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LEGACY: Dr. William M. Young Sr.

Pastor Dianne Young posted a photo of her husband, Dr. William M. Young, smiling broadly on her Facebook page early Monday (Oct. 10) morning.

For those who knew him, the pleasant, entreating smile was a familiar sight.

The post that accompanied the photo inspired a flood tributes, expressions of sympathy, and personal accounts of how Dr. Young helped in a time of need.

Dr. William Young and Pastor Dianne Young of The Healing Center. (Courtesy photo)

Pastor Young wrote, in part: “My husband and I have been partners in life and ministry for over 46 years. At 12:35 a.m., my incredible husband took the journey we have preached and stand in faith about, and transitioned from his earthly house to his heavenly home…” 

Dr. Young was bishop and founder of The Healing Center Full Gospel Church.

He was the father of four adult children — Paul Young, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission and candidate for Memphis mayor; Shelby County Division of Community Services Director Dorcas Young Griffin; William Young Jr., and Pastor David Young.

Bishop Young developed the concept of connecting the African-American church with addressing mental health and suicide nearly four decades ago. 

He was the first African-American chaplain to serve on staff in the Memphis’ Methodist Health Systems. Prior to that time, he was a chaplain at Western State Mental Institute in Bolivar, Tennessee.

He was a Vietnam War veteran, serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

Dr. Young facilitated a number of mental health and suicide prevention initiatives over the years, but his most enduring and far-reaching effort was the founding of the National Conference of Suicide and the Black Church Conference, which began in 2003.

Since 2013, conference events are partnered with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where hundreds of suicide survivors, students, and mental health professionals have flocked to for nearly two decades.

Young was licensed by the State of Tennessee in three areas: Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Counselor; and as a Clinical Pastoral Therapist. 

He is a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College, and later earned his Master’s in Divinity in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Memphis Theological Seminary. He completed his doctorate in Ministry at Carolina Theological Seminary. 

The Youngs faithfully co-hosted a Christian radio talk show on Sunday mornings on WLOK-AM1340 since July 1994.

Early in his counseling career, Dr. Young recognized that the African-American community was not acknowledging that suicide and other mental health issues were prevalent. He developed a concept he felt was more palatable to “the Black community.”

“I knew that we as a people generally displayed a lot of mistrust for the mental health professional community,” Young often said. “But Black people will talk to their pastor. And so, I thought, ‘Why not train pastors and other lay persons to help refer our people to professional counselors when the situation warranted it.’”

Dr. Young sounded the alarm on skyrocketing suicide numbers among teens and young African-American men more than a decade ago and continued to express concern as his suicide conferences continued to grow over the years. 

Final arrangements were pending Wednesday (Oct. 12) evening.

 

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