There is a lot to process when the men you have been serving on Death Row in Arkansas have been dealing with the State’s mission to execute 8 men in 10 days just after Easter. Arkansas succeeded in executing 4 of those men. The last to be executed was Kenneth Williams. He was one of our most prolific writers. Matt Henriksen, our creative writing director, organized and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church hosted a poetry reading of his work on the evening before he was executed. He was aware that this was happening and this is what he wrote for the event while waiting in the “Quiet Room” adjacent to the death chamber:
I was saddened also to see Jack and Marcel go! I was blessed to have the chance to say a prayer with Marcel before they took him away. Kathy I found assurance in knowing they are no longer behind these walls, and that Marcel, I know, is in a better place. I now find myself in a small cell on death watch. I am not stressed. I actually find myself at peace. I’m not down but up. I keep myself busy, either writing or visiting Lawyers or family. Kathy, either way, I win. If I remain, that means more fruit. But if I depart that would be far better because I will be forever with Christ. I wish I could have seen the poetry show Matt put on. Although I couldn’t be there in body I was in spirit. That someone would ever do something like that for me, I will brag about it in heaven whether it be sooner or later. Glory to God. I’ll close for now and if it be my time all you guys are invited to come to my funeral and read poetry. I already told my parents. You have my sister’s contact info. Love you.
And as he left the world, he left us with this final message:
EXTREME GRACE UNMERITED!
On the Eve of my Scheduled April 27th Execution, the Light burned brighter than I’ve ever Known it too! Only once before did it blind me so.It first happened in 1999, I was the twenty year old defendant in a capital murder case where the Death Penalty was rolled out against me. Mrs. Williams(No relation to me)but the mother of the late 19 year old Dominique Hurd,whom I senselessly murdered; Took the stand having suffered great loss, and she shared these words: ”I forgive Kenneth Williams.My daughter Dominique’Nikki’ Hurd was a forgiven person.” She said,”I do not wish for him to be put to death. His death won’t bring my daughter back.” She went on to say,”I pray that before Kenneth Williams leaves this world he will give his heart to Jesus.” On the other hand, yet not without understanding, The father of Dominique was full of indignation. He wanted me to feel his pain. Pain was my Language. It was my thing. But what I couldn’t comprehend – what could not be reconciled in my mind – was this woman’s pure act of grace, love, mercy,and forgiveness; for someone who had taken away her child from her in the worst of ways. “The light shined into the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:5. That marvelous light that shined forth that day out of Mrs.Williams acted as a planted seed into the soil of my life. Years later it would yield something special and God bred. And when I could not think such a greater act of kindness, love,and forgiveness could be expressed,I stood corrected,thanks to Kayla Greenwood. She’s the daughter of the late Michael Greenwood, A man whose death I caused. His daughter Kayla Greenwood, just a child when her father was taken in a car wreck caused by me after I escaped prison, after being given a life without parole for killing Dominique.After seventeen years of imprisonment, and being on death row for also killing Cecil Boren during my escape. Away from my own now 21 year old daughter, and now never seen before granddaughter, my death sentence finally had an April 27th date. A wish that burned within me was to see again my child and grandchild, possibly for the final time -first and last time. It had been over 17 years since I last saw my four year old child.
The word got out about my desire. The last person(S) I would have ever thought it possible answered my call: Kayla Greenwood and her family, the daughter of the late Michael Greenwood. Reaching out to prison officials,Kayla said “I would like to speak with him on good terms and put closure between us and let him know my family and I forgive him. I would also like to pay for his daughter and granddaughter to go see him and want to figure out how I can get in contact with her to make it happen. I am not looking for anything else but closure and giving his daughter and granddaughter a chance I don’t get…because I know how important it is.”
Not only had this family forgiven me, which would have been going the extra mile, but within a short period of time they paid and arranged for my baby and grand babe to come to Arkansas from the West Coast too visit with me, which included picking them up from the airport and driving them to the prison over 40 miles away, where we had the most amazing and heart felt visit that left a former cold blooded killer in tears of gratitude. Had officials permitted it,Kayla and I would have met with no objections from me. My heart has never known a greater deal of respect and admiration for another human being than for Kayla and her family and Mrs. Williams, the mother of Dominique Hurd. I wiill also include my daughter Jasmine and son Marqevion for forgiving me for my abandonment and any shame I may have brought upon them because of my wrongs. If tomorrow be my last day here on earth, than Mrs Williams , the prayer she made at my trial that I GIVE MY LIFE TO JESUS before I leave this world would be answered.I have been forever changed, forever grateful,because of ” Extreme Grace Unmerited.”Amen.
Min. Kenneth D. Williams
Arkansas Death Row