Hand of the Cause William Sears was appointed a Hand by Shoghi Effendi in the last contingent of Hands prior to the Guardian's death in 1957.
"Bill" Sears was a United States television and radio personality. He was an extremely popular author in the Bahá'í community. His works include Thief in the Night, God Loves Laughter, The Wine of Astonishment, All Flags Flying, A Cry from the Heart, and many others.
Hand of the Cause of God
William Bernard Patrick Michael Tenance Sears was born 28 March 1911 in Duluth,
Minnesota, U.S.A. He had an eventful childhood, full of fun, as his personality combined a creative imagination and a penchant for action. He was extremely talented, had a wonderful sense of humor, and a warm, generous and loving nature. He also believed that whatever you did, you should try to do it better than it had ever been done before, and with more originality.
He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison during the Great Depression.
However, finances became a serious problem so he left school and went to try his
talents in the new medium of radio. He began at a small station in Wisconsin called WOMT.
It was at this point in his life that he met Marguerite Reimer, a second generation
Baha'i. Despite some obvious obstacles, including his Irish Catholic upbringing, and his being a widower with two small sons, they were married in 1940. Not long after the marriage he became a Baha'i, and for the next fifty years Bill and Marguerite served the Faith together with total dedication.
For example, he used his experience in radio broadcasting to help write and produce the Baha'i radio series "Meet Mr. Justice", which prompted Variety magazine to comment that "here at last is a Religion with a sense of humor." This series was later translated into Spanish and used in Latin America.
During the 1940s and 1950s, he became a well-known public personality while
working for WPEN and for CBS affiliate WCAU in Philadelphia, first in radio and
then in television. His sports program, "The Bill Sears Show", won an Emmy Award
as the best sports series of 1951. He was also the announcer for the University of
Pennsylvania, Villanova, and Philadelphia Eagles football games.
In addition to his success in sports broadcasting, he made two appearances on the
"Ed Sullivan Show" with episodes of the very successful "In the Park", a television
series in which he acted, and which he helped write and produce in Philadelphia for the fledgling Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
William Sears had reached a point in his professional life at which he had achieved
everything that most men desire: financial success, awards, fame, both locally and
nationally, and new contract offers and opportunities which, combined with the
state of the television industry at that time, would have assured him of becoming one of its superstars. It was then that he made the decision to set this all aside in order to serve the Faith in Africa.
In 1953, William and Marguerite Sears and their son Michael left the United States
to live in South Africa. Mr. Sears suffered a heart attack soon after his arrival, but
recovered. To support his family he returned to the radio business. His program, "That Man Sears", was very successful on Springbok Radio, the national network in South Africa.
His "Tot siens, goodnight, it's been a pleasure" was familiar to thousands all over the southern part of the continent.
In April 1954, William Sears made his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Actually,
he wrote at that time, Each pilgrim makes two pilgrimages in one ..
The first is the pilgrimage of the mind: notes taken of special information, new
developments of the Faith, instructions from the Guardian to be applied to one's
community or one's self. The second is the pilgrimage of the emotions: the sea
that surges inside the pilgrim from the moment he catches his first glimpse of that
glistening, golden dome. This is the warm flooding tide that soon will fill every empty inlet along the coastline of his spirit. .. One thing was apparent to me at once.
My life was changing. My concept of the Faith, of teaching, of service, none of
these would ever be the same again ... The Guardian calls you to higher service.
He lifts you up to heights of limitless joy, then sets you gently down. Having
revealed the treasure, he requests the payment, which is service to the Faith of
God ... Not big projects planned, but small projects completed ....
The Baha'i work in South Africa was unique and difficult, but supremely rewarding.
The Sears served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Johannesburg, which was responsible
for the planning, coordination and implementation of teaching plans for the
greater part of southern Africa and surrounding islands.
The teaching success was due largely to the direct efforts of the newly enrolled and inspired native African believers, but the source of much of their inspiration was the love showered upon them by the pioneers, and in particular by William Sears. They could feel the warmth of his love, and the appreciation he felt for their services to the Faith.
The Hand of the Cause of God in Africa, Musa Banani, asked William Sears to serve
as a member of his Auxiliary Board. Then in October 1957, in a message to the Baha'i world, Shoghi Effendi announced the designation of another contingent of the Hands of the Cause of God. Among the eight whose elevation to this exalted rank was announced in that message was William Sears. While he was still attempting to understand and come to terms with the implications of being appointed a Hand of
the Cause, he received the stunning and unbelievable news of the sudden passing of his beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi. Those two events in October and November of 1957 caused an abrupt change in William Sears. His warm and loving nature, his sense of humor, and the sparkle in his eyes were intact, but there was a new intensity,
a singleness of purpose, and no matter what else it might appear that he was doing, he was really concentrating on what he could do, himself and through his friends, to advance the Faith, and fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to him by Shoghi Effendi.
In November 1957, he was one of the 26 Hands of the Cause who attended the first
meeting of the Hands following the passing of Shoghi Effendi. Only Corinne True, too ill to travel, was not present. He was one of the 26 signers of the original proclamation of the Hands to the Baha'i world from that meeting.
In 1958 he attended the Intercontinental Conference in Kampala, Uganda, and the
National Convention in France. He visited centers in Basutoland, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Northern Rhodesia, South Africa, ( and Namibia) Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zanzibar.
During the period 1959-1961 he visited all National Spiritual Assemblies in North,
Central, and South America. He visited centers in fifteen countries in Central and South America, as well as Alaska, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica. He attended the National Convention of Costa Rica in 1960, and the National Conventions of El Salvador and Guatemala in April and May of 1961.
From June through November 1958 and again from 1961 to 1963, he served as one of the Hands of the Cause of God in the Holy Land.
In 1963, he participated in the International Convention that brought into being
the Universal House of Justice, and the World Congress that followed in London.
He was one of the speakers for the public meeting held in conjunction with the
Congress, and his talk began, "This age in which we are living has been called an age of Nuclear Giants but ethical midgets. We have been described as material monsters and moral dwarfs."
While thrilling and emotional moments followed one after another on this historic
occasion, a highlight for him was seeing one of the very first South African Baha'is, a man whose enrollment and early education and training in the Faith he had been so much a part of, William Masehla, later a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of South and West Africa and then a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa, serving as chairman for Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum.
Once the Universal House of Justice had been elected and the element of infallibility restored to the World Order of Baha'u'llah, William and Marguerite returned to the United States to live. There, one of his first major projects was the 1965-1966 California Victory campaign, one of the first successful mass teaching projects in the United States, which served as an example for projects in other parts of the world.
In 1967 he travelled throughout Europe, and represented the Universal House of
Justice at the National Convention of the Cameroon Republic. In 1970, he represented the Universal House of Justice at the Conference on Mauritius Island. He and Marguerite also visited Germany and travelled throughout Persia. In 1972, he represented the House of Justice at the National Convention of the Republic of Ireland.
While residing in the United States, he produced, with Dr. Amin Banani, a series
of four cassettes called Stories from the Children's Dawn-Breakers. He made an
Ayyam-i-Ha record for all of his grandchildren . everywhere. . . young and old.
Working with Robert Quigley and the Hawaiian friends, he helped write, produce,
and performed in probably the first series of quality Baha'i television shows.
It was his campaign, following the Guardian's example, initiated with a generous
contribution, and followed up by a steady stream of inspirational letters and
tapes in 1984, that assured the funds which made it possible for the Baha'i radio station, WLGI, at the Louis Gregory Institute, to go on the air as scheduled on 23 May 1984.
His slogans, "ARISE" (Arise Reach Individual Souls Everywhere) and "Get A
Round Tuit" are frequently used at conferences and summer schools all over the
world, and his "Month of Firesides" campaign held in the United States in November 1984 produced more firesides in Kansas in a single month than ever before. The country-wide program of Souvenir Picnics to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the original Souvenir Picnic held at the Wilhelm property in Teaneck, New Jersey, on 26 June 1987, produced spectacular proclamation events across the country. Mr. Sears attended three of these picnics, in different parts of the country, on the same day.
An effort to raise funds for the Arc using the Sears' original copy of The DawnBreakers signed by Shoghi Effendi aroused the love and admiration of friends across the country.
He was one of the reasons for the spectacular successes of The Desert Rose Baha'i
School, held annually in Tucson, Arizona, and for the famous "Gatherings" held on the Hadden property on Batterwood, near Toronto, in Canada.
One of the major contributions made by the Hand of the Cause of God William Sears was the eleven books he authored.
Release the Sun. A book written to present the soul-stirring story of the ministry
of the Bab in a way that would capture and hold the interest of the English-speaking African believers. He purposely wrote it in a simple language so it could be easily translated into the African tongues.
Thief In The Night, was written to fill a need, to answer the question asked
repeatedly by people of primarily Christian backgrounds in southern Africa. The book has been translated into numerous languages, and is widely used throughout the world. God Loves Laughter. This book is a favourite of many people. It tells the story of the early life of William Sears, including how he became Baha'i, in a light and humorous way, and yet presents the Message of Baha'u'llah in clear and uncompromising terms. Oy From The Heart. This book was written under extremely difficult conditions, in record time, in protest against the atrocities systematically committed against the Baha'is in Iran by fanatical Muslim fundamentalists with the support of the government, and by that government itself. What agony and heartache he must have suffered while working on this book. The victims, individuals, institutions of the Faith, and Baha'i Holy Places, were all personally familiar to him. He and Marguerite had travelled widely in Iran. "The Baha'is in Iran are my personal friends," he wrote. "I have met many of them face to face, stayed in their homes, played with their children, attended their meetings, marveled at their heroic history, and felt the warmth of their love and kindness." The book was translated and widely used in many places to bring pressure to bear on the government of Iran to end its persecution of the Baha'is.
There are five more published books: Prisoner and the Kings, Prince of Peace,
The Wine of Astonishment, The Flame (written with Bob Quigley), All Flags Flying,
Tokoloshe (both book and tapes), and Run to Glory. All royalties from the sale of his books, which would normally go to the author, he arranged to have contributed directly to various funds of the Faith.
One of the last things he did, during the final year of his life, was to record the book God Loves Laughter on tape for use by WLGI. What a bounty that he was able to do this himself. And how difficult it was. He had to work from large print sheets of just a sentence or two at a time, and with his glasses and his magnifying glass. But he did it!
The Hand of the Cause William Sears was as well known for his abilities as a public
speaker as he was for his books. His name on a program was sufficient to assure
standing-room-only crowds, anxious to hear him speak, and to meet him in person. In his travels, it seemed he must have embraced, and shaken hands, with half of the Baha'i world, and he always had time for the children.
He never disappointed the friends. He did not stand up to speak expecting to be
inspired. He would spend weeks preparing for a meeting, putting together notebooks, preparing charts, selecting photographs, readying special effects. While his themes were varied, they usually dealt, in some way, with the greatness of the Universal House of Justice, the station of the individual believer and what he could contribute, summed up in his title "The Majesty and Greatness of You." He was always hoping to find that special soul who could set a continent ablaze.
When you left one of his meetings you knew what the important goals of the Faith
were at this particular time in history, and what part you should be playing in accomplishing them.
We are all familiar with the admonition to let deeds, not words be our adorning. In the case of the Hand of the Cause of God William Sears, his words, written and spoken, also became an adorning, as they inspired deeds in others.
On his desk, where he sat to work, he had a long rack of books, containing the
major works of Baha'u'llah, the Bab, 'Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi. They
were literally worn out through use. The only thing holding them together was spiritual magnetism and paper clips. He was a scholar of the Faith before the coming of the concordances. He developed his own systems of indexing and cross referencing, and used them for years. When the concordances came, he had them as well.
One of the more remarkable things about this man is that he accomplished what he accomplished while dealing with the same everyday problems that beset us all-physical, financial, and every other kind-and which so often seem able to prevent us from doing what we really believe to be important, and would like to do.
The way he overcame the indignities and handicaps of the aging process could serve as an example to us all. When he could not see, he got stronger glasses. When there were no stronger glasses, he used glasses and a magnifying glass. When that didn't work, he used glasses and a magnifying glass and large print. He had laser surgery on his eyes in an effort to save what was left of his vision, but it wasn't successful. He would, afterwards, when having trouble reading some of his notes, refer apologetically to his 'laser' eyes. Those privileged to attend the meetings at which he spoke during his last year will well remember the large sheet of styrofoam which he used for his notes.
When he had trouble walking, he used a cane, then a wheel-chair; when he could not stand up to speak, he spoke sitting down. But he never stopped!
On the weekend of 19 and 20 October 1991 he began a five-city tour on behalf of
the National Spiritual Assembly to the five most promising teaching areas, to encourage the friends toward the accomplishment of the goal of 9, 000 new believers by Ridvan as a gift of loving gratitude to Baha'u'llah to usher in the Holy Year commemorating the 100th anniversary of His Ascension. His first stop was Boca Raton, Florida, followed by Worcester, Massachusetts, on 26-27 October, Tolleson, Arizona, on 2-3 November, San Francisco, California, on 9-10 November, and Portland, Oregon, on 16-17 November. He was back in Arizona in time to participate in The Desert Rose Baha'i School. Probably a little surprised at finding that he had been able to complete the five cities tour, and knowing that there was still work to be done, and little time left, he decided to visit New York City the weekend of 1-2 February 1992; Cleveland, Ohio, 8-9 February; and Washington, D.C., 15-16 February.
After a weekend off, he was in Chicago, Illinois, 29 February-1 March. The weekend of 7-8 March he was in Atlanta, Georgia, and 14-15 March in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Just a look at the itinerary is enough to tire one out. And it tells nothing of the hours of waiting in airports in the middle of the night, or of missed connections, or the terrible weather conditions, or the problems of getting around by wheel-chair.
He spent the weekend of 21-22 March at home in Tucson, doing what he called "resting", preparing for the seventh of his nine meetings, scheduled for Denver, the next weekend. March 28 would have been his eighty-first birthday.
He was unable to be with the friends in Denver. On the morning of 25 March 1992,
this aging warrior of Baha'u'llah left this earthly kingdom, his 'fierce spirit' freed to
work its wonders on a higher plane. Even his passing, which was given wide
publicity, both locally and nationally, became a proclamation and teaching event.
The message from the Universal House of Justice, dispatched 26 March 1992, read:
OUR HEARTS DEEPLY SADDENED, BAHA'I WORLD GREATLY DEPRIVED, BY PASSING
HAND CAUSE GOD WILLIAM SEARS, VIBRANT, CONSECRATED, STOUT-HEARTED STANDARD BEARER FAITH BAHA'U'LLAH. HIS MORE THAN HALF CENTURY UNBROKEN SERVICE MARKED BY UNFLINCHING DEVOTION TO BELOVED GUARDIAN, INFECTIOUS ENTHUSIASM FOR TEACHING, GALVANIZING SENSE DRAMA, DISARMING HUMOUR, SPECIAL LOVE FOR CHILDREN, UNFLAGGING DETERMINATION IN FACE DIFFICULTIES. HE WILL EVER BE REMEMBERED FOR DEDICATING FULL RANGE HIS CREATIVE AND ENERGETIC CAPACITIES AS WRITER, EDITOR, LECTURER, RADIO AND TELEVISION PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, TO HIS VARIED SERVICES AS TRAVELLING TEACHER TO NUMEROUS COUNTRIES, PARTICULARLY IN THE AMERICAS, AND AS PIONEER TO AFRICA WHERE HE WAS MEMBER OF AUXILIARY BOARD AND OF NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY SOUTH AND WEST AFRICA WHEN IN 1957 HE WAS ELEVATED RANK HAND CAUSE. HE LATER SERVED AS MEMBER BODY HANDS HOLY LAND. HIS LOSS ACUTELY FELT IN NORTH AMERICA WHERE HE EXPENDED LAST MEASURE HIS EBBING STRENGTH PROMOTION TEACHING ACTIVITIES. DYNAMIC EFFECTS HIS WORK WILL ENDURE THROUGH HIS MANY BOOKS AND RECORDINGS. GENERATIONS TO COME WILL REJOICE IN RICH LEGACY LEFT THEM THROUGH HIS HISTORIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS. FERVENTLY PRAYING HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS ILLUSTRIOUS SOUL ABHA KINGDOM.
ADVISE FRIENDS THROUGHOUT WORLD COMMEMORATE HIS PASSING. REQUEST BEFITTING MEMORIAL SERVICES TO HIS HONOUR ALL HOUSES OF WORSHIP.
WILLIAM SEARS JR.
Hand of the Cause William Sears was appointed a Hand by Shoghi Effendi in the last contingent of Hands prior to the Guardian's death in 1957.
- Created by: D Rea
- Added: 15 Mar 2006
- Find a Grave Memorial 13629045
- Sponsored by Duane K Troxel
Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/13629045/william-benard-sears : accessed ), memorial page for William Benard Sears (28 Mar 1911–25 Mar 1992), Find a Grave Memorial ID 13629045, citing East Lawn Palms Cemetery and Mortuary, Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, USA ; Maintained by D Rea (contributor 46638148) .