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Cecil Williams really did that?

Sure, he looks cuddly now. But as his new memoir (cowritten with his wife, poet Janice Mirikitani) reveals, Glide Memorial’s iconic pastor used to be kind of a badass:

 Cecil Williams, cuddly badass.

» He outraced a carload of gun-toting KKK types in Alabama after his track coach had the nerve to enter a store via the front door.

» He was one of five students to desegregate Southern Methodist University (1952).

» He sponsored one of the first public gay dances in S.F. at a nongay venue (in 1964!).

» He caused a huge scandal by tearing down Glide’s big crucifix in 1967 because it was a symbol of death, not life.

» He let the church be used for an “Invisible Circus,” where hippies sipped LSD-spiked Tang and had sex in the aisles and stairways (1967).

» He convinced the super-uptight Randolph Hearst to go on TV and tell his kidnapped daughter, Patty, that he loved her.

» He tried to persuade Jim Jones not to take his People’s Temple flock to Guyana.

» He grew Glide from 35 crabby (and racist) parishioners in 1963 to more than 11,000 multi-culti members (and counting) in 2013.

Beyond The Possible: 50 Years Of Creating Radical Change In A Community Called Glide (Harperone)


Originally published in the February 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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