Local Georgia news outlet Douglas Now was first to report Spence’s death, sharing on Facebook Tuesday that Spence had passed away from injuries sustained in a Tennessee car accident. Shortly after the news broke, tributes to the performer began to appear on social media, including one from Idol Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee, with whom Spence duetted during Season 19.
“I received very tragic news tonight. Sweet @williespenceofficial passed away in a car accident,” McPhee wrote in an Instagram story. “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.”
A Georgia native, Spence became an Idol fan favorite throughout Season 19 with his soulful, gospel-infused performances; his Top 4 cover of John Legend and Common’s “Glory,” which you can revisit below, was especially memorable. Spence ultimately reached the finale alongside Grace Kinstler and Chayce Beckham, with Beckham going on to become that year’s winner.