In Memory Martha Allen Newby

Martha Elizabeth Allen Newby

January 26, 1922-November 27, 2014

martha newby


Mrs. Martha, as we fondly referred to her was promoted on Thanksgiving day at the age of 92. Mrs. Martha was born in Columbia, Tennessee to William James Allen and Gladys Wilson Allen. She graduated from Columbia Central High School in 1940 and Athens College in 1944 where she meet her husband, James Martin Newby. They were married for 68 years until Mr. James’ promotion in 2012. She was a teacher at Copeland School and Johnson Jr. High School. Mrs. Martha was a member of Sardis Baptist Church where she taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and sang in the choir for many years. She was a devoted wife and loving mother and grandmother with many friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, James Martin Newby, her parents, sisters, Mary Frances Gladney, Annie Walker Bailey, Gladys Clymer, Marguerite Allen, brothers, Jimmy Allen, Evan Allen and Paul Allen. Mrs. Martha is survived by her sons, James [Jimmy] Martin Newby, Jr. and wife, Martha and Jerry Allen Newby and wife, Dianne, both of Athens; daughter, Susan Newby Ming and husband, Bill of Athens; grandchildren, John Martin Newby and wife Monica, Leigh Anne Newby Toone and husband, Shane, James Michael Newby and wife, Lindsay, Elizabeth Ann Newby Crow and husband, Justin. Mary Anna Newby, Jerry Allen Newby, Jr. and wife, Ashley, William Calvin Ming, Jr., Elizabeth Newby Ming, Sarah Martha Ming; 10 great-grandchildren; brother, Ernest Wilson Allen and wife, Virginia of Columbia, TN; sister-in-laws, Lorene Allen of Columbia, TN and Wynelle Allen of Pulaski, TN and many nieces and nephews. To donate to the Martha A. Newby Scholarship Fund, send money to University Scholarship Fund Foundation, P.O. Box 70 Athens, AL.


I’ve been in the gospel ministry for over 45 years and I’ve never known a perfect couple but the couple above came as close to perfection as any I know. I’ve never known a man to treat a woman with more respect than did James Martin Newby. Mama, as he referred to her was number one and he let everyone know that she was number one.

James, William, Martha

When I was a kid there were two professions that I shied away from and that was preachers and school teachers. As a general rule, school teachers and I did not get along all that well but it was not their fault. I ate at Mrs. Martha’s table a lot as a kid and I had great respect for she and Mr. James. Actually, it was more than respect, it was fear and trembling and the man never raised his voice to me one time. I don’t know what it was but the one thing I knew was I did not want to get in his dog house and I imagine I came close a couple of times but thank God Jerry was always first in line. After he finished with Jerry, I think he knew that I was not going to be a problem. He did have a one of one with me when I was about 14-15 and I have not forgotten it. He was very clear but very kind and it was a turning point for me. I didn’t get that close to Mrs. Martha until the later years.

Martha, James, Naola (1)

To be honest with you, I was a little shocked that we hit it off so well. Mrs. Martha was an avid reader of the DIGEST for years. She did get to where she could not read the last couple of years but up till then she read it front and back. There were times when I was a little nervous about visiting she and Mr. James due to something radical that I had printed in the DIGEST. I came to discover that she was as conservative as I was and she became my number one encourager. She never rebuked me the first time but always laughed at the stories and encouraged me to keep writing. We are Americans and we frown at the idea of Kings and Royals but to me Martha Newby MNewby2 (1)was a noble woman, a cut above. She had both class and convictions; manners and morals; beauty and brains. She was sophisticated but simple. She was low maintenance. She was content with what she had. Her salt and pepper shaker were the same when she departed as they were when I was a kid. I had planned to visit her on Friday November 28 but I go the call about her departure on the 27th, Thanksgiving Day. I was disappointed, I thought I had at least one more Christmas with Mrs. Martha. I drove by the house Christmas Eve. I miss her! When I looked at the house, I had a big empty feeling. Below is Mrs. Martha with her beautiful daughter Susan. Danville folks, if you can guess Susan’s age, I’ll take you to CB. Athens folks are disqualified. She looks 29 but you’ll have to guess a little higher to get close.


In Memory of Hugh Fitzgerald

Hugh FitzgeraldHugh Fitzgerald

November 24, 1924-November 28, 2012

I met Hugh Fitzgerald for the first time back in March of 1979. Hugh had with him Lewis Sims, Bobby James, Jimmie Stephenson and Charles Penney: this group made up the DBD pulpit committee. Hugh was the chairman. I must tell you that I don’t have any idea why they even fooled with me but Hugh was like a bulldog and once he set his mind to something, it was hard to tell him no. We locked horns immediately. He wanted to know why I was on edge and I asked him why they came without telling me. We did not get off to a good start. I told him the truth: “I planned to resign this morning and then you showed up and I did not want to embarrass my folks by doing it with strangers in the audience so I’ll have to do it tonight.” He could tell it was not a good time to talk to me so he said, “It’s obvious that you don’t want to be anybody’s pastor right now but would you come and fill in for us until we can get someone?” I said, “Sure, I’ll be glad to preach.” He said, “Just show up on Sunday morning and we will have someone take care of Wednesday nights.”  This was are first agreement and I don’t know what they thought but I did not think anything would come of it. That shows you how much I know. Long story short, Hugh and the committee showed a lot of patience and two months later I accepted the call to DBC.

I soon learned that Hugh had a lot of influence within the church and out. He was definitely the key leader and he had some side kicks. Kenneth use to refer to them as the big three: Hugh, Jimmie Stephenson and John Tanner. If those three were opposed to it, you were in trouble but now those three didn’t agree on everything. Jimmie had worked hard to get the church to adopt By-laws and Hugh and John were not really excited about the changes but in time, it all worked out. Hugh lead the music at times and he was always the chairman of the nominating committee, always. Everyone said, “Make Hugh the chairman because people have a hard time saying no to Hugh” and that was true.

Hugh at old church

Right after coming to Danville, I go to the Farm Store one day and Hugh is chewing Kenneth out for something. After he left, I looked at one of the workers, I think it was Gary and I said, “I thought Kenneth was the boss.” “He is,” Gary said. I said, “Well who is Hugh’s boss?” He said, “Hugh don’t have a boss.” Hey, you would have to know Hugh to appreciate what Gary said but he hit the nail on the head. Hugh and I were never enemies but our friendship evolved over time. We did have a few run-ins in the early days.  We got into a heated discussion about the pastorium and I probably said too much and I sure it did not come out the right way. Hugh was very forgiving toward me. I am very fortunate in that respect. That was way back in 91 and I don’t think we ever had any problems afterwards: he did chew me out a few more times but I don’t think I ever responded and I knew it was his way of showing me that he cared.

He stopped being hard on me a long time ago and then I noticed he and Joe David in a debate one day. I told Joe David later, “Son, do not argue with him. Let him have his way.” I don’t remember exactly what Joe David said but he didn’t agree to let him have his way.

Hugh was tough. He was a rugged individual. I saw him weep  a couple of times at most. He could handle pressure as well as anyone I have ever known. He was very insightful and he had a rare gift of diplomacy. He could chew you out and not only would you know that he was right, but you would be grateful for the chewing. He was a shrewd investor and a very good businessman. Hugh had a strong work ethic and physically, he was strong as an ox. Even at age 80, he would work most of us under the table. At age 76 he carried 5 gallon buckets of concrete up the steps at the FORTE. He enjoyed helping with all the cooking events. He helped with all the breakfast meals until just a few years ago. He cut the grass here at the church until he was 82 and we had to talk him into quitting then.Hugh on Tractor

Hugh love farming and especially messing with cows. He had no fear. He had his own system of doing things and generally speaking, he didn’t need much help. He got James Kyle to help him haul cows to the sale but he did most of it himself. There is no telling how many miles he walked checking fences. He would not hear of a four-wheeler. Every time John mentioned him getting a four-wheeler, Hugh would go into a tirade. Hugh always pulled his weight but he was not into frills or extravagance.

I’ve been thinking since Hugh’s promotion: “Why in the world would he and Mavis take such a liking to me?” I don’t have an answer, other than the grace of God. If Hugh liked you, he liked you and if he didn’t there was little chance that anything would change. He and Mavis were always there for us. Over the years Hugh became one of my very best friends. We fought some battles together and he fought one for me without my assistance. I would not be at DBC if it were not for men like Kenneth, Jimmie and Hugh. You will not find a lot of folk that will stand up for a preacher, especially when the chips are down but they did and that is why I got to raise all my kids in Danvillesee them all graduate from the same school which is rare among preachers.  I have a great deal of admiration and thanks for Hugh’s life. I have said a temporary good bye to most of my life coaches this year: Bro. Inman in December of 2011, then Mr. James newby, Joe Eaton and now Hugh–all within a years time. This time last year, I could talk to all four of them.  My world is changing rapidly but that’s okay, the Lord is preparing me for the next. I am just very thankful that I could be Hugh’s pastor for almost 34 years.

In Memory of Kenny Holladay

In Memory

Kenny Michael Holladay

Dec. 8, 1949—Jan. 31, 2015

kenny-jpgOur good friend Kenny Holladay was promoted on the last day of January. He was very sick when we published last months DIGEST. He put up a noble fight. I am extremely grateful for having known Kenny and I look forward to seeing him in the City built by God. Abraham was content to live in a tent because he believed in a CITY. I’m getting to the point that I have more folks in the City than I do living in tents.

Paul said to the Philippians in chapter 4 of his letter, “Let everyone see that you are considerate in all that you do.” Kenny Holladay incarnated this verse, he epitomized the spirit of consideration. I nicknamed him, Mr. Consideration. If you do a study on the word Paul uses and translated ‘consideration’ by the NLT only, it refers to a person who gives us their legal rights or claims for the sake of another. Let’s say you have a friend who owes you money but he or she is having a very difficult time and so you forgive the debt. You did not do what was legal, you did something higher and more noble, you gave up your claim or legal right to the money for his/her benefit. Kenny was just the kind of man who would do this for friends and relatives.

I got to know Kenny over 30 years ago when his father was sick. We became friends and I played a lot of rook in his living room. Kenny was not a professing Christian although he attended church occasionally. He called me one night a couple of years after I  got to know him and asked me to come to his mothers. We went in a back bedroom and Kenny got on his knees beside the bed and asked Christ into his heart. Kenny endured some hard and difficult times in the later years but he never abandoned his faith. He went through a painful divorce and then lost a son. Kenny knew first hand about suffering and sorrow but it did not make him bitter, it made him better.

Kenny was an avid, dyed in the wool, Alabama fan. He knew as much about Alabama football as Gregg or Joe David. He loved Coach Saban and the Bear.  He loved going to the games and I think he attended them in person until the final year. Kenny did remarry and had some happy years with his wife Jean. I saw them on a regular basis at two places: church and Cracker Barrel. Jean battled cancer for years and was promoted on March 7 2012. Kenny sat by her side and attended to her even though he had already been diagnosed with cancer. After Jean’s departure, Kenny had surgery in Birmingham. It was a rare and difficult procedure and Kenny could not eat solid food for 6 months. He lived on apple juice and a stomach tube. After his esophagus healed, he was able to eat some but not as before. He had a couple of good years before the dreaded cancer came back. Kenny came to church as long as he could. He came Sunday night and morning. He sat with Jean’s family on Sunday morning and with Gregg and Tracey on Sunday night. Jean’s sisters Gloria and Ann attend here and they gave love and support to Kenny throughout the rugged ordeal. I know these girls appreciated Kenny: he practically allowed Jean to live with Mrs. Robinson in her later days and then he took care of Jean their sister.

Kenny had a lot of misfortune but he was very fortunate when it came to family. In all my years of ministry, I have never seen a family like the Holladays and the Robinsons mentioned above. His brothers and sisters where there and his baby sister Sheila became his primary care giver. His sons Ken and Brad came in to help in the last days. They were there night and day. Kenny’s mother, Mrs. Ona Holladay, who resides at Summerford’s nursing home, has taken Kenny’s departure hard. She and Kenny were tight. Kenny was the consummate son. His example made me feel very guilty. He called or visited his mother every day until he became physically unable. He tried his best to protect her from any bad news. Mrs. Holladay will be 100 years old this August. She was born in the same year as my Mother, 1915.

I can honestly say, Kenny did things for me no other person has ever done. I am not denigrating others, I am lifting Kenny up. His consideration of others was off the charts. One of the most precious moments came when I knelt by his bed and placed his hand on my head and Kenny blessed me! It was a moment so sacred that the LORD told me never to share it with anyone and it will not be shared. I do wish I had written it down for myself but I didn’t.