American Idol Alums Pay Tribute to Willie Spence, Dead at 23


American Idol and the alums have taken to social media today to pay tribute to Willie Spence. The season 19 runner-up died Tuesday in a devastating car crash.

Clearly, his fellow contestants loved him and appreciated his kindness and sweet nature. He “lit up a room.” For one season 18 Idol who returned fo compete in the “Comeback,” meeting Willie made it all worth it.

Details about the car crash were sketchy at first, but now reports say that after getting a flat tire fixed, and continuing his drive from Tennessee to Atlanta, Willie crashed into a tractor trailer that was parked on the side of the road.

Willie delighted his fans on American Idol in 2021 with soulful performances. He specialized in gospel and big diva songs. A cover of “Diamonds” by Rihanna, sung while he was still in high school, went massively viral, which brought him to the attention of American Idol. He sang “Diamonds” for his audition. Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan were all impressed.

Katy asked him where he sees himself in five years. “I just want my voice to reach the world, and share my gift. Hopefully winning a Grammy one day.” Lionel called him “an undeniable star.” A life with so much promise, ended too soon.

American Idol

American Idol posted a memorial on their social accounts: “We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence. He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones.”


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Chayce Beckham

Chayce Beckham, the season 19 winner remembers his friend Willie: “It’s hard to find the words to say here, other than I loved Willie very much. He was a good sweet soul, and a warm beam of light in a cold and dark world that needed him so much,” Chayce continued, “When willie sang I swear it would shake a whole room. I think Willie had a voice that God gave him specifically to spread his message, when Willie sang gospel it could make you cry. Willie also had a laugh that could make you melt, an honest humor you couldn’t help but love, and the biggest heart you could imagine all wrapped up into one human. His larger than life energy was infectious and I loved being around him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and fans, who I know he loved so much, and who he held close to his heart. I can’t wait to sing with you in Paradise, where I know I’ll see you again. Rest In Peace brother.”


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Grace Kinstler

Grace finished in 3rd place behind Willie on American Idol season 20. The two sang a duet for the “Great Idol Reunion” last spring. She writes: “Willie, I’m sorry I don’t have more eloquent words to share for you right now. It doesn’t feel real. Thank you for your heart, and thank you for reminding all of us that there’s nothing more refreshing than being authentic and keeping it 100% at all times. I will miss your laugh, the face you’d make when you didn’t like something or felt uncomfortable, and most of all, the smiles you’d put on the faces and hearts of everyone around you the moment you’d enter a room. Rest easy, love you lots, friend.”


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Madison Watkins

Madison Watkins, who also competed on season 19, posted: “No words describe the impact Willie made on this planet, but one thing I know is he always gave us a pure touch of heaven while he was here. Not only a voice that changed atmospheres, but the purest heart for Jesus and always wanting His name to be gloried above all else.
He put the needs and desires of other above himself, his laugh made anyone around him bust out into laughter, his gift…. Nothing like it. When he would sing all we could do is worship. I keep trying to process that He is no longer here but nothing makes sense. All I know is that Jesus is so happy to have his child home with him. He changed my life and I cannot believe God gave me the opportunity to know him. We will never forget him or stop honoring the true legacy he left on this earth. See you soon Willie”


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Casey Bishop

Casey Bishop came in 4th place on Willie’s season. She writes:


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Alyssa Wray

Alyssa, a fellow season 19 finalist, writes: “To know you was to love you. Willie loved music. Willie loved his family. Willie loved his friends. Willie loved to laugh. Willie loved the Lord. And we all loved Willie. The whole WORLD loved Willie, quite literally. He was a soul that people were drawn to. He had a voice that was hand made and hand picked by God himself and bestowed on him to touch lives. Anointed. Willie touched hearts. With his voice. With his smile. I can hear him laugh right now. I’m so heartbroken. I’m sick to my stomach. I’m shocked. Still not sure my mind is fully processing this. I love you brother. The memories we have together are some of the best memories I have in this life and I will cherish them forever. I will hold you in my heart forever. You taught me so much. Your voice. That voice. Your kindness. Your love. By the grace of God, I sing for you forever now Willie.”


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Franklin Boone

Franklin competed on season 18, but returned for season 19’s “Comeback” competition. He writes: “I was very reluctant to go back on Idol in 2021.. to make things worse, I got sick on filming day and totally botched my performance – but the ONLY reason I didn’t regret it overall was because of meeting and spending time with people like Willie. NO CAP.. Sitting around in between call-times cutting up and singing gospel music with Willie and the rest of the church folk gang was the highlight of that experience for me. A few of us sat by the pool on my last night there, laughing and cutting up, talking about life, about God, about things we wrestled with.. I was honestly grateful to be welcomed to the table, and felt like I was sitting with a legend. I’m sure I didn’t make much of an impact on him, but he left an impression on me for sure, & I shared that with him on many occasions..It’s rare that someone you know for such a short period of time can leave as big of an impact as he did.. feeling heartbroken today. @williespenceofficial I hope you’re gazing upon the Lord and singing with the angels right now.”


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DeWayne Crocker Jr.

Dewayne is also a fellow season 19 finalist. He writes: “We lost a great friend and brother last night. ??Willie was a brother. We met in LA while filming @americanidol and we stayed in contact after the show ended. We had some great convos about faith, and my dude was ready to change the world. After the show, I went to Georgia to meet his family and friends. The entire state loved this man for real. We did a show at his old high school, and people came from all over to hear him. It was so dope. This one I don’t understand, but I know that God is working even if it doesn’t feel like it. Willie loved Jesus. He’s flying high right now. Sending prayers to his family especially his mother who loved him so much”


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David Cook

David Cook won season 7, but he performed on the “Great Idol Reunion” special alongside Willie. He writes on Twitter: “Such a sweet guy. So sad. RIP Willie. Thoughts are with his friends and family.”

Ryan Seacrest

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest writes that “everybody on and off set loved him.”

Luke Bryan

The American Idol judges, Luke, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry gushed over Willie after he auditioned singing Rihanna’s “Diamonds” Luke writes: “Willie really did light up every room he walked into. He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed.”

Lionel Richie

The American Idol judge writes on Instagram: “Your light will always shine in this world. We were so blessed to get a chance to see you shine. My thoughts and prayers are with Willie’s family. Rest well my friend.”

About mj santilli 34698 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!