Chayce Beckham Tributes ‘American Idol’ Star Willie Spence After Fatal Crash: ‘He Was a Good Sweet Soul’
Chayce Beckham turned to social media to pay emotional tribute to American Idol Season 19 runner-up Willie Spence on Wednesday (Oct. 12), after the news broke that the 23-year-old R&B and gospel singer had died in a car crash.
Beckham won Season 19 of American Idol in 2021, while Spence came in second. Beckham admits it's "hard to find the words" to properly tribute his friend, "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," he writes on Instagram.
"When Willie sang I swear it would shake a whole room," Beckham adds. "I think Willie had a voice that God gave him specifically to spread his message, when Willie sang gospel it could make you cry."
He goes on to mention Spence's laugh, his humor and his heart.
"His larger than life energy was infectious and I loved being around him," Beckham writes. "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."
Willie Spence died in a crash near Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 11). According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, he was driving a Jeep Cherokee when he veered off I-24 near Chattanooga at around 4PM ET. The vehicle struck a car that was stopped on the shoulder of the road. The driver of that vehicle was not injured.
Spence gave his fans one final gospel moment to remember him by. At approximately 1PM CT, the singer uploaded a video of himself singing a worship song titled "You Are My Hiding Place" to Instagram. The clip shows him in the front seat of a vehicle while he performs the song, but the vehicle is not moving. It's not clear if that's the car he was driving at the time of the accident.
"Sweet @williespenceofficial passed away in a car accident," 2006 American Idol finalist Katherine McPhee writes on her Instagram page. "Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised. God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you."
McPhee had performed with Spence during his time on American Idol in 2021.
Spence earned praise for his big voice and lovable personality during his run on American Idol. A cover of Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind" was just one standout.
"You have delivered every single time, and I can see you doing that the rest of your life," judge Luke Bryan raved, and his fellow judges agreed.
Spence auditioned for American Idol with a cover of "Diamonds" by Rihanna, and the judges instantly took to his style and personality. He'd go on to perform songs from John Legend, Adele, Elton John and Joe Cocker during his run on the show.
Douglas Now was the first media outlet to report Spence's death.