Randy Willis | One of my favorite novelist


One of my favorite novelist, Lewis Wallace, was inspired to write his second novel, in 1880, by an agnostic. The novel was conceived after sitting on a train, listening to Colonel Robert Ingersoll for two hours.

Wallace wrote that Ingersoll poured out “a medley of argument, eloquence, wit, satire, audacity, irreverence, poetry, brilliant antitheses, and pungent excoriation of believers in God, Christ, and Heaven, the like of which I had never heard.”

Until then, Wallace had been indifferent to the claims of Jesus. He wrote, “Yet here was I now moved as never before, and by what? The most outright denials of all human knowledge of God, Christ, Heaven… Was the Colonel right? What had I on which to answer yes or no? He had made me ashamed of my ignorance: and then–here is the unexpected of the affair–as I walked on in the cool darkness, I was aroused for the first time in my life to the importance of religion… I thought of the manuscript in my desk. Its closing scene was the child Christ in the cave by Bethlehem: why not go on with the story down to the crucifixion? That would make a book, and compel me to study everything of pertinency; after which, possibly, I would be possessed of opinions of real value.”

Wallace subtitled the book, a tale of the Christ. He later wrote, “It only remains to say that I did as resolved, with results — first, the book Ben Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the Divinity of Christ.”

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis

Website: http://threewindsblowing.com

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Randy Willis | No Sunshine?


The year was 1920.  The son of a poor sharecropper from the now-ghost town of Beech Springs in north Louisiana decided he wanted to get an education. His family was so poor that he did not have a bed in which to sleep until he was nine years old.

Upon graduation from high school, he began the task of choosing a college.   One of his neighbors had something called a college catalogue.  Later he would recall, “I was amazed and believed you could order a college just as you ordered something from Sears. I’d never seen a college, had never been on a college campus, but I read it and it told all about Louisiana College at Pineville. I decided that’s where I would try to go.”  The college had been established just fourteen years before in 1906.

But how could he pay for tuition, books, housing, and food?  He didn’t have any money or know anyone that did. He decided to try and get a job at the college.  On his second day on campus he went to the college employment office and found a job in the soon to be named Hattie B. Strother Cafeteria.  Hattie was the beloved Dean of Women of Louisiana College.  She would serve as Dean of Women for 21 years. Hattie Strother’s  maternal great-grandfather, Joseph Willis, had preached the first sermon by an Evangelical West of the Mississippi River, but it would be a decision by her brother that would forever change Louisiana history.

Hattie’s brother, Willie Strother,  was a history professor at Louisiana College.  He would teach there for 35 years.  The young sharecropper’s son would attend his classes.  He wished to get his degree in history.  It would also be during the student’s freshman year that a classmate of his and Willie and Hattie’s brother, Harry Winfield Strother, would die from injuries in a football game at Louisiana College.

After acquiring the job in the cafeteria he joined the glee club. Professor Dunwoody soon assigned him to the college quartet. He sang lead. About the same time he received a gift, a used guitar. He taught himself how to play it. As winter approached he became desperate for money. With his guitar, he began to sing on the street corners in Alexandria. When an officer would tell him to move on he would move to another street corner.

The young student’s name was Jimmie Davis.  He would graduate from Louisiana College, earning a bachelor’s degree in history in 1924 and in 1927 a masters degree from Louisiana State University.  He would become a two-time governor of Louisiana and record one of America’s best-loved songs,  ” You Are My Sunshine. ”  He was inducted into six halls of fames, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

But none of this would have happened had it not been for two encounters on the campus of Louisiana College.  In his third year of college Jimmie simply just did not have the money to continue. He tried banks for a loan. They all turned him down. Later, he would write, “Everyone ought to be hungry and try to borrow money at least once in their life. To be broke and turned down, well, it’s something.”

With his dreams put on hold the college boy found himself in back of a mule again, plowing and picking cotton from sunup to sundown . Jimmie made $75 and supplemented that by slipping back into Alexandria and singing on street corners. After one year in the cotton fields he was able to return to Louisiana College and obtain his degree in history when Willie Strother loaned him $120 (the equivalent of $1,500 today).

But, there would be yet another encounter on the campus of Louisiana College that would have a greater impact on Jimmie’s life.   While walking across campus a man introduced himself to Jimmie. The stranger was striking looking, well dressed, and friendly.  Jimmie said, “At first we talked about football and baseball.”   He was the son of a sharecropper too.

Then he began to ask Jimmie questions and explained who he was. “I’m Robert G. Lee .  I’m holding a revival in Pineville tonight and you’re invited.”  Dr. Lee had served as pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans for four years.   The bold and future three time president of the Southern Baptist Convention (and future pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis) added, “Jimmie, can I ask you something? If the Lord would call you today, would you be ready to go.” Jimmie replied, “Dr. Lee, I hope He doesn’t call me today because I don’t think I could make it.”  Dr. Lee replied, “The Lord’s been good to you, and it’s something you ought to think about.” He closed by saying, “I hope you’ll come to church tonight.”

Jimmie later wrote, “I realized that everything I had, everything I had ever had, and everything I would ever hope to have on this earth had come and would come through the grace of God.”

Jimmie continued, “That night I went to church. Dr Lee gave one of his most famous and beloved sermons,  Pay Day, Some Day.  There’s no doubt of it, the man had the finest command of the English language that I have ever heard. Before he had finished, I was ready to go down the aisle. And when he gave the invitation, I was the first one down and made public my profession of faith and united with that church.”  Willie Strother was there. He was a deacon in the church.

Jimmie would write of his beloved college, “Every man needs God as a partner because you can’t make it by yourself. I knew it was my duty to try and contribute something to life, not just take from it, and I determined to try to be a better citizen. I believe that was the most important thing I learned at Louisiana College.”

Jimmie Davis would go on to change Louisiana history and impact the lives of thousands through his music and life. In 1999, “You Are My Sunshine” was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and the Recording Industry Association of America named it one of the Songs of the Century.

“You Are My Sunshine,” was designated an official state song of Louisiana in 1977.

The Sunshine Bridge was completed in 1963 over the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Governor Davis named it after his signature song. His horse was also named Sunshine.

Governor Davis died in his sleep peacefully at his Baton Rouge home on November 5, 2000. He was 101 years old and had continued to make public appearances until a few months before his passing.

 Vaya con Dios,

~ Randy Willis

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Bibliography: Jimmie Davis’s papers can be found at the Louisiana State Archives, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. An obituary appears in the New York Times, 6 Nov. 2000. An uncritical biography is Gus Weill’s You Are My Sunshine: The Jimmie Davis Story, an Affectionate Biography (1977). Davis’s first term of governor is well covered in Jerry Purvis Sanson’s Louisiana during World War II: Politics and Society, 1939-1945 (1999).

Website: www.threewindsblowing.com

Amazon author’s page:   http://amazon.com/author/randywillis

Bibliography: Jimmie Davis’s papers can be found at the Louisiana State Archives, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. An obituary appears in the New York Times, 6 Nov. 2000. An uncritical biography is Gus Weill’s You Are My Sunshine: The Jimmie Davis Story, an Affectionate Biography (1977). Davis’s first term of governor is well covered in Jerry Purvis Sanson’s Louisiana during World War II: Politics and Society, 1939-1945 (1999).


Randy Willis | It’s No Secret


A “chance encounter” with an unknown preacher and a question from Hollywood’s most famous movie star would change his life. ~ Randy Willis

He was a huge star. And, the composer of many hit songs. The original manuscript of one of those songs is buried in the cornerstone of the Copyright Building of the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. He acted in motion pictures with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and his good friend John Wayne. And, he could sing. In 1934, he became the first recording artist signed by the American subsidiary of Decca Records. When television was in its infancy, in the early ’50’s, he was the West Coast’s biggest radio star with a show syndicated nationwide.

But he was not happy and didn’t cope well with the pressures of his high-profile career and sought relief in alcohol. His drinking and gambling problems began to severely affect his life and his family’s life. Many times his drinking landed him in jail. Born in Kellyville, Texas, The Texas State Historical Association records that he identified himself as the “original juvenile delinquent.”

His name was Stuart Hamblen. His life would change forever with a “chance encounter” with a young and unknown preacher and a question from America’s most famous movie star.

In 1949, Stuart’s wife Suzy, encouraged him to attend a prayer meeting with her. A young preacher by the name of Billy Graham was to speak to the group. Not a single newspaper had carried the story of young Billy being in town for a tent revival. But, among Billy’s supporters was the influential Presbyterian Bible teacher Henrietta Mears, who had invited him to her home in Beverly Hills to speak to a group of Hollywood notables. The group was called the Hollywood Christian Group. It’s goal was to reach the entertainment industry with the Gospel. Many were impacted by these meetings such as Ronald Reagan, Dale Evans, and Roy Rogers.

Suzy made sure they were there early, and she and Henrietta disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Stuart and Billy alone. The two men hit it off right away, and Stuart asked Billy if he would like to come on his radio show to promote his tent crusade. Billy show up at the radio station, and after the radio interview, Stuart urged his listeners to go down to the tent to hear more of Billy, and ended by stating, “Make sure you all come, cause I’ll be there too!”

He had no intention of going, but Suzy wasn’t about to let him forget his promise. That evening, as Stuart started to settle in for the night, Suzy appeared, all ready to go out the door. She looked at him and said, “You ready to go? You told everyone that you were going to be there. You don’t want to disappoint your fans!” Reluctantly, Stuart went. She lead him down to the front row—dead center—right in front of the pulpit. Night after night, she would drag Stuart down there, front row center, until finally he couldn’t take it no more. He had had enough and decided to escape. He packed up his hound dogs, and headed out for a hunting trip. It didn’t seem to matter though, as the three-week campaign neared its end, since there was no sign that Stuart was under any conviction—of any kind—except to get out of there.

Sensing that momentum for the meetings was building, the local crusade organisers wanted to extend them, but Billy was hesitant. He put out a “fleece,” and asked God for a sign. The next morning at 4:30, he was awakened in his room, at the Langham Hotel, by a phone call. It was Stuart Hamblen, and he was in tears. Billy shared the Gospel with him. The result was that he surrendered his life to Christ. That night, Stuart was at the crusade again and publicly gave his heart to Christ.

Stuart told the story of his conversion on his radio show. William Randolph Hearst heard it and sent a telegram to all his newspaper editors: “Puff Graham.” Soon all of Los Angeles was buzzing about Billy Graham’s meetings.

The Los Angeles Crusade of 1949 was the first great evangelistic campaign of Billy Graham. The campaign was extended to eight weeks. During the campaign Billy spoke to 350,000 people . By the end, 3,000 of them accepted Christ as their Savior. After this crusade Billy became a national figure in the United States.

Fourteen years later, during his 1963 crusade, in Los Angeles, Billy called Stuart’s conversion “the turning point” in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s ministry. Billy added, before Stuart accepted Christ the crowds were rather small.

Before his conversion, Stuart’s radio sponsors regularly bailed him out of jail and smoothed things over because of his popularity on the radio. After his conversion, he started a new radio program titled The Cowboy Church of the Air which became nationally syndicated. A confrontation developed with his sponsors, however, when he refused to advertise alcohol. His much publicized departure from the program resulted in his being asked to run for President of the United States in 1952.

Now, about that song that Stuart wrote. The one that is buried in the cornerstone of one of the Copyright Buildings of the Library of Congress. It has been translated into over 50 languages around the world and was the first song to ‘cross-over’ becoming #1 in Gospel, Country, and Pop categories and starting the trend for ballad style gospel songs. It’s been recorded by many artist, arguably most famously by Elvis Presley.

Shortly after his conversion, Stuart ran into his friend John Wayne on a street in Los Angeles. “What’s this I hear about you, Stuart?” asked Wayne. “Well, Duke, it’s no secret what God has done for me and he could do it for you too,” Stuart replied . “Sounds like a song,” said Wayne. Stuart went home, sat down at his piano and wrote It Is No Secret What God Can Do, in ten minutes.

It’s No Secret (What God Can Do) by Stuart Hamblen

“The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you

[Refrain] It is no secret what God can do
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don’t run away and hide”

Stuart went on to write 225 other songs including, This Ole House, Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In) and Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You.

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis

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Randy Willis |Trust & Respect


It took me a year to gain his trust. I named him Big Jake after my Dad. He arrived at sunrise (at my barn) this morning for breakfast.

Much is spoken about the word love but with Big Jake it’s all about trust and respect. I agree with him.

Vaya con Dios,  Randy Willis

Website: http://threewindsblowing.com

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