Joe Justin Walters passed away peacefully on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Joe was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather who will be dearly missed. He was well-known to St. Simons Island where he led the music and directed the choirs at First Baptist, Wesley United Methodist and St. Simons Presbyterian Church. Up until his 92nd year he was still singing in the choir at Frederica Presbyterian Church.
Born in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 1923, Joe enlisted in the National Guard when he was 17 years old (after fudging his age), and when World War II was declared soon after, he was called up to active duty in the Army. He served in the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific for the duration of the war and achieved the rank of Master Sergeant.
After the war, he returned to Hattiesburg and enrolled in Mississippi College in Clinton. It was there he discovered the two loves of his life — his wife Rutha Lee and church music. They were married in 1947 and had two daughters, LaWanda and Susan. Joe went on to earn a degree as a music minister from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Ruthie was a wonderful organist, and she and Joe worked together at various churches in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina, before finally settling in Georgia.
In 1969, Joe was one of the founding members of The Century Men, a world famous singing group that NBC News has called “the finest male chorus in America.” He went on to travel the world with the group, performing in China, Russia, Greece, Israel, Turkey and throughout Europe. These travels were some of Joe’s most cherished experiences. He wrote a book, “Adventures with The CenturyMen” (published in 1994), detailing the history, recordings and concerts of the group. Joe’s love of music and dynamic teaching inspired several generations of future choir directors. He was an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Georgia Baptist Church Music Conference. But it was his family that was most important to him. His grandchildren Tess, Jason, Cassidy and Dylan loved hearing him sing and tell the stories of his life. Joe was a gentle and kind man, devoted to service and he will be missed by all who knew him. Requiesce in pace.