Georgia's other first lady, Patrice Williams, prefers serving behind the scenes


Patrice Williams poses with children during a mission trip to Guatemala with First Baptist Church of Villa Rica.

By J. Gerald Harris

VILLA RICA – Patrice Williams had always thought she'd marry a preacher, but when she fell in love and married a U.S. Army military policeman, she assumed she had been wrong.

That was until Kevin Williams finished his four-year military hitch and was called into ministry.

Since then, Patrice has been at her husband's side in every ministry assignment, the latest of which is as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, a position he was elected to a year ago.

Patrice prefers serving Christ behind the scenes, but her fingerprints can be found in many places at First Baptist Church of Villa Rica, where her husband is pastor. She can rightly be called her husband’s soulmate, helpmate, and partner in ministry.

Patrice lived in Villa Rica with her parents for the first five years of her life, before the family moved to Carrollton. She recently noted, “Kevin and I laugh at the fact that I am really a true Villa Rican, because I lived here first and now, I am back after all these years.

Georgia Baptist Convention President Kevin Williams poses with his wife, Patrice, at last year's annual meeting.

“I went to Carrollton City Schools where my mom was a well-respected teacher. I was in the Trojan Marching Band and worked all summer filing music for the band director to pay for my trip to Pasadena, California to march in the Rose Bowl.”

While Patrice praises her parents for their Christian example, she also acknowledges that her grandparents played an important role in her growth as a Christian. She recalled, “My best memory as a child was of my grandparents (Pastor and Mrs. Bob Puckett) teaching me about Jesus and watching them serve the Lord. They were able to ‘walk on water in my eyes.’ They were so humble I didn’t realize how significant they were until their funeral.”

Bob Puckett not only pastored several churches during his ministry but was the President and CEO of Christian City (a 500-acre community for nearly 1,000 senior adults and abused children in Union City) for over 30 years. Patrice added, “My grandmother, Doreen Puckett, was valedictorian of her high school class, a gifted fundraiser and creative writer. They had six children and were known for the legacy they left behind and their extreme generosity to others.”

Patrice emphasized the blessings of having a great childhood but explained that her mother had chronic health problems and on October 25, 2010, just two days after her 60th birthday was found dead by her and her brother. She explained, “Mom was not answering her phone so my brother, Ty, and I went to her house and found her on the couch where she had passed away during the night. We were devastated to say the least, but we relied on our faith to heal and grow from that tragedy. My dad was not able to cope with mom’s death and passed away at my brother’s home the day after Christmas 2015 from, in our opinion, a broken heart.”

For those who may not know, GBC’s President, was in the Army’s Military Police prior to his call into the ministry. His first encounter with Patrice, their dating, marriage, and honeymoon are worthy of a Lifetime movie production. Patrice reminisced, “Kevin and I met in our hometown of Carrollton. He was home on leave, saw me in a friend’s black BMW and jumped in the car with us. I still joke that he was attracted to the black “Beamer” and not me. We had a long-distance dating relationship for three months, because I was living and working in Texas for the summer; and he was back in Japan with the U. S. Army. Our relationship grew through the writing of love letters and $500 per month phone bills.

“In September 1991, I flew to Japan; and we were married at the American Embassy in Tokyo on the 18th of the month. Our wedding celebration took place at the Hard Rock Café with friends. Soon after the celebration I became ill, started running a high fever; and ended up in the hospital with a severe infection needing antibiotics. So, our honeymoon was spent at the hospital. We have laughed about that over the years.

“Kevin and I loved our time in Japan; and made many memories while we were there. I became a nanny for a few military families on base and Kevin was a successful MP. We moved back to the states in 1992 and soon started our family.

“Being the wife of someone who has served in the military and the ministry certainly has its challenges. Kevin says, ‘The military prepared me for ministry.’”

During their 31-year marriage Patrice indicated that they have moved 15 times. She added, “I have always tried to make every house we lived in a home. The first thing I did every time we moved was hang family pictures on the wall. During the years Kevin was in school I helped with the bills by keeping children in our home, taught preschool, worked at daycare facilities, substituted in the school systems and was a para pro for a few years.

“My whole life has been with babies and children. I am currently teaching a three-year-old Sunday School class at church. I serve in Vacation Bible School every year. I also go on mission trips to Guatemala to love on the children and teach them about Christ’s love. Kevin says on every trip he has to check my luggage to make sure I haven’t tried to sneak a child back to the states with me.”

The whole Williams family, left to right, Laura, Zack, Ava Mae, Hope, Kevin, Patrice, Grace, Colby (Grace’s fiancé), Austin, Zane, and Anna.

Kevin and Patrice have five children, one in heaven due to a septic miscarriage in November 2000. Austin, age 29, is the Connections Pastor at First Baptist Villa Rica. He and his wife, Anna, gave the Williams their first grandson, Zane Conner. Patrice reports, “He is working on his master’s degree and is a gifted preacher.”

Zack, age 27, is the media director at the church and works diligently behind the scenes to communicate the church’s message. He and his wife, Laura Mae, gave to Kevin and Patrice their first granddaughter, Ava Mae. The eldest daughter, Grace Shea, age 20, works full time at a law firm and studies through Truett McConnell University’s online program. Patrice added, “Grace Shea is engaged and will be married to Colby Day next fall. We love Colby and are excited about their engagement and upcoming wedding.”

Hope Evelyn is 16 years old and is a junior in high school. Patrice declares, “She loves to serve on mission trips, is excited about teaching in VBS and is one of the kindest souls you will ever meet.

“My mom used to tell me that being a grandparent is a love like no other. She was so right. We can spoil them and send them home for their parents to do the hard work of nurturing and disciplining them.”

Patrice continued, “In every church we have served, we have tried to include our children in our ministry. We started taking them on mission trips when they were six or seven years old. We wanted to make sure they knew the world does not revolve around them and that there were hurting, desperate people in this world that needed our help and Christ’s love. I love making hospital visits with Kevin, home visits (pre-COVID), and blessing others with the love of Jesus.

“I have also learned to be myself and not try to fit into some else’s mold. My greatest blessing or calling is to be a child of God, Kevin’s wife, a mom to our four children, a ‘Nana’ to our grandchildren, and a pastor’s wife in that order. If we keep things in perspective God will bless our lives and ministry.

When it comes to the challenges and blessings of being a pastor’s wife, Patrice explained, “There are times when pastors are attacked. Obviously, the devil would like to hurt God’s church and His people. When that happens, I am reminded that the crowd that shouted ‘Hosanna’ to Jesus on Palm Sunday were screaming ‘Crucify’ just days later. Who am I to feel sorry for myself or my family when Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice and loved us through it all? The blessings of ministry far outweigh the burdens. God has been so good to us over the years; and He has put some wonderful people in our lives. We feel so blessed to serve Him and His people.

“The biggest blessing has been watching people’s lives change before my eyes. So many have been literally ripped out of the gates of hell into the glory of heaven. Kevin is a soul winner, a pastor, and an evangelist at heart. This has been a wild ride (in a good way) and I know God put us together for His purpose.

“When Kevin was an MP for the United States Army and we were engaged, I told him, ‘I can’t believe I am going to marry a cop, because I always felt in my heart, I would marry a preacher.’ He laughed. Who would have thought after he served his four years in the military God would call him to be a preacher? God knew!

Annual Meeting, Georgia Baptist Convention, Kevin Williams, Patrice Williams