Southerland and Clara Silman were married March 30, 1981, in Chicago.
He received a degree in psychology from Southeast Missouri State University in 1995. He is a retired substance abuse counselor. She was a licensed practical nurse 12 years at Jackson Manor, and is currently pursuing a degree in social work at Southeast.
They have four children, Sandra Silman and Willie Southerland Jr. of Jackson, Rosetta and Vanessa Southerland of Cape Girardeau. They have seven grandchildren.