Rev. Glenn Weekley left trail of accolades

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, September 19, 2007

By By Lowell McGill
I knew Glenn Weekley when he was just a young boy. His parents, Beulah and Arthur, and his brothers James and Marvin and his sister Leila were close friends and neighbors of my family.
When I was about 13- or 14- years-old I would see Glenn and all his family and many other residents going to Perdido Baptist and various other churches in our small town each Sunday as I stood outside our little Methodist church, my home church for 18 years, ringing the "big bell" located in the church side yard. The gongs of the bell could be heard throughout Perdido and would summon everyone to attend the church of their choice.
Glenn was always active in his church and some say he could actually preach a sermon when he was twelve years old. There was something about his sincerity and purpose in life easily detected by all of his friends, relatives and neighbors. Indeed, Glenn was destined to preach and he would become known as one of the most inspiring ministers in America.
Glenn died last week at age of 59, but he left a trail of accomplishments surpassed by very few.
You see, the Rev. Steven Glenn Weekley was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. His massive congregation numbered 9,000 members, according to published reports. Because of its size the church was referred to as "megachurch". Glenn, over a period of 20 years, built a congregation from 3000 to its present membership. He had a staff that numbered in the hundreds, according to his brothers.
His ministry had become known, not only in the Nashville area, but also throughout the entire South. His dynamic style and preaching format was unique in every respect according to published reports.
His Hendersonville church was home to many of The Grand Ole Opry stars. In fact Glenn conducted the funeral service for June Carter Cash in 2003. She and her husband Johnny Cash were members of that church according to sources from Nashville. He and the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, directed the funeral service for Johnny Cash.
At his wake in Perdido there were many beautiful floral arrangements and wreaths, including a very special wreath sent by William Golden, Brewton's native son and long time member of The Oak Ridge Boys. Many others from his congregation also sent flowers.
I never had the opportunity to hear him preach but my family kept me informed of his ministerial growth. During his tenure at Hendersonville his Perdido family and other friends often drove up to attend his services.
He became ill several years ago and received a kidney donated by his brother Marvin, who still lives in Perdido I learned that another family member also later donated him a kidney. I was told that his health improved following these medical procedures and he had several productive years. But, he became ill again only a few weeks ago. His brothers told me that he died of a heart attack following surgery.
At this point I could tell you so very, very much about his professional ministerial career, but this paper doesn't have nearly all the column space to carry it. Thus, I would like to refer you to the internet. There, you will find hundreds of stories about this man. You will also see many photos of Glenn and his church. You will also read testimonials from Opry stars who were close to him. Just type in "Glenn Weekley" on your Internet search site and this will bring up all the information you desire.
I like to remember him when he was a small boy. I would see him riding his bike and playing childhood games at his family home. He, his brothers and sisters were younger than I, but were playmates of my younger sisters in their youth.
I think back to our family relationships. I remember his grandmother Mrs Dora who would set on the front porch of their old home place churning butter. My mother would go over regularly to get butter from her. I was small but I remember my mother telling one incident when she told Mars Dora the butter was 'bitter" yesterday. Mrs. Dora replied, "yes, Ramson let the cows get into the bitterweeds." Mr. Ramson, Glenn's grandfather, answered, "it's all because of that lead cow. She always leads them to those weeds."
I remember when his grandparents and his father passed away. Sadly, Mrs Dora was killed in an auto accident. She was being driven home by the one of Glenn's aunts. The accident was unavoidable according to those who had knowledge of the accident.
On other occasions, when James, Glenn's older brother, and I were young Glenn's parents and my parents would often go fishing late in the afternoon down at "Old Morrison," a community near Dyas. The fishing hole was located near the railroad tracks. Beulah and my mother would cook the small brim and goggle eyes over an open fire built along side the tracks. Beulah would tell us stories and sing to us. Then we would eat the fish we caught from the stream of water that flowed under the railroad tracks.
But one of the most memorable stories happened about 1941 or 1942.
Back in those days various members of the Grand Ole Opry traveled the countryside putting on tent shows. On this particular day a big tent was erected across Highway 31 where my father had a service station. My aunt also had a service station directly across from us. The tent was set upon about a half acre of land adjacent her station. As kids, my cousins and friends watch the tent rise from the ground and saw temporary seating placed inside. Then we saw two big signs (banners) attached to the tent. Those banners read "Prince Albert Tobacco and Martha White Flour. Then we saw another sign saying "Welcome Folks To Grand Ole Opry Stars Playing Here Tonight" (I had to confer with an older friend for facts for this story). The participants in that tent show were believed to be the Bill Monroe Band, a male singer known as Robert Lum, "The Talking Blues Boy" and a comedy act featuring a pair called "Jamup and Honey". There were other singers on the show that my friend and I cannot remember.
Arthur and Beulah attended that show along with many from Perdido, Phillipsville, Dyas, Splinterhill, Lottie, Rabun and possibly as far away as Bay Minette and Atmore.
The irony in this story is little did Arthur and Beulah realize then they would have a son one day who would grow up to become pastor of a huge church filled with a massive congregation including many Grand Ole Opry stars.
Beulah, who was loved by all in Perdido and who was a favorite friend of my sister Glennys, died a year or so ago. James and Marvin told me at the wake "Mama could not have handled this. I suppose it was best that she passed on before Glenn did." That's a difficult thing to say but after all "Glenn was mama's baby boy."
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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