Franklin’s Eulogist Preached to the Black Family

H. Michael Harvey, JD
4 min readSep 1, 2018
Rev. Jasper Williams the hand picked eulogist of Aretha Franklin. Photo credit ©2018 Harold Michael Harvey

Seven hours into the Celebration of Life Service for Aretha Franklin, Rev. Jasper Williams took 43 minutes to eulogize her by preaching to the Black family. He used as a subject from which to preach, “Aretha: The Queen of Soul.”

He defined “soul” as that essence of God in the human body.

Williams, a lifelong friend, was hand picked by Franklin to be her eulogist. He had eulogized her father, the late C. L. Franklin in August 1984.

In his eulogy, Williams made good use of his knowledge of Franklin’s commitment to the advancement of the Black community. Last week he had said that he would approach his task by addressing “the life of Franklin, the word of God and society as it is presently constituted.”

He talked about the pain Franklin endured as a child. She was raised by her father after her mother left the family home. He said that the pain of Franklin’s early childhood was evident in her first few songs.

Throughout the day long service, pulpit participants talked about Franklin’s service to the civil rights movement and the altruistic measures she freely provided to people in need of help.

Williams, in eulogizing her, put Franklin’s service to the Black community into the context of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s question; and I paraphrase, now that the Queen has returned to pure energy, “Where do we go from here.”

The title of his sermon was “Aretha: The Queen of Soul.” His theme was that the “Black community has lost its soul.”

He then posited: “If we are truthful, if we are honest and if we are fair, Black America has lost its soul. The one thing Black America needs to do today is to come back to God.”

His sermon was punctuated with Franklin’s call to urgency, “Something must be done, something must be done, something must be done.”

Franklin would then find ways to help, or she would cajole others to help. Williams does not think this is a prescription for a future without Franklin. He called upon Black people to be accountable for their community.

“Where is your soul Black man,” Williams rhetorically queried.

H. Michael Harvey, JD

Harvey is Living Now Book Awards 2020 Bronze Medalist for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. Available at