Celebration to be held for local minister –
By Patricia Beech –
When he was scarcely out of his teens, Tommy Brown, a poor farm boy from Monroe Township in Adams County, heard the calling to preach. It was a call he answered, and his answer would direct the course of his life for the next 65 years.
“I was saved in a field, and that same night I preached for the first time at Mount Armenia Church,” Brown said. “I doubt if I preached very much that night, I was scared to death.”
That was May 20, 1952. In the decades since that night Brown’s fear of the pulpit faded as he cultivated his faith, gaining experience and knowledge in what he calls “Knee Bend College”.
He credits other ministers for mentoring him through those early years.
“There were three local pastors who were a big help to me – Hubert Sharp, Dennis Sammon, and Reverend W.E. Mills,” he says, laughing. “I think they felt sorry for me.”
Brown would interrupt his call to service only once to answer yet another call – this one from his country to serve in Korea. After returning home, he married his wife Jackie and once again took his place behind the pulpit.
Over the following six-and-half decades he has married 300 couples, officiated 1,200 funerals, and served twelve churches including: Mount Armenia, Antioch, White Oak, Hamilton, East Fork, Sandy Springs, Oak Grove, Old Trace (in Kentucky), Hoffer Hill, Germany, Rocky Fork, and Beasley Fork where he currently serves as pastor.
He says he was never the kind of minister that allowed denomination to get in the way of his preaching.
“I’m a United Zion Baptist pastor, but I’ve preached for all kinds of churches – Christian Union, Methodist, Presbyterian, and community churches like Rocky Fork, and Oak Grove where I stayed longer than anywhere else.”
Brown also spent many years working as a civil servant. In addition to working as a garage mechanic and a farmer, he was the Superintendent of Adams County’s Highway Department, a township trustee for 20 years, a board member on Governor James Rhodes Advisory Committee for eight years, a member of the State Board of Directors of Township Trustees and Clerks for 11 years, and a county commissioner for four years before he was defeated by a Libertarian who shared his name.
“I was a little upset about losing the commissioner’s race,” Brown admits. “I went to see (former Judge) Elmer Spencer and he said to me, “It’s plain to see they’ve put their mark beside the wrong Tom Brown”, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”
Brown says he balanced his civic and religious responsibilities as a pastor by keeping a single rule – “Church always came first.”
It was a habit he began at the outset of his ministry.
“Tommy had his job where he worked and he had to work every Sunday, so he decided to leave that job so he could stay faithful to his church,” Beasley Fork first elderDonald McCarty told the Defender. “They asked him to stay on the job and he was allowed to have Sunday’s off without a reduction in pay. He always says “God will find a way, and he did”.
Brown says money was a rare thing in his early ministry.
“I pastored one church in Old Trace in Kentucky, and they took up an offering one Sunday of $3.65, I’ll never forget that,” he says. “It made them so happy they could get that much money together.”
Asked what he’s learned after ministering to others for 65years, he says simply, “Being faithful and true to the word – when they bury me I only want them to say “he told the truth, he told it like it is”.
A celebration of Brown’s 65-year ministry was held on Sunday, May 20 at the Beasley Fork Church in West Union.