University and a Master of Divinity degree from the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, a constituent seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia. He then became one of the first African-American ministers to earn a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the ITC and Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, along with several other degrees from various universities and colleges.
Dr. Worsley was a charter member of Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church and served as pastor of several churches in Charlotte, including Grier Heights and McClintock Presbyterian Churches. He honorably retired as the pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Uptown Charlotte, NC in 1991.
Dr. Worsley was a professor of Theology and Religious Studies, as well as a Spanish professor, at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. He had a passion for the Spanish culture and even chose to take his family to Mexico and South America when he received an all-expenses paid vacation for winning JCSU’s Teacher of the Year. Dr. Worsley also worked for Charlotte Park and Recreation and taught at the Interdenominational Theological Center J.C. Smith Seminary for many years when the college moved to Atlanta.
He served as an administrator in the Catawba Presbytery during the transition to P.C.U.S A. He wrote the Articles of Agreement that played a critical role in the unification and merger of the Catawba Presbytery and Presbytery USA, eliminating segregated practices within the Presbyterian denomination.
Dr. Worsley became well known for his work as a local civil rights leader. He was a signatory on the landmark Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education lawsuit, and one of the circles of friends and leaders instrumental in helping to win the case and desegregate Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. He organized numerous marches, lead activities for social and economic justice, and was arrested in Washington, D. C. for marching to end apartheid in South Africa. Dr. Worsley also worked with Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
An avid writer, The Charlotte Observer often published Dr. Worsley’s open letters to the editor, and their reporters published numerous articles about Dr. Worsley and his work as a civil rights leader. In 2011, The Charlotte Observer published a headline article entitled, “Overdue Salute to a Black Marine”. The beautiful picture of Dr. Worsley in front of the waving American flag went viral and the story was picked up by USA Today and other media outlets.
Throughout his career, Worsley has been awarded numerous humanitarian, merit and service accolades, including the key to the City of Charlotte by former Mayor Belk and Teacher of the Year at JC Smith University twice. From receiving plaques for meritorious honorary service to recognition for a myriad of civic organizations for both his local and national leadership, Dr. Worsley was continually celebrated for his community service. He is also a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, NAACP, Presbyterian Ministers’ Association, and many other honor societies, leadership caucuses, civic, and worldwide humanitarian organizations.
In his final years, plagued with Alzheimer’s, he fought a formidable fight against the disease. With the declining loss of his faculties and control, he was still able to persevere and maintain the best of himself, becoming even more considerate and kind—the polar opposite of the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
He is preceded in death by his beloved wife Magnolia Arrington Worsley, and his brother Randolph Worsley (Bettye, deceased).
So very many people will carry on his legacy and memory, including his brother Rudolph Worsley (Jean); children, Marie Worsley Matthews and William Raymond Worsley, III; grandchildren Dazzell, Sophia (Chris Partlow), and Christopher Matthews (Shauntay), Takobian and Torien Worsley; and great-grandchildren Jonah, Jalen, Jade, Patricia Cloud, and Amari; nephews Randolph (Debra) and Rudolph Worsley (Tonya) and their children; aunts, uncles, cousins, and a host of other nieces, nephews, and in-laws.
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Documentary from an Oral History
"In His Own Words"
Video by Dazzell Matthews
Click here to hear the full interview, conducted by Thomas Fraser, on the UNCC New South Voices Oral History repository.