A memorial service Thursday for a Shaw University student who played in the school’s marching band took on the contours of a New Orleans-style funeral, as his fellow musicians played solemn music during the event that turned jaunty and uplifting at its conclusion.
Bryant D. Williams, 26, of Jesup, Ga., was riding a motorcycle north on Carthage Circle, off Trawick Road, about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when he lost control of the Yamaha bike near Piedmont Drive, according to police.
Wake County EMS medics rushed Williams to WakeMed in Raleigh, where he died.
Speaking at a prayer service Thursday afternoon, Shaw president Tashni Dubroy said Williams would be awarded a degree during his funeral. Williams was a third-year student majoring in recreation management. He played the bass drum in the school’s Platinum Sound Band.
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Williams’ family, including his 5-year-old daughter, Melanie, and her mother, Kiara Ross, attended the prayer service, in Boyd Chapel on campus.
Andre Haden of Suffolk, Va., a classmate and friend, described Williams as a generous, warm-hearted man who was “the life of the party” and the best man at his wedding.
“He was my brother. Blood couldn’t make us no closer,” Haden said. “He allowed me to be the godfather of his beautiful daughter. I promised I would take care of her if anything happened to him, not knowing that day would come.”
Haden said Melanie was her father’s best friend. Williams met Ross while they were both enrolled at Shaw. He had been out of school for nearly five years to help raise his daughter before returning last year to earn his degree.
“When he told me that, ‘A brother got to go back to school and finish,’ I was so happy,” Williams said. “He wanted to take care of his daughter. That’s what he was trying to do. He was set to graduate in May.”
More than 150 people attended the prayer service. Some were overcome with emotion, including Ross, who had to leave the chapel. One student had to be carried out.
Jerelene Carver with the Shaw counseling center encouraged students to stay strong, but she also told them that it was OK to grieve the loss of their classmate.
“Trust God, and this too shall pass,” Carver said. “I know it doesn’t feel like it right now.”
A woman carried Williams’ daughter out of the chapel when the service ended. The little girl with shoulder-length braids appeared stunned, her eyes red from crying.