Randy Willis | Hitch up the mules

Sometimes you just have to hitch up the mules and ride. “Take a deep seat and a faraway look and keep your mind in the middle.” ~ Jake Willis

photo: Josh Willis, Adam Willis, Randy Willis and Aaron Willis


Vaya con Dios, Randy Willis

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Randy Willis | Love

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Corinthians 13-4-13 (NIV)

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis

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Randy Willis | A Chance Encounter

A “chance encounter” with an unknown preacher and a question from Hollywood’s most famous movie star would change his life.  ~ Randy Willis

He was a huge star. And, the composer of many hit songs. The original manuscript of one of those songs is buried in the cornerstone of the Copyright Building of the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.    He acted in motion pictures with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and his good friend John Wayne.  And he could sing.  In 1934, he became the first recording artist signed by the American subsidiary of Decca Records.  When television was in its infancy, in the early ’50’s, he was the West Coast’s biggest radio star with a show syndicated nationwide.

But he was not happy and didn’t cope well with the pressures of his high-profile career and sought relief in alcohol. His drinking and gambling problems began to severely affect his life and his family’s life. Many times his drinking landed him in jail.  Born in Kellyville, Texas, The Texas State Historical Association records that he identified himself as the “original juvenile delinquent.”

His name was Stuart Hamblen. His life would change forever with a “chance encounter” with a young and unknown preacher and a question from America’s most famous movie star.

In 1949, Stuart’s wife Suzy, encouraged him to attend a prayer meeting with her.  A young preacher by the name of Billy Graham was to speak to the group.  Not a single newspaper had carried the story of young Billy being in town for a tent revival.   But, among  Billy’s supporters was the influential Presbyterian Bible teacher Henrietta Mears, who had invited him to her home in Beverly Hills to speak to a group of Hollywood notables. The group was called the Hollywood Christian Group.  It’s goal was to reach the entertainment industry with the Gospel. Many were impacted by these meetings such as Ronald Reagan, Dale Evans, and Roy Rogers.

Suzy made sure they were there early, and she and Henrietta disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Stuart and Billy alone. The two men hit it off right away, and Stuart asked Billy if he would like to come on his radio show to promote his tent crusade. Billy show up at the radio station, and after the radio interview, Stuart urged his listeners to go down to the tent to hear more of Billy, and ended by stating, “Make sure you all come, cause I’ll be there too!”

He had no intention of going, but Suzy wasn’t about to let him forget his promise. That evening, as Stuart started to settle in for the night, Suzy appeared, all ready to go out the door. She looked at him and said, “You ready to go? You told everyone that you were going to be there. You don’t want to disappoint your fans!” Reluctantly, Stuart went.  She lead him down to the front row—dead center—right in front of the pulpit. Night after night, she would drag Stuart down there, front row   center, until finally he couldn’t take it no more. He had had enough and decided to escape. He  packed up his hound dogs, and headed out for a hunting trip. It didn’t seem to matter though, as the three-week campaign neared its end, since there was no sign that Stuart was under any conviction—of any kind—except to get out of there.

Sensing that momentum for the meetings was building, the local crusade organisers wanted to extend them, but Billy was hesitant. He put out a “fleece,” and asked God for a sign. The next morning at 4:30, he was awakened in his room, at the Langham Hotel, by a phone call. It was Stuart Hamblen, and he was in tears.  Billy shared the Gospel with him.   The result was that he surrendered his life to Christ.  That night, Stuart was at the crusade again and publicly gave his heart to Christ.

Stuart told the story of his conversion on his radio show. William Randolph Hearst heard it and sent a telegram to all his newspaper editors: “Puff  Graham.”  Soon all of Los Angeles was buzzing about Billy Graham’s meetings.

The Los Angeles Crusade of 1949 was the first great evangelistic campaign of Billy Graham. The campaign was extended to eight weeks. During the campaign Billy spoke to 350,000 people . By the end, 3,000 of them accepted Christ as their Savior. After this crusade Billy became a national figure in the United States.

Fourteen years later, during his 1963 crusade, in Los Angeles, Billy called Stuart‘s conversion “the turning point” in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s ministry Billy added, before Stuart accepted Christ the crowds were rather small.

Before his conversion, Stuart’s radio sponsors regularly bailed him out of jail and smoothed things over because of his popularity on the radio.  After his conversion, he started a new radio program titled The Cowboy Church of the Air which became nationally syndicated.  A confrontation developed with his sponsors, however, when he refused to advertise alcohol.  His much publicized departure from the program resulted in his being asked to run for President of the United States in 1952.

Now, about that song that Stuart wrote. The one that is buried in the cornerstone of one of the Copyright Buildings of the Library of Congress.  It has been translated into over 50 languages around the world and was the first song to ‘cross-over’ becoming #1 in Gospel, Country, and Pop categories and starting the trend for ballad style gospel songs.  It’s been recorded by many artist, arguably most famously by Elvis Presley.

Shortly after his conversion, Stuart ran into his friend John Wayne on a street in Los Angeles. “What’s this I hear about you, Stuart?” asked Wayne.  “Well, Duke, it’s no secret what God has done for me and he could do it for you too,”  Stuart replied .  “Sounds like a song,” said Wayne.   Stuart went home, sat down at his piano and wrote It Is No Secret What God Can Do, in ten minutes.

It’s No Secret (What God Can Do) by Stuart Hamblen

“The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you

[Refrain]  It is no secret what God can do
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don’t run away and hide”

Stuart went on to write 225 other songs including, This Ole House, Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In) and Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You.

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis
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Randy Willis | The Ole Willis Home Place

randy-willis-ole-willis-homeBaptist love this story!

It was inspired by the true story of my Great-Grandmother Julia Ann Graham Willis After the death of her eight-year-old son Eugene from appendicitisshe almost lost her mind. She would lay on his grave, in the Graham Cemetery, weeping for hours at a time. One day she was overwhelmed with peace. Later she learned that a church that she did not belong to had been praying and fasting for her for days.  

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Excerpted from Louisiana Wind

“I should tell ya, Julia Ann was a Methodist, up to then. After hearing of Amiable Baptist praying and fasting for her, she insisted on joining their church.”

Elwa added, “She reads the Bible daily on the front porch while eating an orange. We joke sometimes that she thinks there will be no one in Heaven, except Baptists.

“When I asked her what religion Jesus would be in Heaven, she smiled with a twinkle in her eye. ’I reckon, son, it will be like the time a Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist were fishing together down on Barber Creek. They got into an argument on what denomination Jesus would be in Heaven. The Catholic declared, “No doubt He would be part of our church, we have the Pope.” The Presbyterian said, “No, oh, no. When you consider all that John Calvin did for the Christian faith, He will be one of us.” The Methodist then spoke, “Nope, no way, look at all the Wesleys did for Christianity.”  The Baptist looked perplexed for a few minutes and spoke, “Gentlemen, I don’t think He’s going to change.”’” 

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photo: The OlWillis Home Place (August 5, 1906)
Located between Longleaf and Forest Hill, Louisiana, on Barber Creek.   

Robert Kenneth Willis Sr. (18771951) has the reins in his hands, Robert’s first wife Eulah Hilburn Willis (18841919 died in the influenza pandemic of 1918/19) is in the back seat Julia Ann Graham Willis (18451936) is holding a fish and standingRobert and Eulah’s baby girl Flossie Litton Willis (b August 5, 1905) is held by an unknown lady.  Flossie told mein 1981, that this photo was taken on her first birthday.

Footnote:  One of Robert‘s sons, Robert Kenneth Willis Jr. was killed on December 7, 1941. His body lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Arizona.  

~ Randy Willis 

Randy Willis | Robert E. Lee


This horse reminds me of Robert E. Lee’s horse Traveler.

When Robert E. Lee was two years old, his dad went to debtor’s prison.

After resigning from the U.S. Army, in 1861, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s 200-acre Arlington estate, where he had married his wife Mary, raised seven children, and lived for over 30 years, was occupied by Union troops.

The government seized the property in 1864. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs recommended it as the location of a new military cemetery to be named Arlington National Cemetery. To ensure the house would forever be uninhabitable for the Lees, Meigs directed graves to be placed as close to the mansion as possible, and in 1866 he ordered the remains of 2,111 unknown Civil War soldiers killed on battlefields near Washington, D.C., to be placed inside a vault in the Lees’ rose garden.

General Lee would never return. Most men would have been bitter, but not General Lee.

Attempts to embroil Robert E. Lee in politics failed, though The New York Herald endorsed him for President in 1868 on the grounds that he was a much better man in every way than U.S. Grant. Lee refused.

After the Civil War, General Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to General Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss.

After a brief silence, General Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.”

Perhaps we all need to cut down a few trees today and forget them…?

~ Randy Willis



Randy Willis and Jake Willis

It’s 16 degrees this mornin’ at my home. When I was fetched up (between Angleton and Danbury) the first thing on my mind on a morning like this was the livestock. Nothing’s changed, the livestock is still the first thing on my mind. If needed I will saddle up, but I hope it’s not needed!

photo: My Dad Jake Willis and me. It was 17 on that morning.


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