Posted on Tue, Dec. 20, 2005
Heavy crowd, celebrities expected at Williams funeral service
LOS ANGELES - In the kind of funeral normally reserved for a dignitary, religious leaders and celebrities traveled to violence-wracked South Los Angeles to pay respects to the man who helped found a deadly street gang, then spent the years before his execution denouncing the gangster life.
Stanley Tookie Williams' funeral was scheduled for noon Tuesday, almost exactly a week after he was put to death for murdering four people during a pair of 1979 robberies. Williams, who in the 1970s co-founded the Crips gang not far from the church hosting his funeral, wrote from Death Row children's books warning against the gang life.
Those efforts attracted numerous supporters who lobbied frantically for clemency, arguing Williams had redeemed himself.
Among those expected to attend his funeral were the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who visited Williams shortly before his death, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg.
The service was to include a five-minute video tribute by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack and speeches by motivational guru Tony Robbins and actor Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Williams in the TV movie "Redemption: The Stanley Tookie Williams Story."
"If they think they succeeded by killing him in getting people to forget about him, they have done just the opposite," Barbara Becnel, who collaborated with Williams on his books, said last week after his execution.
The service will be held at Bethel AME Church Los Angeles, which holds 1,500 people. An expected overflow crowd will be able to view the funeral on a large video screen outside, Becnel said. The service also will be broadcast on the Internet at http://www.savetookie.org
In accordance with his will, Williams' will not be buried - he will be cremated and his ashes scattered over South Africa in January, Becnel said.
Few condemned inmates have generated so much public support - and so much post-execution attention.
In the case of the last man to death at San Quentin Prison before Williams, the state paid for Donald Beardslee to be cremated at a cost of about 0, according to California Department of Corrections spokesman Todd Slosek. A San Quentin spokesman said ashes typically are scattered in the Pacific Ocean off the Golden Gate.
It is not, however, the first time a condemned man in California has transfixed the public.
Rapist and kidnapper Caryl Whittier Chessman, who was executed in 1960, became a martyr for opponents of capital punishment and his 1954 autobiography, "Cell 2455, Death Row," sold a half-million copies in 18 languages. He also made the cover of Time magazine and counted among his celebrity supporters Marlon Brando, Brigitte Bardot and Albert Einstein.
© 2005 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.contracostatimes.com