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Reverend Curtis C. Williams"Love God first and love people, not because of what they have or because of their rank in life, but love people because they are God's creation," are words of wisdom given to Rev. Curtis Williams by his late mother. Williams has taken this advice to heart and has dedicated his life to just that: loving people.

This love of people is more than evident in the countless hours Williams has given to community projects in the Detroit area. His ministry has taken him from the pulpit of the Aijalon Baptist Church, where he has resided as pastor since 1992, to the cells of the Wayne County Jail where he has been bringing the gospel to prisoners and their families for 20 years.

"When my ministry can transform lives it is inspirational to them and to me," Williams said.

"He is a man of exceptional character and integrity," said Gladys Broxie, who nominated Williams. "He is a dedicated family man, husband and father to three children. I cannot think of a man more worthy to serve as a role model for all young men in our community, to inspire them to live a spiritual life, and to strive for excellence."

Williams studied at the Extension Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. He also attended the Metropolitan Jail Ministry Seminary in Detroit, where he learned how to counsel the incarcerated, and Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, where he majored in religion. He received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the Detroit College of Business and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Tennessee School of Religion. In 1996 he received a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Marygrove College.

"Being an alumnus of Marygrove College has made it easier for me to accomplish other challenges in my life, such as being a Christian educator both locally and nationally and spreading the word of God," Williams said.

Williams has received over 50 resolutions, certificates and awards from federal, state, county and city of Detroit officials, and other organizations in recognition of exceptional achievement, outstanding leadership, and dedication to improving the quality of life of others. He has participated in meetings with former President William Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Senator Bob Dole and vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp. He received a Resolution and Award from the United States Congress. The Detroit Police Department presented him with a certificate for serving as police chaplain for 20 years. Governor John Engler recognized him for "outstanding contributions to the Baptist Ministry and his efforts to create a more productive, safe, and positive environment for the citizens of Detroit and the surrounding communities." He also received the Distinguished Service Award from Wayne County and an award from the Black United Fund.

Williams stated that he is also very proud of being the owner and administrator of Trinity Chapel Funeral Home. "I am the product of a single parent family, and I am an example of what hard work and determination can accomplish."

Williams was the chair of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and vicinity, and was chair of the Urban Banking Committee for nine years. He has held the position of president of the Michigan District Congress of the National Baptist Convention since 1997. Dr. Williams has been featured in Who's Who in National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc.

"Rev. Williams says that the doors of the Aijalon church swing on the hinges of welcome and that there is no big "I" or little "you". I feel that this is the way he conducts his personal as well as his professional life," said Broxie.

"This award allows me to be a positive example for my children regarding education," said Williams. "I believe that you should put God first, persevere, set goals, and keep your eye on the prize."