MacArthur Fellows Program

Marion Williams

Gospel Music Performer | Class of 1993

Gospel Music Performer
Princeton, New Jersey
66 at time of award
July 2, 1994
Published July 1, 1993

About Marion's Work

Marion Williams was a renowned performer of gospel music.

Considered one of the most powerful voices in American music, she demonstrated a remarkably broad vocal range and produced a distinctive sound (influenced by blues, jazz and calypso music) that has influenced musicians working in a broad range of genres.  In 1947, she joined the popular Clara Ward Singers, recording such songs as “Surely God is Able” and “Packin’ Up.”  Williams starred in Langston Hughes’ premier gospel musical, “Black Nativity,” throughout its long run in the United States and Europe.


Williams formed her own group, Stars of Faith, in 1958 and also toured throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa as a soloist for many years.  Her albums include Strong Again, Surely God is Able, I’ve Come So Far, and Born to Sing the Gospel.  Her songs appeared on the soundtracks of the films Fried Green Tomatoes and Mississippi Masala.  She also recorded a capella versions of folkloric material as well as a sophisticated jazz-gospel composition by Wynton Marsalis.  Remember Me: The Definitive Collection was issued in 2005, posthumously.

Marion Willliams received the Kennedy Center Honors Award for her lifetime contribution to the performing arts (1993). 

Last updated January 1, 2006

Select News Coverage of Marion Williams
September 24, 2014
"Eight MacArthur Fellows Had Miami Connections"
Miami Herald
Otis Pitts Jr. , 1990 MacArthur Fellow
Robert H. McCabe , 1992 MacArthur Fellow
Pedro José Greer Jr. , Marion Williams , 1993 MacArthur Fellows
Campbell McGrath , 1999 MacArthur Fellow
Edwidge Danticat, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
Tarell McCraney, Karen Russell, 2013 MacArthur Fellows
July 4, 1994
"Marion Williams Is Dead at 66; Influential Pioneer of Gospel"
The New York Times
Marion Williams , 1993 MacArthur Fellow
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