Before Crash, ‘Idol’ Star Willie Spence Was Planning to Appear With Tim Tebow

Willie Spence

ABC / YouTube Willie Spence performing on season 19 of "American Idol"

When “American Idol” star Willie Spence was tragically killed in a car accident on October 11, 2022, the 23-year-old was on his way to volunteer with a favorite charity, Frontline Response in Atlanta, and was looking forward to being the surprise entertainer at their upcoming gala with former football star Tim Tebow. The fundraising event will go on without Spence, but the organization is now helping to coordinate a public memorial for the gospel singer to be held two days later.


Willie Spence Was On His Way to Volunteer With Charity

Willie Spence singing

ABC / YouTubeWillie Spence performs on “American Idol” in 2021

 Around 4 pm on October 11, Spence’s Jeep collided with a parked tractor-trailer along a highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The singer, whom the Spence family called their “gentle giant” in a statement, died of his injuries at the scene. The driver of the truck was unharmed.

Publicist Robin Derryberry, who works with Frontline Response and is assisting Spence’s family, confirmed to Heavy that at the time of his death, the gospel singer “was on his way to Atlanta to volunteer his time as a member of one of our street teams.”

Frontline Response’s mission is to be “on the frontlines every day rescuing men and women out of sex trafficking and homelessness and preventing children from falling victim,” with teams of volunteers working to locate, educate and help those in need of rescuing.

“He was excited to spend time supporting our mission and had also planned to make a surprise performance at our gala,” Derryberry said.

The Night of Hope Gala on November 3 will feature Tebow as the keynote speaker, with food prepared by former White House chef John Moeller. Due to an “unprecedented response,” the organization announced on October 27 that it had only a few individual tickets and a couple of tables remaining.

Following the gala, Spence was scheduled to head overseas to perform for the first time in London on November 12, headlining a gospel event called “Willie Spence Live in London” with appearances by several British music stars.


Private & Public Services Planned for Willie Spence

Willie Spence on Idol

ABC/YouTubeWillie Spence listens to praise from Lionel Richie, who loved his performances on “American Idol”

Spence’s family has coordinated memorial events in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the singer was born. A public viewing was held on October 27 at a local funeral home. On the evening of October 28, a Celebration of Life Concert is planned at Mount Calvary Baptist Church.

A memorial service is scheduled at the church the following morning at 10 am Eastern and will be live-streamed via the Bethe’l Family Worship Center’s Facebook page. In-person attendees have been encouraged to wear silver and blue to the events.

In lieu of flowers, Spence’s family has asked that donations be given to the official Willie Spence Memorial Fund, benefitting Frontline Response.

Meanwhile, a public memorial is being planned in Douglas, Georgia, where Spence grew up, to be held on November 5. The specific time and location have not yet been announced.

The “American Idol” family of cast and crew was hit hard by Spence’s death, with countless tributes made on social media by all three judges, many crew members, and most of Spence’s closest friends from the show.

Though Derryberry refrained from providing specifics, she told Heavy, “‘American Idol’ truly is a family and they’ve been phenomenal during this period. We can’t express our support in strong enough terms for their kindness and support.”

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