Hundreds mourn deacon who was killed after church bus hit SUV

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- "My daddy got delivered on Sunday afternoon!"

Those words, spoken by an emotional William Henderson Clayton, Jr., brought many mourners to their feet on Saturday.

Mourners filled the pews inside Poplar Springs Christian Church for the funeral of William Henderson Clayton, Sr., the church deacon who died after a wreck in northeast Wake County last Sunday.

A van carrying Clayton and other members of the First Missionary Baptist Church hit a deer, sideswiped a van and then collided with an SUV. The SUV's driver, 64-year-old Debra Powell of Roxboro, also died at the scene of the crash.

Clayton's family sat in the first pew and were surrounded by several elaborate floral arrangements.

The mourners listened to the choir sing and people were able to share their fondest memories of Clayton, a man who grew up on a 125-acre farm before joining the Army and earning a degree from North Carolina A&T State University.

"He came into my life eight years ago, and he's been a scholar and a gentleman," said Food Lion cashier Anita Scott. "Very well loved!"

Scott and many others wept while listening to Clayton's son preach about his father's life and work, which included years as a 4-H extension agent in Johnston County.

"Oh my God, did he bring that eulogy? That eulogy just brought me to tears," said Scott. "I'm standing here with my eyes still wet!"

Clayton's son, who is also a preacher, told the mourners about his conversation with a state trooper dispatched to the accident scene. He said when the trooper asked his father questions after the wreck, checking to see how badly the deacon was hurt, "My daddy responded, 'I am a deacon of the church!' He didn't say First Baptist Church. He said 'I am a deacon! I'm a soldier!'"

"His life was a sermon," Clayton Jr. said as mourners filed out of the church after his father's funeral. "It's easy to preach his sermon when you knew him. So I just told his story."

William Clayton, Sr. is now buried at the Maplewood Cemetery in Clayton.
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