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Copyright © First Presbyterian Church Tupelo, Mississippi, Inc. All Right Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder. First Presbyterian Church Sesquicentennial Committee: Dan Brasfield

Ann Bishop Godwin

Frances DeVaughn Sheffield

Frances Joyner Brasfield

Margaret McDuffie Gratz

Dorothy Corrine Strain

Glen Davidson

Nancy Lawler Milam

Alice Bishop Rogers, Chair

Leslie Harper Geoghegan

Sam Pace

Tom Groome, Pastor

Chauncey Godwin

Joe Rutherford

First Edition Publishing by The Nautilus Publishing Company 426 S. Lamar Blvd., Suite 16, Oxford, MS 38655 Tel: 662-513-0159 • www.NautilusPublishing.com Design by Wil Oakes ISBN: 978-1-936946-93-8


CHURCH DOOR, PEOPLE COMING AND GOING MISSING


Dedication Dottie Strain was the visionary and inspiration for The Light that Shines in Darkness. This book is dedicated in loving memory of Dottie Strain and her mother, Blanche Strain. The Light that Shines in Darkness is also dedicated to all faithful members, past and present, of First Presbyterian Church of Tupelo and to the Glory of God.


This comprehensive historical account—the work of many dedicated historians, volunteers, and staff—celebrates as many as possible, but certainly not all, of the stories of our congregation. This volume is intended to advance our children’s and grandchildren’s sense of Presbyterian and Reformed identity and the continuity of Christianity itself—responsibilities we take very seriously. I hope that this volume will endure for the next 150 years and beyond and will help First Presbyterian continue to serve and lead the Tupelo community. Let us now start building the next years together. Future generations of Tupelo Christians are depending on us. Grace and Peace!

Reverend Tom Groome

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Grave site of Father Stuart


ceptive to Reverent Stuart’s proposal to establish a school

commenced. The procurement of a suitable interpreter

and church for the benefit of the Chickasaws in the Chick-

proved difficult until the arrival of Mr. Malcolm McGee

asaw Territory. The scouting agents, after obtaining the

at the Station. Mr. McGee proved to be a very capable

appropriate commission and encouragement from the

and dedicated interpreter and remained at the Mission

Chickasaws, returned to South Carolina with a favorable

for several years.

report for the establishment of the Mission.

The actual Monroe Church, a mission in the Synod

Upon returning to South Carolina, Reverend Hum-

of South Carolina and Georgia, was established on June

phries accepted a call to an established church, leaving

7, 1823. Initially there were nine communicants to the

Reverend Stuart with the sole responsibility of carrying

church. At the end of the second year, there were four-

out the mission work in the Indian territory. The twenty-

teen communicants. At the end of the third year, there

five-year-old Reverend Stuart assumed this responsibility

were twenty. Those early church rolls contained only the

willingly and enthusiastically. In June 1821 Stuart and his

names of communicants, though a significant number of

new bride, Susan Caldwell Stuart, returned to Monroe

baptized children were attendees at the church. At the

Station with a mechanic named Vernon, a farmer named

end of 1830, there were 112 communicants and 88 bap-

Pickens, and their families. Stuart was the fortunate recip-

tized children. In 1834, there were 127 communicants

ient of the encouragement, blessings, and help of William

and 120 baptized and enrolled children. Soon after Rev-

Colbert in this endeavor. Colbert, who became one of the

erend Stuart’s work commenced among the Chickasaws,

initial elders of the church and remained an elder until his

out of respect and admiration for him and in keeping

death in 1836, was most helpful in securing the Mission

with the Scottish custom, the Chickasaws gave him the

property. He deeded the land where the church, school,

honored title of “Father,” which remained with him

and Mission homes were to be located. The Mission was

throughout his life.

appropriately named for President James Monroe.

Father Stuart and his charming and devoted wife, Su-

The site selected was in close proximity to the origi-

san Caldwell Stuart, had three children born at Monroe

nal Natchez Trace and along the Cotton Gin Port Road.

Station. Two of the children died in infancy and were bur-

This mission was located along an established route that

ied at the Monroe Cemetery. One daughter, Mary Jane

had been traversed by generations of primitive peo-

Stuart, born October 6, 1825, lived to be an adult and

ple. Houses were erected; a farm was created; a school

played an important role in the work of her father.

was established, and preaching through an interpreter

To the great sorrow of husband, daughter, and all per-

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hundred members were added to the congregation during

Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Miss Alma Bell Reese,

the Reverend Price’s ministry. The first wedding performed

who had been acting as the pastor’s assistant, assumed the

in the remodeled church was that of Miss Minrose Kin-

duties of the pastor for the remainder of the year. Miss

cannon and Mr. S.P. Clayton. The Young Women’s Guild

Reese, a lifelong member, had received a degree from the

helped to defray the expenses of the new carpet for the

Moody Bible Institute in Chicago after dedicating her life

sanctuary.

full-time to Christian service in 1922.

The Reverend George P. Scott of Dyersburg, Tennes-

Church Street was so named because all the church-

see, was installed as pastor on November 10, 1912. The

es in town were, at this time, on this street–that is, the

membership of the church had grown to 229 by 1915. Mr. Scott accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg in 1919. The church remodeled the manse for the arrival of the new pastor, the Reverend Frank R. Dudley, who was installed on September 29, 1919. It was in 1919 that the Session voted that the church property be invested in three trustees–C.R. Bolton, S.P. Clayton, and E.M. Topp–who were elected by the congregation. These trustees served until 1959 when E.L. Joyner, Jr., and Eldridge Lilly were elected to serve. The office of trustee was later filled by Russell Bryson; Chauncey R. Godwin, Sr.; James Ingram, Sr.; James Hugh Ray; Ray Waters; Bill Young; and Glen

The Manse

Davidson. Reverend Dudley left the church pastorate in 1923.

churches for the white citizens. The Presbyterian Church

During Dr. Joseph Allen Christian’s pastorate from

was located on the corner of Walnut and Church streets,

1923 to 1930, the church was again remodeled and en-

and the Cumberland Church was located where the Pres-

larged with the addition of Sunday School rooms, a social

byterian Church now stands. When the church was ded-

or banquet room, a kitchen, and other facilities. When

icated and held its first service, the building was incom-

Dr. Christian left to accept a call to the First Presbyterian

plete, yet free of debt. After Dr. Samule Eyrle Howie’s

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departure in 1936 for Southwestern College of Memphis

it clear that regardless of the time required, work would

(later Rhodes College), Dr. Robert Singleton Woodson

progress only as fast as pledges coming due provided the

served as pastor from 1936-1940. The church was holding

funds to carry on the work. The church thus became out-

worship services in the Tupelo High School building, but

standing not only for its architectural beauty but also for

groundbreaking services for a new church took place on

its debt-free construction.

June 27, 1937. Alabama sandstone was used to build the

Since the 1930s when Christian Endeavor was orga-

Gothic structure designed by Mac Feemster, local architect

nized for the teenage youth of the church, the young peo-

and member of First Presbyterian, and it has stood since its

ple have met regularly for Bible study and fellowship. After

dedication in December 1939.

Dr. McFadden’s arrival as pastor, they were organized as

From its stately tower, the resonant tones of the bell, donated by the Women’s Auxiliary in June 1931, called

the Presbyterian Youth Fellowship and later divided into Junior High Fellowship and Senior High Fellowship.

its members to worship within the sacred walls of their

When Dr. Woodson left to accept a pastorate at the

new church home. One unusual aspect of this building

First Presbyterian Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Dr.

project was that it was paid for as it was built with such

Samuel Edgar McFadden was called to the Tupelo church

money-raising projects as a money tree in the sanctuary to

in 1941, and he remained fourteen years. During his stay,

which members attached donations. Dr. Woodson made

disaster struck again when the sanctuary was virtually

Right: Clergy members (left to right) Samuel Howie, Robert Woodson, George Long, and Dr. McFadden. Above: Dr. Woodson


First Presbyterian Centennial Celebration, 1967

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manent member). Aubrey also sat on the Board of Trustees

Upon moving to Tupelo in 1968, Bill worked at Lift, Inc.,

of the National Foundation of the Presbyterian Church,

then in 1986 was named Executive Director of CREATE,

USA, and on the Board of Trustees of Columbia Theolog-

where he was a stabilizing leader. Bill dedicated himself to

ical Seminary. He has served as Moderator of St. Andrew

helping others, compassionate, self-effacing and diligent in

Presbytery and on numerous Presbytery and Synod com-

his mission to serve God while helping his fellow man. Bill

missions. Another high priority for Aubrey is education.

and his wife Sarah supported the arts in Tupelo, wheth-

For eleven years he was a member of the Mississippi Board

er participating in events during the annual Elvis Presley

of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning.

Festival or attending openings at the Gum Tree Museum

Aubrey and his wife, Ruby Kathryn, are parents of

of Art. Bill and Sarah shared a passion for the beauty of

three children, all of whom live in Tupelo with their fam-

God’s earth, filling their yard with plants and trees native

ilies.

to Mississippi. Always, however, they supported the Pres-

Having been honored by election into the Mississippi

byterian Church. Bill served on the Board of Trustees of

Business Hall of Fame and into the University of Missis-

Louisville Seminary, and was active in First Presbyterian

sippi Alumni Hall of Fame, Aubrey received yet another

Church Tupelo. He sang in the Chancel Choir, and in later

prestigious honor in 2005, when the Tupelo Junior Auxil-

years, as “Bill Bill,” assisted with the youngest members

iary named him Outstanding Citizen of the Year.

of the church, both in Sunday School and during Vacation Bible School. When the Cherub Choir sang at Sunday Worship services, “Bill Bill” accompanied them to the

Bill Young Bill Young, a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, deftly combined his religious training

front of the sanctuary. His was a gentle presence in the life of the church.

with service both to his church and to the community.

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PULPIT MISSING

Pulpit (Rasberry) “Red” Rasberry’s brother and Edna Sue White’s father, Herbert F. Rasberry, presented to First Presbyterian Church a pulpit stand made of wood from some of the benches of the old White Zion Presbyterian Church. The benches are believed to be more than 100 years old. Silver Communion chalices were given in honor of the 100th birthday of Mrs. Frances Elkin Joyner by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Joyner, III; Dr. and Mrs. Dan Brasfield; and Mr. and Mrs. William F. Hodges.


Cross Another striking item of the church furnishing is the large cross hanging above the chancel area of the sanctuary. Soon after the rebuilding of the church following the tornado of 1836, a small opaque glass, lighted cross hung there and remained until the renovation mentioned earlier. Dirlam also recommended that a large wooden cross would be more appropriate and in keeping with the facts of Christ’s crucifixion. Mary McMillan, wife of our minister at that time, Rev. Mort McMillan, designed the cross. A local cabinet maker and wood craftsman, Lawrence Timmons and his son were commissioned to do the job and were successful in constructing a striking wooden cross with hand carved ends. These men also produced most of the scrollwork on the lectern and extended elevated pulpit.

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the fire alarm was sounded to alert the town and church

McFadden Hall

members that the structure was going up in flames. The men of the church assisted the Tupelo Fire Department

The church’s 1994 building and renovation

and saved many of the church furnishings. The women of

plans included a small reception area in the back of

the church wrapped their heads in damp towels, rushed

the sanctuary. This space was envisioned as a small

into the nave filled with smoke and rescued hymnals and

chapel and a place to sit and talk with friends, as

furnishings. It was not until Sunday, April 6, 1952 that

well as a location for receptions, seminars, and recit-

the first service was held in the restored church. This was

als. When the question arose as to what to call this

indeed a day of rejoicing.”

room, the Session decided to name it McFadden

A few decades later, Dr. Arland A. Dirlam of Boston, Massachusetts, who was a renowned authority on Gothic

Hall in appreciation for Dr. McFadden’s ministry among us.

architecture, studied the church sanctuary, made sugges-

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Edgar McFadden, a dignified

tions, and provided working drawings for the enhance-

man and gifted preacher, was the beloved pastor of First

ment of the chancel area to make it more in keeping with

Presbyterian Church from 1940 to 1955. He was a com-

the Gothic tradition. These changes included the widening

passionate, caring man who was devoted to his congre-

of the chancel steps and entryway in order to make the

gation, and his warm and friendly spirit endeared him to

Lord’s Table visible and accessible to all members of the

all. Dr. McFadden was also known for his marvelous sense

congregation. The Celtic cross was added and hangs above

of humor and his deep appreciation and extraordinary

the Lord’s Table.

knowledge of the natural world. This dedicated minister

A traditional open communion table would replace the existing altar. Both of the existing pulpits were to be

was much loved by the whole community. He died in 1984.

moved laterally toward the outer walls, serving to further

McFadden Hall, with its exquisite tapestries and fur-

open the chancel area. A newly constructed lectern for the

nishings given by members of the church, is a beautiful

reading of God’s word would replace the pulpit on the

room that has been used for many small gatherings, re-

right. The pulpit on the left would be larger, elevated, and

ceptions, and visitations before funerals. Christ’s loving

extend into the sanctuary.

presence and Dr. McFadden’s gentle spirit abide in this

These changes were made, and the service of dedica-

room.

tion was held on May 5, 1974. 150 Years of First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

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The Property and Gardens of First Presbyterian

the flowerbeds. Azaleas, camellias, and flowering trees were added to provide color in both spring and fall. Serpentine walks meandered through the garden, leading to the distinc-

The kiss of the sun for pardon,

tive front door of the church and its stately bell tower. For

The song of the birds for mirth,

safety and aesthetics, the front steps were widened. Since

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

the landscape project was installed, colorful seasonal annu-

Than anywhere else on earth.

als, banking the front steps and planted by volunteers, have

Dorothy Frances Gurney

cheerfully greeted congregants and visitors to our church. This landscape design is timeless, and through the

First Presbyterian Church, with its classic Gothic ar-

years, as the plants have matured and become established,

chitecture, exemplifies our Presbyterian Scottish heritage.

our church, situated in this verdant garden setting, has be-

Foremost, it is a house of worship, and its beauty, like our

come a testament to the beauty of God’s creation.

faith, is timeless and enduring. However, with the passage of time, the grounds became lackluster and did little to

A Leap of Faith

complement this beloved church structure. In the 1980s the Property and Grounds Commit-

In the 1990s the adjacent gas company building and the

tee, with the Session’s approval, sought to rectify this

Barnes property were purchased, and the size of the church

oversight, and a concerted effort was made to landscape

property was doubled. A new Community Life Center was

the property. Today, this project enhances the beauty of

built. The Fellowship Hall, Helen Allen Library, and existing

First Presbyterian and serves as an asset to the community

Sunday School rooms were renovated. McFadden Hall was

and the neighborhood. The owners of Mid-South Nurs-

added, and a new organ was installed. This project was exten-

ery, Byron and Bettie Marion Fellows, and Bob Marion,

sive and costly. It was indeed a “Leap of Faith.”

whose family had been long-time members of the church,

“Gus” Staub, with Staub, Robison, and Williams Archi-

developed a design that not only was in keeping with the

tectural Firm, was the consulting architect for this project,

classic lines of the building, but also was attractive and of

and Mast Construction, under Bill Cheek’s supervision, was

botanical interest throughout the seasons of the year.

the builder. The Building Committee insisted that the addi-

Evergreen shrubs were planted to define the space and give year-round greenery. Boxwoods were used to define

tion to the church property include the symbolic stone and be in keeping with the classic lines of the church.

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Beneath the archway, which will one day be festooned with climbing roses and vines, are stone benches.

Another addition to the Stuart Garden is a stone column or podium that will bear a bronze plaque designating

This pergola is truly a work of art, and the Buddy

that the garden is named for the founder of First Presbyte-

Stubbs family gave it as part of our Sesquicentennial Cel-

rian Church, the Reverend Thomas C. Stuart. The Stuart

ebration and in memory of Mrs. Irma Stubbs, who loved

Garden will be officially dedicated as part of our Sesqui-

gardening and flowers and loved to pass them along. Mrs.

centennial Celebration on April 23, 2017.

Stubbs often said, “The best fertilizer for my plants is to

Another enhancement to the gardens of First Presby-

share them with others and watch them grow.� The per-

terian Church will be the placement of small plaques iden-

gola was designed by Bob Mercier, Landscape Architect,

tifying over eighty trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals

was crafted by Johnny Wilder, and was installed by Jamie

that adorn our gardens. Each plaque will include both the

Sparks Construction. We are indebted to the Stubbs fam-

common name and the botanical or scientific name of the

ily for their generosity and to Bob, Johnny, and Jamie for

plant. With this information, the grounds will become a

their vision and craftsmanship.

veritable botanical garden with an arboretum (trees) and


fruticetum (plants). Nancy Brown Milam is to be com-

planted. Bob Marion, owner of Mid-South Nursery, gen-

mended for undertaking such a daunting task.

erously donated many shrubs and trees for this area. Vol-

It is at First Presbyterian Church and in its gardens

unteers continue to help with this ongoing project.

that we come together as a congregation to worship and

The garden setting is sometimes quiet and serene – a

pray, and for fellowship, but it is just not for Presbyterians.

place to pray and meditate. The only sound is that of the

The gardens are for all seasons and for all who come seek-

flowing fountains. But sometimes the sound of children’s

ing God in a natural setting.

laughter, or music, or conversation spills over the wall.

To oversee the maintenance of the grounds a land-

Professional photographers and families come to these

scape sub-committee was formed. Doyce Deas, gardener

gardens to record special events and moments in the lives

extraordinaire, has been and continues to be the driving

of their loved ones. Anchored at the corner of Green and

force in creating a garden of unparalleled beauty. With her

Jefferson streets in downtown Tupelo, our church and the

expertise and vision, myriad trees and shrubs have been

gardens are a gift to our community and the surrounding

added to the landscape, and thousands of bulbs have been

neighborhood and its citizens.


When you enter First Presbyterian Church or stroll through its gardens, you can feel God’s presence and know that you are in a sacred place. It is holy ground. “Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

The Godwin Garden At First Presbyterian Church, nestled between the older part of the Gothic stone church and the new Fellowship Hall, is the Godwin Garden. An ornate wrought iron garden gate is the entrance to this verdant oasis that offers refuge from the cares of the work-a-day world. Throughout the seasons, flowers bloom, and trees offer inviting shade. The soft gurgles of a fountain mask the sounds of the city. This

is a garden for meditation, prayer, or a quiet lunch. This beautiful church garden was given in memory of Chauncey Rivers Godwin, Sr., by his wife Louise Nanney Godwin. Landscape Architect Edwin C. Martin, Jr., professionally designed the Godwin Garden. However, Louise Godwin had much input into its design, and it reflects her own personal tastes and personality. Mrs. Godwin’s husband supported all of her Garden Club activities at the local, state, and national levels. Chauncey Godwin loved his church, and he would have loved this garden. It is a living memorial for all to enjoy. The Godwin Garden is a reverent place, but it is also a happy place, and it epitomizes the generous, loving spirit of Chauncey and Louise Godwin.


The Acts of Mercy: (Narthex) “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34 This window illustrates the Acts of Mercy as recounted in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, consoling the prisoner, and welcoming the stranger. These are the duties Christians owe humanity, and the location of these admonitions in the narthex is a reminder to the departing congregation. “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In memory of “The Unnamed Faithful” Given by the Session of the Church

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The Annunciation “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Luke 1:28 The angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary to announce the coming of the Christ child. Above, the dove of the Holy Spirit descends. The stylized lily symbolizes Mary’s purity. In memory of Mr. John P. Hunter Given by Mrs. Alice Adams Hunter

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The Epiphany

“Him of whom the prophets did write�

John 1:45

The wise men kneel in adoration of the infant King, having been guided to Him by a star. They offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This symbolizes the showing of Christ to the Gentiles. At the bottom is a symbol comprised of three crowns.

In appreciation for enriching worship Given by Anonymous Donors

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Christ’s Baptism “Thou art my beloved son; with thee I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 Here Christ is shown being baptized by John in the Jordan. John pours water out of an escalloped shell. John, the Hermit, is dressed in skins. The Holy Spirit is the descending dove. The symbol at the bottom is composed of a shell pouring water in which there is a fish. Behind is a chi rho, XP, ancient monogram of Jesus Christ. In memory of Mr. and Mrs. James Philip Nanney, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Alexis Polk McAllister Given by Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey Rivers Godwin

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The Sermon on the Mount “I am the bread of life.” John 6:35 Jesus is seated on a stylized mountaintop preaching to a crowd of people among whom are both men and women, old and young. HIS is another of Christ’s monograms. In memory of Mr. John Randolph Baker Given by Mrs. Myrtle Coleman Baker

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Christ Healing “The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10 Jesus is shown healing a crippled man. Behind Him is the woman touching the hem of His garment. At the bottom is a caduceus. In memory of Dr. Lucian Carl Feemster, Sr.; Dr. Lucian Carl Feemster, Jr.; Mr. John McGaughey Feemster Given by Mrs. L. C. Feemster, Sr.; Mrs. L. C. Feemster, Jr.; Mrs. J. M. Feemster

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The Crucifixion “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.� Luke 23:34 Jesus Christ hangs on the cross. With Him are His mother Mary and His beloved disciple John, into whose care He committed her. The sacrificial lamb refers to the sacrifice of Isaac, a type of the Crucifixion. In memory of Mrs. Daisy B. Purnell Given by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Purnell

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The Great Commission “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.� John 20:21 After His Resurrection, Jesus reappeared to His Apostles to command them to go into the world to preach the Gospel and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This message is symbolized at the bottom. In memory of Mrs. Erin Payne Serrill Given by Mr. H.G. Serrill

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The Reformation “The light shineth in the darkness.� The Seal The ongoing Church owes its existence to the Apostles, then to many succeeding generations of Christians. Here are Luther nailing up his ninety-five theses, Calvin writing, Knox teaching, and Makemie preaching. At the bottom is the Seal of the Presbyterian Church. In memory of Mr. William Burns Marion Given by Mrs. William Burns Marion, Patrick, Frieda, Michael, and Douglas

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The Seal of the Presbyterian Church In the United States of America Given in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Perry King Thomas by their children Perry and Judy Thomas; Mike and Daintry Thomas; Kathryn Ann and Jay Bridgman; Glenn and Mary Thomas The Seal of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is a complex grouping of symbols adopted by the General Assembly in 1892. It was used by the denomination until its merger with the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1958. The Presbyterian Church, USA, was the dominant Presbyterian denomination in the early decades of the nation. The church split in 1837 into two factions, New School and Old School. The Old School Presbyterian Church, USA, was the church from which the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America split at the beginning of the Civil War. The Northern branch of the Old School Presbyterian Church, USA, reconciled with the Northern New School after the Civil War. It became the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The seal incorporates the oak leaf, a symbol of the church, and an olive branch, a symbol of God’s fulfilled promise. The central symbol is an open book, the Bible. The Cross of Salvation stands as a reminder that the Son of Man was lifted up as a sacrifice for sin. The rays of light shining from around the Bible symbolize Jesus, the Light of the World.

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contribute faithfully to Sunday worship services, they also participate in special music programs at Christmas, Easter, and other religious observances. The adult choir performs Christmas cantatas, and they sing for Christmas Eve candlelight services. The children sing Christmas carols, and music is always a part of the Christmas Pageant. Choirs sing for special services during Lent and Easter, including an especially moving and meaningful Tenebrae Service on Good Friday. Music also involves the congregation singing hymns and responses, both old and new. In the 1990s, the Sanctuary Artists Series was begun. On Sunday afternoons, the sanctuary, with its classic architecture and marvelous acoustics, has been the setting for numerous concerts and recitals. Several college choirs have given concerts at First Presbyterian, including Stillman College, the University of Mississippi Singers, Arkansas College Choir, Itawamba Community College Chorus, and the Northeast Mississippi Community College Chorus. There have been organ recitals by church organists Martha Bending and Dr. Ray Harris. Noted organist Dr. Joyce Jones played for the dedicatory service of the new Letourneau organ. Many classically trained vocal artists, including former


The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans has become a very special service for First Presbyterian Tupelo. While it brings to mind the courage and steadfast faith of our devout Scottish ancestors, it also serves as an inspiration for the present-day church and its future. As Father Stuart bravely brought the gospel and love of Christ to a new land and a new people, the present-day members of the church he founded attempt to carry on the mission of Father Stuart and the faith of our Scottish Presbyterian heritage. Let the bagpipes skirl for the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans.

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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for two-year-olds and a tri-weekly program for three-year-olds and has since grown into a full-fledged preschool and licensed kindergarten. First Presbyterian Preschool and Kindergarten offers a stimulating educational and social experience for children in a loving, Christian environment. Preschool goals are to help each child develop self-esteem and a positive self-image; grow mentally, physically, and socially through interaction with peers, qualified staff, and resource contacts in planned and free-play activities; and develop language skills in age-appropriate areas. Throughout the years, the church has sponsored numerous Bible Studies, including the Kerygma, a group Bible study for adults. For several years the church held a Summer Institute, which featured many noted theologians and authors, including Dr. Elton Trueblood, Dr. Tom Long, and Dr. Manfred George Gutzke. Later, this program was named in honor of the Reverend Thomas Morton McMillan. The Women of the Church have several church circles, which meet at the church and in the homes of members for Bible study.


ship service, Hoyle Crockett brought the Sunday School

Lottie Payne For many years, visitors were faithfully greeted and

collection and the Sunday offering to the Crockett house

welcomed to First Presbyterian Church by Lottie Payne.

for the family to sit around the table and count before it

She was always interested in developing friendships and

was later taken to the night depository at the local bank.

promoting fellowship among church members, and she

Jewel Crockett prepared the Sunday family noon meal,

had that special gift of heartfelt conversation with new-

and it was served following the weekly count.

comers. For a while, Lottie and friends such as Myrtle Bryan served as the “Welcome Wagon” for new Tupelo residents, and Miss Lottie was the chief “recruiter” for First Presbyterian Church. Lottie’s delicious brownies, “Lottie Cakes,” became her signature treat for any occasion, but especially for potential church families she visited. Lottie Sample Payne was from a pioneer Presbyterian family, and her home church was White Zion Presbyterian Church, FPC’s mother church, near Pontotoc. Lottie remained active in the Women of the Church organization, which became Presbyterian Women, for many years. Miss Lottie was always trying to drum up a crowd for all church activities, and she did. As a special tribute to Miss Lottie, the FPC cookbook compiled by Presbyterian Women was titled Drummin’ Up A Crowd. Crockett Family Church member Sarah Crockett Jenkins and her brother Jimmy Crockett recall early times in the church when their father, Hoyle Crockett, served the congregation as the Church Treasurer. Each Sunday following the wor150 Years of First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

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encouraged these young adults to reach out to the com-

to emulate her grace, charm, and devout faith.

munity beyond the church doors. Unusual for the time, this group established a place of worship and Bible study

Mildred Grubbs

for the black residents living south of the railroad tracks.

What brought an Iowa farm girl named Mildred

Elizabeth Ballard, patrician yet warm, was frequently de-

Board to the Deep South in the 1940s, and specifically to

scribed as a woman without prejudice. In 1970 Elizabeth

Northeast Mississippi? Mildred dreamed of becoming an

Ballard was elected the first woman elder at First Presby-

ordained Presbyterian minister during the era when semi-

terian Church in Tupelo, and she was the first woman in

nary doors were closed to females. Instead, she completed

Mississippi to serve in that capacity.

graduate studies in Christian Education at McCormick

Elizabeth Ballard was a native of Norfolk, Virginia,

Seminary in 1941. Almost immediately, the General As-

and a graduate of Virginia Intermont College, a presti-

semblies’ Board of National Missions offered Mildred the

gious school for women at the time. Upon her marriage to

position of Director of Christian Education for the Net-

Glenn Ballard, she moved to Tupelo and taught Latin and

tleton Larger Parish, which was affiliated with the PCUSA.

English in the public schools. She later became the Person-

Soon Mildred found herself involved in the life of six

nel Manager and Director of Social Services at the North

rural churches in four counties surrounding Tupelo, in-

Mississippi Medical Center. At the hospital her office was

cluding Fairfield, Nettleton, Old Union, Union, Spring

in the chapel, and at her desk she, appropriately, sat be-

Hill, and Wren. After three years as an educator, Mildred

neath the cross. Elizabeth Ballard also did private tutoring

became interim minister of these churches. She also met a

and gave lessons in etiquette and the social graces. She was

Mississippi gentleman, Bill Grubbs, whom she married in

a mentor to generations of young people. It was most fit-

1945 in First Presbyterian Church of Tupelo. The Rever-

ting that Elizabeth Ballard in 1964 was chosen to be the

end Dr. McFadden officiated, and Miss Katie Topp played

first recipient of the Tupelo Junior Auxiliary’s Outstanding

the nuptial music.

Citizen Award.

Ultimately, in the early 1960s Mildred realized her

Interestingly, Elizabeth Ballard never drove a car. On

dream of ordination and became the first female installed

Sunday mornings, Mrs. Ballard, with her hair in a classic

as a pastor in the East Iowa Presbytery. For ten years Mil-

bun and impeccably dressed in her white, pristine coat,

dred served the congregation of First Presbyterian Church

would walk from her home on North Church Street to

of Blairstown, Iowa.

First Presbyterian Church. Those who knew her continue

In 2004 Mildred returned to North Mississippi,

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Nannette Holcomb Comer. This renovation was made a reality through the gifts, hard work, and dedication of the members of First Presbyterian Church and its staff. The library at First Presbyterian Church is a busy place where members of all ages come to further enhance their knowledge of Christianity and grow in faith and wisdom.


Postlude or First Presbyterian

Vacation Bible School, and a Ministry of Music. First Pres-

Church Tupelo, a

byterian has opened its doors and its heart to the commu-

sesquicentennial is a

nity, and this body of Christ has fostered missions both at

time to reflect on its

home and in faraway places.

F

history, its accom-

First Presbyterian is a beautiful church, and upon enter-

plishments, and on

ing the sanctuary, we feel the presence of God. The stained-

“all the saints, who

glass windows, tapestries, and cross tell the story of Christ

from

labors

and the history of our church. Every Sunday for one hun-

rest.” And it is also a

dred fifty years, the congregants have come to worship to-

their

time to ponder and plan for the future.

gether. Yet, even when we enter the sanctuary alone, and the

Beginning with Father Stuart’s mission to the Chickasaws,

sunlight filters through the windows, we can feel God’s pres-

the story of First Presbyterian is one of courage, commitment,

ence. First Presbyterian is indeed a house of God, a sanctu-

and compassion. For one hundred fifty years, the members of

ary, and the faithful recall David’s words: “I was glad when

this church have been steadfast and true. With God’s abiding

they said unto me, Let us go into the House of the Lord.”

love and grace the church has persevered. This body of Christ

This book tells the history of a church and its members,

has weathered terrible storms, fires, and economic depres-

and its story is one of inspiration. First Presbyterian Tupelo

sions. They have sent their sons to war and endured times of

has a rich heritage, and if we take to heart the prophetic

political upheaval and social unrest. But those who read this

words of that old hymn that “the Church’s one foundation

book will sense the joy, constant faith, and Christian love that

is Jesus Christ, our Lord,” the future of our church is bright.

have sustained this congregation through the years.

The church will endure.

Along the way, worship and the sacraments have been taken seriously. The church has always had Sunday School,

Margaret M. Gratz

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The Rev. Meg Lindsay Dudley, Associate Pastor. . . . . . . . . 2011-2016

Miss Mary Rose Mitchner

The Rev. Dr. Ronald Richardson, Parish Associate for Pastoral Care. 2005-Present

Mrs. Virginia Watts Armstrong

The Rev. M. McCoy Franklin, Pastor Emeritus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2003

Mrs. Lauren Shenk Clark Mr. Ken Wilson

Organists and Choir Directors of First Presbyterian Church

Miss Donita A. Schultz Mrs. Emily Jarrett

Organists Katie Topp Nona Ewing Sandra Duncan Ben Orr Ken Courtney Martha Bending Kathy Anderson Ray Harris Choir Directors Clara Topp Nona Ewing Jack McDaniel Jo Orr Wick Sparks Tim Coker Ken Courtney Bruce Lesley Kathy Anderson Robert Taylor

Directors of Christian Education Miss Roberta Anderson Miss Elizabeth Becknell Miss Charlotte Holzworth

Directors of Youth Ministry Jane Patterson Karl Barnett Dave Bowden Julie Gibens, Interim Karen Smith Forrest Foxworth Melissa McDuffie and Heather Crotwell, Interims Meg Lindsay Dudley Melissa McDuffie and Jamie Geoghegan, Interims

Charter Members of First Presbyterian Church Tupelo Dr. J. W. Frazer Mrs. Annie Frazer Col. T. A. Mitchell Mrs. Annie Mitchell Mr. J. R. Dickson Mrs. Harriet Dickson Col. John Williams Mrs. Hannah Gayle

Early Members of First Presbyterian Church Tupelo 150 Years of First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

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Steve Ray

Presly Wallace

Mark Walsh

Steve Whitney

Charles Warren

Clark Adams

Steve Waters Bill Linton

God and Life Awards

Tom McCullough

Joey Hutto

Wallace McMillan

Rick McCarty

Tom Purcell

Henry Boerner

David Tannehill

Bobby Pipkin

Joe Williams

John Napier

Wade Young

Brooks Walker

Andy Luckett

Spencer Hillhouse

Glenn Thomas

Al Wallace

Chauncey Godwin, III

Hamilton Lence

Michael Gratz, Jr.

Tally Barnes

God and Family Awards Troop 3 Greg Hall Jim Montague Scott Brister Ken Swindol Taylor Burks Bedford Walker Harris Faucette Gene Barry Curtis Monts Charles Bryson Will Parker Phil Long Bill Dickerson Bill Riley Cole Randle Jerry Shelton

Troop 3

Barry Pipkin

God and Service Adult Award Mark Rackley Johnny Rasberry David Carlisle Bill Dickerson Albert B. Walker Mike Marion Fayette C. Williams David Price Roy Parker, Jr. Tony Tannehill John Bryson Jeff Cooley Steve Mills Davis, Nash, Jr.

150 Years of First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

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W. Wallace McMillan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1976

Gayle Rogers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1992

J. Steve Ray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1976

Matthew Burgette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1993

Glenn S. Thomas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1977

Parrish Fruge’. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1993

Ken Coggins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1977

James McGraw. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1993

Mark Kellum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1977

Tucker Neelly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1993

Michael Smith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1977

Al Wallace, IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1993

Mark Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1978

Reid Bryson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

C. Tom McCullough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1979

Jacob Burgette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

Bradley Miller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1979

Andrew Dickey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

W. Thomas Purcell, III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1979

W. Jacob Livingston, III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

Michael Reece . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1980

Patrick Lowery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

Joseph Williams. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1980

David Pace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

Jon Bender. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1981

Mitchell Soper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

Mark Hildenbrand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1982

Matthew Wesson, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1994

Manfred Ray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1982

John Wallace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1995

Jeffrey Tannehill. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1982

T. Crisler Baker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1996

Michael Gratz, Jr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1984

Paul Crowe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1996

Brett Hildenbrand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1984

Phillip Crowe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1996

Irwin B. Prude, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1984

M. Ruff Thomas, Jr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1996

Martin Young. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1984

Matthew Carlisle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Justin Flaherty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1986

Robert Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Robert Abney. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1987

Joshua Clayton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

T. Keener Billups, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1989

Curtis Cockrell, III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

David Bryson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1989

Adrian Dickey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Fayette Williams, III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1989

A. McAllister “Mac” Godwin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Devon Albert. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1990

J. Henry Hutto. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Ryan Phipps. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1990

W. Jack Nunley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Joshua Whipple. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1990

Gordon Pace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Ethan Albert. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991

Perry K. Thomas, IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

David Carlisle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991

J. Coleman Wiygul. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Christopher Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991

Joseph Worthen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Mitchell Ellett, Jr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991

Andrew Fruge’. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1998

Charlie Hackett, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991

Jason Murphree. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1998

Joel Zimmerman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991

Charles Blake Young. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1998

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Matthew Robbins. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2008

Robert R. Black. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1992

G. Sturdivant “Van� Thomas, Jr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2008

Lewis Whitfield . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997

Jace Owen King. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2009

David Henson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2004

R. Hamilton Lence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2010

Aubrey Patterson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006

Thomas Christopher Simpson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2010

J. Paul White. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2007

Raymond Patrick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2011 Spencer Hillhouse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2011 Robert Cole Magers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2014 Dakota Zeigler. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2014

Silver Fawn Award Yocona Area Council (members of First Presbyterian Church)

Robert B. Davis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2015 Levi James Ray. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2015 Lee Stuart Beard. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2016 Elijah King. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2016 George Seiler. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2016 Joseph West. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2016 Samuel Patrick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2016

Silver Beaver Award Yocona Area Council (members of First Presbyterian Church) W.B. Fields. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1934

Mrs. Edward Warren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1973

Silver Antelope Award Yocona Area Council (members of First Presbyterian Church) Chauncey Godwin, Sr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1975 Aubrey Patterson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2010

Members of the Sesquicentennial Committee

Ray G. Purnell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1958 Chauncey Godwin, Sr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1959 L. P. McCarty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1964 Miles Garber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1965 Hugh L Purnell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1969 Jim Montague, Jr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1970 Albert Walker. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1973 Tom Bailey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1979 Dr. Fayette Williams. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1988 Chauncey Godwin, Jr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1989

Dan Brasfield Frances Brasfield Glen Davidson Leslie Geoghegan Chauncey Godwin, Jr. Margaret Gratz Tom Groome, Pastor Nancy Brown Milam Sam Pace

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Becki Depew

Bobby Dale

Tom Billups

Alix Robbins

Bob Munson

Frances Brasfield

Dan Brasfield

Josefina Rayburn

Joe Rutherford

Jackson Roye

Buddy McCarty

Steve Bryson

Ron Richardson

Ben Eakes

Gil Monaghan Hank Boerner Mike Bruce Glenn Thomas Kaley Anderson Pete McMurry Mark Monts Mary Pace B.J. Coleman Mitzi Moore John Fleming Travis Abney Leighton Pettis Carson Overstreet Cameron White Ed Neelly Drew Robertson Charlie Buckley Alex Dent Faye Bruce Wanda Dent Jim Dent Stephen Hazard Butch Cockrell Tony Tannehill Meg Dudley Carl Patterson

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