Jeffrey Cox – Cougar News Contributor
BOUQUET JUNCTION – Anyone who drives around Santa Clarita has seen him. A bit of a local celebrity, Willie Young is the man we all know as the guy who stands on the street corners holding up the Jesus signs. While we have all seen him, not many of us know him. Willie is a devoted family man and a man who is a model of commitment.
Born in Alabama, Willie was the 13th of 14 children. He attended Parker High School in Birmingham and was a member of the football team. “In Alabama, all we had was church and sports,” Willie said. He is also a big fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, boasting about the national championship the team had won last season and their iconic head coach from the past, Paul “Bear” Bryant.
After moving to Los Angeles, Willie had become a member of the Full of Faith Christian Center, a move which in turn lead him down a path that would put him on street corners with signs and a familiar face to most here in the Santa Clarita Valley. The pastor of Full of Faith Christian Center, William Mims, approached Willie one day in the early 80’s and asked him if he could make some signs, knowing of his talents as a graphic artist. Mims had seen somebody standing on the street corner holding signs promoting Jesus, thought it was a good idea and wanted to organize his own group to do the same.
Soon afterwards, a group of about 12 people started going out every Saturday with the signs Willie had designed, including several USC football players which dubbed themselves Champions of Christ. As time passed, members of the group starting tailing off for various reasons, including moving away, and Willie found himself being the lone person still dedicated to the cause.
In 1992, Willie had moved to the Santa Clarita Valley. He figured since he was already alone with the signs, he might as well start up in his new city. Willie found himself spending a lot of money replacing the signs, which were primarily cardboard signs on a stick. The search began for somebody to make signs which were more permanent and could withstand the forces of nature.
Often times, Willie wears headphones as he is out on the corner doing his thing. It’s typically not music he listens to, although gospel music does find its’ way through the speakers. Chances are, however, when you see him with headphones on, he is listening to Bible Go Traveler, which is scripture of both the old and new testaments. Willie views the cars passing him by as his congregation, and over the years he has noticed small children he recognizes in cars driving past him growing up into adults.
There are several days he has considered quitting going out with his signs, but he always goes back to his Bible for the strength to continue. Willie also enjoys the respect others give him when he is out on a street corner by honking their horns, but he does not let it go to his head. He considers himself to be just another man, with the same trials and tribulations as everybody else.
Willie is also a devoted family man, being married for 24 years. He has four children, 23 year old Danielle, twin 20 year old sons Darren and Aaron, and 3 year old Caleb. Danielle is currently attending Arizona State University and Darren and Aaron are students at College of the Canyons. The family takes several trips to Arizona to visit Danielle, and is even considering moving there. At times, his children have even gone out with Willie to hold the signs on street corners.
As a family, they enjoy watching movies, attending family events and going to sporting events. Willie never missed a Hart High football game when Aaron played football for the Indians. His favorite movie is The Gospel of John, a movie released a year before the Passion of the Christ. Willie says the Passion of the Christ got all of the accolades, but considers the Gospel of John to be much better. The Gospel of John is a precise translation of the Gospel of John, and does not include stories from any other gospel.
He is a man of conviction, a person who dedicates himself to what he believes and stands up for what he feels is important. Perhaps the rest of us, regardless of faith, could learn something from the model Willie Young shows us standing on street corners around the Santa Clarita Valley.