The Valdosta Daily Times
The Reverend W. Hampton Watson Jr. died on Christmas Eve. He was surrounded by his wife, Day Wilson Watson; as well as his three children, Susan Bagwell (Tim), Wade Watson (Betty), and Ann Watson (Susan Sherman); as well as several of his grandchildren.
Hamp entered ministry more than 65 years ago through his incredible gift of singing. Leading singing for revivals as a young man, he was encouraged into ministry by great preachers like Harry Denman who “saw something” in Hamp and requested that his own honorarium for preaching a revival go to “that young man who led singing so that he can go to college and prepare himself for ministry.”
Hamp, a native of Baxley, Ga., attended Emory at Valdosta, “Big” Emory, and Candler School of Theology at Emory University. While attending seminary, he served as the Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Griffin where he met Day Wilson, a young woman who changed his life. Hamp and Day celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Friday, Dec. 21.
Early on in his long ministry as a United Methodist pastor, Hamp recognized that spirituality is empty and devoid of meaning if it is not connected to social justice and advocacy ministry. Therefore, Hamp became a crusader and prophet for issues such as civil rights, voting rights, integrated schools and churches, and progressive theological thought. These stands were not always popular for a white, Methodist preacher from the South to take. But Hamp was respected, even by those who disagreed with him. He exuded love, and his tenacity was sharpened by his keen intellect. Hamp knew why he believed what he believed. His faithful witness had an impact on countless younger pastors who watched and learned from his ministry on The Rochelle Charge, The Rincon Charge, Colquitt UMC, Eastman UMC, Grace UMC in Savannah, First UMC in Bainbridge, The Savannah District, Park Avenue UMC in Valdosta, Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah, and The Valdosta District. When Hamp retired from active ministry and moved to Macon, he continued to serve as a part-time pastor at Laurel Branch UMC in Jones County, Glenwood Hills UMC in Macon, and Dixon UMC in Crawford County.
Hamp was a prolific author, penning 11 books in retirement. Through the selling of the books, Hamp raised more than $250,000 for mission agencies of the United Methodist Church in the South Georgia Annual Conference.
Other survivors include five grandchildren, John Hampton Bagwell (Greta), Emily Bagwell, Hamp Watson, Jordan Watson, and Sarah Sherman; a sister (Lenna Morris of Hazlehurst, Ga.) and many nieces and nephews.
A service of celebration of Hamp’s life will occur at Centenary United Methodist Church, 1290 College Ave., in Macon on today, Dec. 27, 2012, at 2 p.m.
A second service of celebration will be held at Baxley UMC in Baxley, Ga., on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, at 2 p.m. Burial will take place in Omega Cemetery in Baxley, Ga. Visitation with the family will occur after the Thursday service at Centenary United Methodist Church and at 1 p.m. prior to the Friday service at Baxley United Methodist Church.
In lieu of flowers, the family (and Hamp) requests that gifts be made to the American Cancer Society Fund at Centenary United Methodist Church, 1290 College St., Macon, GA 31201 or to the donor’s favorite charity. Register online www.hartsmort.com. Hart’s Mortuary and Crematory, Cherry Street, has charge of arrangements. — Hart’s Mortuary and Crematory