Joseph James Murphy, III was born May 27, 1977, in Beverly Hills, California to Presiding Elder Elaine P. Murphy Walters Gordon and Joseph James Murphy, II who preceded him in death. He departed this life Saturday, November 13, 2021. Joseph was baptized at two years old and catechized at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Elkhart, Indiana.
Joseph was raised up in the church of Allen under the leadership of the Rev. Walter L. Walters, II, the man he called Daddy. He was an itinerant preacher’s kid, living from city to city, from Elkhart to Indianapolis, from Indianapolis to Chicago, from Chicago to Muncie, from Muncie to Anderson, and finally from Anderson to Indianapolis where Joseph was read into full membership at St. Paul AME Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. He was a member of Ward Chapel AME church, Peoria, IL where the Rev. Adrian Johnson was his pastor.
Joseph’s life and personality was layered and complicated. He was an exceptional student and always excelled but showed early signs of mental health issues which later manifested as bi-polar disorder. He struggled with bouts of depression, in-patient stays in the hospital. He was a type I diabetic; he had sarcoidosis, pancreatitis, and hepatitis C. Joseph spent his life battling diseases, taking pills, and managing the side effects of all the medications. Battles with hospital stays and prescription opiates led to an addiction to drugs, a battle he was never able to win even with multiple treatment and recovery programs, in-patient and out-patient.
Those of us who know Joseph, know that he spent the better part of his adult life in and out of prison. Oddly enough, when he was out and/or in work release, he was always in church. Joseph never had to be forced to worship. He was an avid reader of the Word of God. Prison personnel always reported Joseph as a gentle giant, the one who mediated and kept the peace. Joseph was the one they called on to stave off riots.
Joseph was also that gladiator who would, when provoked, get you together. For him, it was protecting everything he loved, especially his family. Nothing raised his ire more than bullies who tried to take advantage of those who were defenseless. He once beat a man down on the parking lot of a Wal-Mart because the man struck an elderly woman. For him, that was, as he called it, “the ultimate violation”.
Joseph was well-read, loved his books. He watched his news, read his newspapers, kept up with the events of the world. He loved nothing more than a good intellectual exchange and would argue his case like a Boston lawyer or until the other side just threw in the towel. He completed his GED in prison with honors. A prison counselor once said, “Joe, you have deprived the world of your genius; it is wasted in here”.
If you wanted to have a good time, Joe was your man. He had a crazy sense of humor. There was no party like a Joe inspired party. He could keep you laughing for hours. Joe was a hard person to beat at bid whist, poker, and Dad. It wasn’t a good idea to try to beat him shooting dice or dominoes.
Joe loved music. He was a connoisseur of hip-hop music and was well-versed in the history of hip-hop and the background of hip-hop artists.
Big Joe, 6’4”, 250 lbs. was meticulous. He sported his gear and when it was time to suit up, Joe stepped out like a model from Gentleman’s Quarterly with a hint of men’s Boucheron. He hated wrinkles, misplaced creases and jewelry that wasn’t properly maintained.
Joe was generous. When he had it, all his friends had a piece of the action. As Joe put it “when I eat, we eat.”
He had a magical and magnetic personality, one that made him easy to love. Joseph is remembered as a loving son, brother, uncle, friend, significant other and a father who struggled to keep up his end, yet a father who wanted nothing more than his son to be better than him, to succeed in life, and never to replicate his mistakes.
Joseph leaves to cherish his memory his mother, Rev Dr. Elaine Gordon (Peoria, IL), his stepfather Rev. Walter L. Walters, II, a sister Shelleye Kenya Murphy, a brother Howard Michael (Aisha) Walters (Battle Creek, MI), a son, Joseph James Murphy, IV and nieces J’aeryca Simone Allen, Amina Michelle Walters, Estosia (Anthony)Walker and nephews David Jaylen Simmons, Hayden Thomas Walters. Richard Carter, and Aaron DePonce. He is survived by two uncles Michael Winfield Mangrum (Antioch, CA) and David Tadese Wossne (Tracy, CA). He is survived by his former wife Ebony (Murphy) Berry and the mother of his son and an informal, but dedicated daughter, Tonya Perry Johnson. He leaves behind a partner, Samantha Burt who cherished and supported him. The family acknowledges the host of relatives and friends, supporters, caregivers, pastors, and in his last moments, Ms. Erica Green and her prayer warriors who covered him, held his hand, gave him CPR, and let him know he was not alone.