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The rise and fall of Jericho Joe

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Have you heard the story of Jericho Joe? Joseph N. Williamson, a graphic artist and M.Div. student at the time, created a weekly comic strip for The Towers that ran from 1979 – 1981. Williamson hailed from Macon, Georgia, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia a year before moving to Louisville with his wife in 1978 to enroll in seminary. At UGA, Williamson honed his creative talents through editorial cartoons for the school’s Red and Black daily newspaper, but “Jericho Joe” was his first attempt at a serialized cartoon strip.


JerichoJoeTowers-19790220-201x300.jpgWilliamson, along with then-editor of The Towers Steve Higdon, created the Jericho Joe character to be a “typical seminary student or Charlie Brown-type-character” whose experiences at seminary could relate to the daily experiences and struggles many real-life students face.1 Williamson hoped that the adventures of Joe would be able to entertain and minister to the entire seminary community, stating: “Jericho Joe is your average student. He enjoys the academic atmosphere and the people but is not too thrilled about studying. During his college days he spent more time with his Frisbee than his books.” 2 


Early strips focused on Joe acclimating himself to the seminary campus and adjusting to the demands placed upon his time by class schedules and ministerial work. Later strips extended Joe’s social experiences to include his interaction with fellow students and professors. Very much a contemporary product of its era, “Jericho Joe” reflected the seminary and denominational culture as it existed during the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Williamson graduated with a Master of Divinity in Religious Education in December 1981, thus bringing an end to the “Jericho Joe” strip in the pages of The Towers. Williamson considered himself a ministerial artist, stating, “I’m not just someone who draws religious material. I intend for my art to have a ministry.” 3  


A small tribute to Williamson’s creative legacy remains an ongoing part of seminary culture even after nearly 35 years. Each year’s issue of the campus directory features a placeholder for “Jerico, Joe” in the directory listing key. 4 A personal word from Williamson appeared alongside the final strip thanking the readers for their interest and stating that “Jericho Joe has been great therapy for me. … If Joe can make it, you can too. 5




1 Teresa Sanders, “Jericho Joe Creator Sees Art as Ministry,” The Towers, October 14, 1979, p. 4.  


2 Joe Williamson, “Jericho Joe Is Moving In,” The Towers, February 6, 1979: p. 2.  


3 Sanders, “Jericho Joe Creator Sees Art as Ministry,” 


4Most recent appearance in “Southern Seminary/Boyce College–Campus Directory 2014-2015,” p. 4.


5 Joe Williamson, “Jericho Joe to Graduate,” The Towers, December 6, 1981, p. 3.





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