William Lee Shoulders was born on May 14, 1931, the first-born son of
sharecroppers in Gallatin, Tennessee. Depression-era Gallatin was hilly farmland
occupied by barns, cattle, one room homes and anything you could grow out of
the soil. Bill had three brothers: Ray, Wayne, Bobby, and a sister: Marjorie. Being
a sharecropper’s kid was a hard life with a lot of toil from a young age with very
few comforts. As a child and young adult Bill worked the land with his mules and
plow and he and his siblings milked cows in the morning before they went to the
school house. Bill completed the third grade in elementary school, but that was all
for his secular education. Bill’s calling would be more of a spiritual one.
On a June day at age 17, Bill attended a Baptist mission meeting in a schoolhouse.
The Holy Spirit was moving that day and Bill found the Lord, a relationship that
would define the rest of his life. Two years later, on May 20, 1950, Bill married his
sweetheart, Ruby Dee Troutt. Bill recalled fondly rigging up the family car for
cross town trips to visit her. The car didn’t have a muffler, and the family couldn’t
afford to replace it. To avoid a run in with the local police, those trips required one
steel can tied to the exhaust each way.
Bill and Ruby were loving parents of three children, Carol, Kenneth and Timothy.
Bill’s brothers left Tennessee in the 1950’s, heading north to the land of factory
jobs, searching for an escape from poverty. They settled in Indianapolis, Indiana
and after a short time Bill and Ruby moved their young family there too. Bill had
quite the knack for carpentry, honing that skill while working at a door and trim
company Woodfinco in Brownsburg Indiana. This is where he would work until his
retirement from physical labor, in 1996 at the age of 65. His spiritual work would
go on much longer.
In 1960, Bill was baptized into Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis,
Indiana. It was at this church during the following few years where he felt the Lord
call him to preach the Word. He was ordained to preach and Pastor at Bethel in
Bill’s service to the ministry defined his life. He told of the miracle of the birth and
resurrection of Jesus and the hope that these events offer humanity in over 3,500
sermons across 6 decades. From 1966-2013 Bill pastored five different
Missionary Baptist Churches: Southside, Bethel, Freedom and Macedonia in
Indianapolis, IN and Faith in Detroit, Michigan. As a pastor, he presided over
weddings and funerals and baptized many friends and family members into the
Church. On most Saturdays during his ministry, he would tend his garden and
lawn, work on a project at his house, and then spend a few hours huddled over a
desk he made himself, studying his Bible and preparing the sermon for the next
day. If he took a vacation or some time to relax, he was probably fishing with his
Bill rose through the ministry to be one of the most respected Elders of the
church. He presided over the Bethel Missionary Baptist Association as Moderator
for 14 years in the 1990s and 2000s; helping interpret God’s word and build
relationships amongst the churches in the association. Bill’s secular education
was short, but his religious education was long and his knowledge of scripture was
deep. His sermons were known for utilizing his expansive knowledge of the Bible
and his sense of humor, often including experiences on the farm as a child and
with quotes and lessons from preachers from that era of his life.
Bill and Ruby’s children gave them many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
During holidays their small westside, Indianapolis home was filled with love, good
southern food and laughs. Their large family would gather there and share
presents and memories.
Ruby passed away 7 years ago after a decade long struggle with Alzheimers. This
was the time that Bill’s work at the church was winding down and he spent his
days ministering to her needs. He would often say that his prayer each day was to
live long enough to care for her until God called her to Heaven. Bill succeeded in
this goal, demonstrating the same loyalty and devotion to Ruby that she showed to
him during the previous 50 years of marriage when his ministry took him from
place to place and his secular and religious work kept his hands and mind busy.
Since Ruby’s passing on September 19, 2016, Bill would often share that he felt his
life’s mission complete and he longed to join her again. On December 22, 2023,
Jesus called for Bill to come home. His body lays to rest, but his Spirit is reunited
with Ruby’s and he walks with his Lord and Savior. All those spiritual questions
that he studied on Saturdays during his life have answers. Bill’s eternal life is only
Bill is survived by his brother, Ray Shoulders and his sister Majorie Sullivan, his
children Carol Shoulders and Timothy Shoulders and seven grand and twenty
great grand children. He was preceded in death by his dear wife, Ruby, his son
Kenneth Shoulders, his brothers Wayne and Bobby and his parents, Robert Earnest
Shoulders and Georgia Gladys Parker Shoulders.
Bill would want you to know that Jesus loves you and he died for your sins.
Through prayer and repentance Jesus can forgive you for your transgressions, no
matter how many or how severe. As long as you are alive, it is never too late to
make your peace with God. If you would like to learn more about Jesus and the
blessings that knowing him can offer you, the congregation at Freedom Missionary
Baptist Church 350 N. Fuller Drive, Indianapolis, IN would welcome you to their
Services at 10am each Sunday.
While Bill and Ruby loved flowers and kept a beautiful garden at their house,
instead of sending flowers to the funeral, you can honor Bill’s life’s work and help
continue it through a donation to Freedom Missionary Baptist Church.
Visitation will be Thursday, December 28, 2023, from 4 pm to 8 pm at Freedom Missionary Baptist Church, 350 N. Fuller Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46224. Funeral service will be Friday, December 29, 2023, at 11 am with visitation from 10 am at Freedom Missionary Baptist Church. Entombment will follow at Floral Park Cemetery.