Christian 01

Rev. William Alexander Purnell Jr.

April 4, 1949 ~ May 31, 2021 (age 72)

Obituary Image


Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  KJV

The time came for The Rev. William A. Purnell, Jr. on Monday, May 31, 2021, as he triumphantly made his transition from here to eternal rest. “Billy” as he was affectionately known was born in Salisbury, MD, on April 4, 1949, to the late William A. Purnell Sr., and Betty L. White.

Billy’s early community career started out as a mentor and coaching track at the Lake Street Playground with Billy Gene Jackson.

Billy was educated in the public schools of Wicomico County, MD and later attended Morgan State College, Baltimore. In 1984 he began his ministry as a Local Preacher at St. Paul A. M. E. Zion church, Salisbury, MD.

In 1985 he married Melanie Bivens and received his Local Preacher’s License from the A. M. E. Zion Baltimore-Philadelphia Conference.  In 1986, he relocated with his family to Salisbury, NC, where he attended Livingstone College. While at Livingstone College, he became the Assistant Pastor at Soldiers Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church. At Soldiers Memorial he received his Ordination of Deacon in 1986, and continued to serve as Assistant Pastor, work and raise his family. In 1988 while serving as the assistant pastor he received his Ordination of Elder.  In 1990 he graduated from Livingstone College with a Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) Summa Cum Laude and was accepted into a Dual Master’s Degree Program at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, School of Divinity and the University of Connecticut, Hartford, Connecticut, School of Social Work.  After graduation from Yale and UCONN he was called to Houston, Texas, to serve as the Presiding Elder of Houston-Dallas Texas A. M. E. Zion Church and to serve as Pastor of Walls Chapel A. M. E. Zion Church in Houston. He and his family later returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and pastored at Fawn A.M. E. Zion Church, New Park, Pennsylvania. Rev. Purnell was later called by the Progressive Baptist Association to pastor at the United Missionary Baptist Church, Cambridge, MD.

Rev. Purnell served as Lead Organizer for One Chane Inc, Hartford, Ct, Program Coordinator and Developer for Salisbury Urban Ministries, Salisbury, MD. Through these organizations he was such an inspiration to so many young people and families. He was a Therapeutic Clinical Coordinator for Mentor Maryland, Core Faculty member at Sojourner-Douglas College Salisbury Campus, Part-time Instructor at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Neighborhood Initiative Coordinator for Wicomico Partnership for Families and Children, Contractual Program Developer for Wicomico County Detention Center, School Liaison and Bus Aide for Wicomico County Board of Education Early Learning Center and Police Chaplain for the City of Salisbury Police Department.

From an early age Rev Purnell was ambitious and eager to pursue His Dreams. As a child, he took on the name ‘Tarzan’, in hopes of being the warrior of the family. He had a ‘great love for his grand mom, Maggie White’, who taught him the scriptures of Proverbs. She also gave him the nickname of Flasshead.

At an early age, he was the “driver with no license” for his uncle Charlie and grand mom, Maggie. Growing up on the West Side, he developed a love for football, playing quarterback for Salisbury High School. It was the first integrated class to Graduate from WIHI class of 1967. William marched as Drum major in Elementary school as well as Percussions in High School. In later years, he ventured out on his own to California and became good friends with Miles Davis and Mtume, while attending Morgan State. He was Roommate to the Ghostbuster singer Ray Parker Jr.

Billy was a God fearing, Fun Loving Joking Dad, Husband, friend, cousin, uncle, teacher, and Preacher, who put God First in all situations. Mel often told Billy he joked so much, people wouldn’t take him seriously. Billy, Bill Bill, Gabriel and Savyon loved watching the television comedy sitcom show, Martin, T.V. Wrestling, motor trend, and drag racing. He learned to “tinker” on cars from his dad as well as Eddy and Louis. Billy always had a red pill to give the kids for every ailment. He even gave the kids castor oil one time with a spoon full of sugar to follow. His love of traveling and ministry carried his family from the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to the Snowy Capped Mountains of Connecticut on to the Lone Star State of Texas. After such a stent of travel, God knew there was no place like Home! Not to forget to mention, What a Man, He was!

Leaving to cherish his memories for 36 years his loving wife: Melanie Bivens Purnell of Delmar, DE; two sons: Adrian Roberts (Ralea), of Washington, DC and William Purnell III, of Salisbury, MD; four daughters: Shameka Purnell and Alicia Purnell (Demond Byrd), both of Salisbury, MD, Bobbi Purnell, of Columbia, MD, and Consuela Purnell, of Delmar, DE; seven grandchildren: Savyon Price, Gabriel Price, Trinity Byrd, Demond Byrd, Malachi Roberts, Malea Roberts; two great-grandchildren: step-mother: Rev. Violet Jones, of Fruitland, MD; Mother-in-law: Phyllis Nichols Bivens, of Chance, MD; siblings: Rose Mack (Edward), of Hinesville, GA, Joyce Hankerson, of Salisbury, MD, Daisy Purnell and William I “Eddie” Purnell, both of Savannah, GA, Louis Smith (Crystal), of Fruitland, MD; aunts: Mildred Jolley, of Wilmington, DE, and Adele White, of Capitol Heights, MD; special cousins: Terri Hill, Anne Joyner, Paula Love, Daniel ‘Stuffy’ White, Beverly Smith, Vonnie Wescott, James ‘Booper’ Williams and Shelly Johnson;  a host of other cousins, nieces, nephews and other extended relatives and friends.

His parents: William A. Purnell Sr. and the Betty L. White, aunts: Harriet, Ruth, Mary, and Patsy and uncles: Walter, Clifford, James, and Daniel; father-in-law: Robert Bivens Sr. and brother-in-law: Robert Bivens Jr., and cousin: Andre Jay White Sr., all preceded William in death.

Lovingly Submitted

The Family


Proverb 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Note: Jolley Memorial Chapel, P.A. will comply with the COVID-19 rules regarding masks and safe social distancing. Therefore, anyone attending the viewing and/or funeral services must wear a mask.

The funeral service will be live-streamed -Jolley Memorial Chapel PA, FACEBOOK page: (Please copy address into browser)

To send flowers to Rev. William Alexander Purnell Jr.'s family, please visit our floral store.


Public Viewing
June 12, 2021

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
St. Paul A. M. E. Zion Church
410 Delaware Avenue
Salisbury, Maryland 21801

Funeral Service
June 12, 2021

1:00 PM
St. Paul A. M. E. Zion Church
410 Delaware Avenue
Salisbury, Maryland 21801

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