Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.





William Wilson 'Willie' Whitehead, with one of his three daughters, Alice.... circa 1910.

"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."        

---- 1 Corinthians 15:53

The date was 1835.  Miss Charlotte Elliott (at left) was vi­sit­ing some friends in the West End of Lon­don, and there she met the em­i­nent min­is­ter, Cé­sar Ma­lan. While seat­ed at sup­per, the min­is­ter said he hoped that she was a Christ­ian. She took of­fense at this and re­plied that she would ra­ther not dis­cuss that quest­ion. Dr. Ma­lan said that he was sor­ry if he had of­fend­ed her, for he al­ways liked to speak a word for his Mas­ter, and he hoped that the young la­dy would some day be­come a work­er for Christ. When they met again three weeks later at the home of a mu­tu­al friend, Miss Ell­i­ott told the min­is­ter that ev­er since he had spok­en to her she had been try­ing to find her Sav­ior, and that she now wished him to tell her how to come to Christ. “Just come to him as you are,” Dr. Ma­lan said. This she did, and went away re­joic­ing. Shortly af­ter­ward she wrote this hymn, "Just as I am." Then a year later, in 1836 she became editor of "The Christ­ian Re­mem­branc­er" and it was there that she first published her new hymn, "Just as I am."  It would be another 13 years later  (1849) that William B. Bradbury (at right) would compose and publish the music that has long since been linked to Charlotte Elliott's beautiful phrasings.

Charlotte Elliott's brother was a Christian minister in their time, and after Charlotte's death in 1871 it was he who would pay his respects best by saying...

"In the course of a long min­is­try, I hope I have been per­mit­ted to see some of the fruit of my la­bor, but I feel that far more has been done by a sin­gle hymn of my sis­ter’s."

And it was during the period leading up to the Civil War of the 1860's when the principal characters of my "Raisins and Almonds---a Civil War Story," --- John and Emily Ellen Clarke Whitehead --- first came to know and love this hymn, "Just as I am."  For those who may not yet know of their story that I am in the midst of writing:--- John Whitehead --- my Great, Great Grandfather---  an ordained Presbyterian Minister and Chaplain in the Union Army --- was captured by the Confederates in June, 1864 when his unit was overrun at The First Battle of the Weldon Railroad.  And with their surrender and capture, the officers were separated from the men they led.  The officers were destined to spend the duration of the war in Libby Prison in Richmond, VA, while all the others were herded into cattle cars bound for Andersonville, GA--- never to be heard from again. 

But it was this very hymn, "Just as I am," that John would carry with him throughout his ministry to These Men of Libby.  While Charlotte Elliott wrote her hymn, "Just as I am," in a time well before the Civil War, it would be her very words "Just as I am" that would come to describe These Men of Libby.  As their months of captivity and despair began to take their toll, they would huddle together in groups of five or six, each suffering unabatedly from disease and malnutrition, clothed in tattered blankets covering the rags they once called uniforms.  And it was under such inhumane conditions as these that These Men of Libby came to know their Christ, for it was only through Christ that they would come to be judged by their God.  And it was under such desperate circumstances as these that all too many of them did come to their Judgment Day--- and when they came, they came "Just as I am." 

While a great many of their number did not, John survived Libby Prison.  But within just a few short months following his liberation from Libby in early March, 1865, John too would succumb to the typhoid he had first contracted while at Libby--- forever at peace with His Maker for his ministry to These Men of Libby so that each might come to know their Christ--- the Son of God and the Savior of their soul:---

"Just as I am, without one plea ... Oh Lamb of God, I come, I come."



< A survivor --- not of Libby --- but of Andersonville.  In all, at the conclusion of the Civil War, there would be only one Confederate Officer ever tried and hanged for war crimes --- and that was Captain Henry Wirz, Commandant of the Prison at Andersonville.  As he stood on the gallows with the noose of the rope already around his neck, Captain Wirz maintained his innocence to the very end--- "I stand here before you as a soldier,  condemned to die for being nothing more than an officer who followed his orders."

In contrast, conditions at Libby were desperate, but not as desperate as those suffered at Andersonville.  And in all fairness, the Union Prisons holding captured Confederates were not much better.  Still, nothing comes close to Andersonville...then Libby.


POSTSCRIPT:  Pictured at right is John Whitehead's gravesite in    Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, bearing the date of August 5, 1865.  His wife Emily, one of so many Civil War widows from both North and South, would live on without John until 1897, when she too was buried beside him.  As John and Emily's Great, Great Grandson, I would not be born until some 37 years later (1934 )--- but in my time I would curl up and sit on the lap of John and Emily's son, Willie, and whenever I did so, my mother would later tell me that his crusty exterior would simply melt away.

Willie's colorful life is itself the stuff of which sequels are made of.  Willie was only 9-years old when his father, John Whitehead --- the hero of my "Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story" --- died in 1865.  Later, young Willie would become known as William Wilson Whitehead--- a man of some means as a tool and die consultant and designer of early automobiles.  But as William Wilson, Willie led a scandalous life, putting his first wife, Maria, into a mental hospital so that he and the woman next door, Lilly, could run off



together.  William brought his and Maria's four children, including my Grandmother, Ellen Susan Whitehead, into the mix, but Lilly simply ran off and left her own children for their own father to care for.  

 Together, William and Lilly would have one illegitimate child--- Bertha.  But Lilly died three months after childbirth, and then, purely by chance while visiting Lilly's grave, William would meet yet a third woman, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was a widow, then visiting the gravesite of her husband.  In time William Wilson Whitehead married Elizabeth but did so without telling her that he was already married to Maria.  By then my Grandmother, Ellen Susan Whitehead, and her two sisters, Della and Alice, were old enough to be on their own.  At that time my Grandmother was all of 16 years old, working in a candy store on the South Side of Chicago, when in walked Michael Edward Downey from Cohoes, NY on his way to make his fortune in the Alaskan gold rush of 1898-1901.  Michael never left Chicago.

But back to the sequel to my story, after Lilly's untimely death, William put Bertha, then a 3-month old infant, and Robert James Whitehead, the youngest of his and Maria's four children, into a boarding house because he could not care for them on his own.  He never told Elizabeth anything about either Maria or these two children.  Eventually, Elizabeth would learn the truth--- that Maria was in a mental hospital and that two of his children were in a boarding house.  Once married, albeit illegally, William Wilson Whitehead did tell his new wife, Elizabeth, about Robert, at which point she told him to go and get Robert out of the boarding house.  But it would be Robert, and not his father, who would tell Elizabeth that there was another child still at the boarding house, and again Elizabeth told Robert's father to go back and bring home baby Bertha too.  Then Robert told Elizabeth about his mother, Maria, and that she was still at the mental hospital.  Realizing that her new husband was an outright bigamist, Elizabeth became furious over all his lies and deceit, and so she threw William Wilson Whitehead out of the house.  As for Robert and Bertha, Elizabeth gave them the home they never had, raising them from that day forward as though they were own.  Elizabeth died on October 23, 1930, but she never told Bertha, who by then was 30-years old, that she was not her mother.  Bertha never found out about her true parentage until after Elizabeth's death, and she was devastated by this revelation.

William Wilson Whitehead drifted in and out of bars throughout the Great Depression of the early 1930's, but toward the end of his days he would quit his drinking and become a self-proclaimed evangelist, putting all his remaining wherewithal into a rescue mission for the poor and indigent in Toledo, Ohio.  My Uncle Bill (William Wilson Black ---now deceased) wrote down this part of the story which I now repeat using his words:---  "In a drunken stupor at a hotel in Toledo, he suddenly heard an 'angel' choir singing.  He looked out of the window of his room and saw 10-12 people of earlier acquaintance, now 'angels,' and was converted on the spot!  He quit drinking and started preaching, opening a rescue mission where he happened to be working.  He lived on almost nothing, saved his money, and when he had quite a bank account for those days, he would devote full time to his mission." 

As with all sequels, there has to be an ending, but William Wilson Whitehead's colorful life would come to a violent ending. Having closed his rescue mission for the night, he was on his way back to his dingy, one-room hotel in Toledo when he was mugged in an alleyway.  At 84 years old he was severely beaten about the face and head, then robbed and left in a heap, like the trash that was littered about him.  Willie died within hours after he was found.


William Wilson "Willie" Whitehead (1856-1940):--- Such a violent and inglorious death --- occurring well into the 20th century --- the son of a Civil War veteran, trying to atone for the sins of his earlier days by retracing his father's footsteps --- 'with Christian charity for all.'  And so it was that Willie too would come to be judged"Just as I am"  --- as shall we all, each and every one.


Now singing "Just as I am", made so recognizable in our time by the Reverend Billy Graham, is yet another of our contemporaries--- Tony award winner, Kristin Chenoweth.  Kristin is so versatile.  She is a coloratura soprano, trained in the classical tradition, and as you might suspect, has sung with the NY Metropolitan Opera.  But she is also a Broadway, TV and Hollywood movie actress and has performed several times on Garrison Keiler's Prairie Home Companion.  She has only two recording albums out, but one of them, "As I Am," is devoted exclusively to Christian/Gospel music.  And from that recording, here now is one of them--- her signature hymn: "Just as I am"...

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Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!