Tony Williams says his father ‘is smiling a broad smile’ in heaven after Black Clergy endorsement

 Candidate for Mayor Anthony Hardy Williams with leaders and members of Black Clergy of Philadelphia, who gave Williams their endorsement. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

Candidate for Mayor Anthony Hardy Williams with leaders and members of Black Clergy of Philadelphia, who gave Williams their endorsement. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity formally endorsed Anthony Hardy Williams for the city’s next mayor after its prayer breakfast in Overbrook on Thursday.

Rev. Terrence D. Griffith, the group’s president, said the endorsement has historically “vaulted [recipients] to the front of the pack.”

He declined to discuss stories about the political committee’s apparent nod to candidate Jim Kenney despite thinking a committee member “may have leaked that information.”

Griffith said that Williams “emerged as the group’s choice” after members spoke with candidates vying in the Democratic primary field.

“Clergy has had the opportunity of working with Sen. Williams on a number of issues that impact our communities,” Griffith said at Calabash Banquet & Restaurant on Lancaster Avenue. “He has been a strong advocate for our people and clergy has honored him with its endorsement to chart the destiny of Philadelphia for future years ahead.”

When asked by WHYY’s Dave Davies about the practical implications of the endorsement, Griffith noted that, “I’m not saying [members] will be endorsing from the pulpit” but preachers “have the right” to speak about the race from there.

For his part, Williams said it was “a humbling moment that will stay with me and my family forever” because they have been close to many in the room over the years.

“Believe me, my father [the late Hardy Williams] is smiling a broad smile up in heaven today,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Williams, however, to decry the “racial math” stories he predicted would appear in “the newspapers” after the event.

“I will look past that,” he said. “Clergy isn’t just endorsing the black guy. They are endorsing a candidate with a vision for all of Philadelphia. … We don’t just pray for black people. We’re all God’s children.”

As for what will happen should he win in May and November, Williams told roughly 125 people in attendance that the Black Clergy group won’t just be a phone call away.

“They will have an office not too far down the hall from me [in City Hall], advising me and offering prayers for the city,” he said.

The group also endorsed a slate of candidates for state and city judicial positions and City Council at-large seats.

As for the latter, Black Clergy lent its support to incumbents Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode Jr. and Ed Neilson along with challengers Derek Green, Isaiah Thomas and Terry Tracy (R).

Griffith added the caveat that they could support an independent candidate come November.

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