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.


Mildred M. Stephenson

Mildred Morris Stephenson

Mildred Morris Stephenson

In Memory of Mildred M. Stephenson

{The Proverbs 31 Woman}

December 21, 1912–June 17, 2013

[Eulogy delivered at Mrs. Stephenson’s Celebration of Life Service, 11:00 am, June 19, 2013]

We have gathered here today to celebrate the life and legacy of Mildred M. Stephenson who celebrated her 100th birthday last December 21. We are also here to celebrate Jesus Christ the resurrection and the life and to celebrate Mrs. Stephenson’s [Nanny as she was known by family] promotion to the land that is fairer than day.

Mrs. Mildred was preceded in death by her husband Bill, her son Jimmie and great grand son Wesley. She was loved and will be missed by her daughter Janie S. Nolen and husband Charles and Daughter-in-law Betty S. Harpe. Mrs. Stephenson was dearly loved by her three grand children: Suzanne Stephenson, Jennifer Garner [Jeff], Fred Stephenson [Mary] and FOUR GREATS: Stratton Garner {Kayla}, Maggie Cunningham {Charlie}, Stedman Garner and Sarah Stephenson. We have one great-great on the way.

Mrs. Mildred requested a brief service, she said, “You preach your funeral by your life.” I’m not about to say she was wrong. But I don’t call this a funeral. I call it a celebration of life and never before does that word seem more fitting than today. The bible says to give honor to whom honor is due and Mildred Morris Stephenson is due some honor.

She left us her favorite scriptures but I have been thinking about one that is not on the list and I have altered it somewhat,  I have paraphrased and personalized. It comes from Proverbs 31, the last part of the chapter and I used the ERV to help me word my paraphrase. We can call it the JEV if you like, Jack’s everyday version.  I must say that I have never used this scripture in this particular way and I doubt that I will ever do it again.

Mildred Stephenson was a strong person, and people respected her. She looked to the future with confidence. She was truly a woman of faith. She spoke with wisdom and she taught others to be loving and kind by her own example. She took care of her household. She was never lazy. Her children say good things about her. Her grandchildren praise her. There are many good women but she was the best. Grace and beauty can fool you, but a woman who respects the LORD should be praised. {Proverbs 31:25-31, JEV}

  1. I Praise Mrs. Mildred for being FAITHFUL…for more than a decade she has attended our Senior Adult fellowship. Up until April she had only missed one. She was faithful to attend her church. She loved West Hartselle and Bro. Jack. She was faithful in reading the word of God [3 hours every day]
  2. I Praise Mrs. Mildred for being GENEROUS…Mildred Stephenson was a giver…she loved to give. I saw that same characteristic in Jimmie. She always sent us a check to help on our LOTTIE MOON Christmas offering. I know that these kids and grandkids have been blessed by her generosity.
  3. I Praise her for her enduring PATIENCE. In all the years that I’ve known this sweet woman and I have been with them in some tough times, I have never seen this woman agitated, upset or angry with anyone. This may be the most amazing thing about Mrs. Mildred.
  4. I Praise Her for being GRACIOUS. When you look up the word gracious, Mrs. Stephenson’s picture should be there: she epitomizes the gracious spirit. She had the gift of mercy and I don’t think she ever looked down on anyone. Of course a part of being gracious is to be grateful and Mrs. Mildred was grateful. I never heard her complain, did you? She even liked my apple pies.

I could say a lot more but I want to honor Mrs. Mildred’s request. Mrs. Mildred loved poetry and so I want to close with a couple of poems…one you have never heard and one that is very familiar.

Mildred Stephenson

She wore a smile upon her face,

 a walking billboard of God’s grace.

Her words were soft, her deeds were kind,

A more virtuous woman, you could not find.

She was never boisterous, never used force,

Never distracted but always holding a steady course.

She was not flashy or into sensation

But she was faithful to Christ and His congregation.

She was loyal to Christ her Savior and LORD,

If all were like her, we’d be in one accord.

She made her mark, there is no doubt or question.

Mildred M. Stephenson has left a deep impression.

The second poem, her favorite was written 3,000 years ago. Most popular poem ever written.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

Mrs. Stephenson’s favorite scriptures were: Psalm 23, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:38-39, I Corinthians 2:9, John 14:1-4, Philippians 1:21 and Revelation 14:13. Her favorite hymns were He Touched Me, Sheltered in The Arms of God and the LORD’s Prayer.

Mrs. Mildred was an avid reader of the word of God. She was known to spend 4-5 hours per day reading her bible. She read the bible through every year since 1965, 48 years in a row. That is a record that I will not break because I did not begin doing it until my early 50’s. In the last few years, she read it through twice each year. Mrs. Mildred said, “I fall short of being the Christian I should be but the Bible is my guidebook and I pray God will forgive me the many times I have failed.” What about that folks! This woman had an incredible attitude. Her creed was “To do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This woman lived her creed in word and deed. She said her father always taught her…”If you don’t have something good to say about someone–don’t say anything.” I knew her for 35 years and I never heard her say a critical word about anyone, not even her husband   Bill. Folks, this fact alone, blows my mind.

Another favorite poem of Mrs. Mildred’s was THE ROAD HOME

When I come to the end of the road
and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free!
Miss me a little–but not too long
And not with your head bowed low;
Remember the love that we share
Miss me–but let me go.
This is the journey we all must take
And each must go alone;
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home!
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrow in doing good deeds,
Miss me–but let me go.
Mrs. Mildred was raised in the Cedar Plains Christian Church. She moved her letter to West Hartselle Baptist Church on January 28, 1979. She served there for many years as their Librarian. When you look up faithful in the dictionary, Mrs. Mildred’s picture should be there, she was Simper Fi. I loved Mrs. Mildred and I love the last verse of her poem above. She lived that verse. She incarnated that verse. I know she faced many sorrows but the one that I shared happened on October 31, 1998, the night her only son Jimmie was killed in an automobile accident. It was a horrible night that we will not forget as long as we have memory. Mrs. Mildred hurt but she suffered graciously. I never heard her complain or feel sorry for herself. She carried her grief nobility and grace. Mrs. Mildred was truly the Proverbs 31 Woman.



In Memory of O.B. Owens…Jan. 14, 1938–June 14, 2013

O.B. "Coach" Owens

O.B. “Coach” Owens

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. ~Vince Lombardi
Winston Churchill said, “I cannot forecast what the Russians will do, the Russians are a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma. O.B. was a man of mystery, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I knew him for more than a decade before I broke through that outer shell and began to see a bit of his heart. Note: I did say a bit.
            O.B. and I did not get off to a great start; probably more my fault than his. My first impression of him was that he was crass, rude, and a little too direct. I guess it’s ironic that people see me in that same light. OB and I had a minor confrontation in 1990. He gave me some advice that I did not appreciate at the time. I walked away from the conversation convinced in my mind that the man was wrong and I thought that I was right. A few years later, I came to realize that OB was right and that I had been wrong. Actually I was amazed, the words he had spoken to me were like prophecy. This revelation was so clear that I was compelled by conscience to go to OB and apologize. In retrospect, I think what had happened had bothered me a lot more than it did him. He knew he was right. When I apologized, he accepted the apology and after that we became friends. I don’t know exactly how it happened, it just happened.
            Little by little, I began to see the heart of the man. I am convinced beyond a doubt that OB had a heart of compassion but for some strange reason, I don’t think he wanted people to know. He loved and cared for people deeply. OB was old school…he believed in showing people you loved them, not telling them. I was raised by an old school father so I can relate. I have some old school tendencies myself. For whatever reason, OB was not one to share inner feelings.
            Not only was he compassionate, he was generous to a fault. We shared a lot of meals together and he paid for everyone. I tried…I would even insist but it was like water off a ducks back. He was going to pay or else. I did get to buy his supper a couple of years back. June and I saw he and Linda at the Western Sirloin in Moulton. We had finished and were paying and they had just finishing their meal. I told the cashier, I want to pay for that couples meal. She allowed me and June and I got the heck out of Dodge. I did not want to be there when he figured it out. Linda said that when he did, he said, “I’ll get him back”. The next THANKSGIVING we got a turkey and a ham. You could not out give O.B. and that is a very Christ-like quality.
            I’d like to tell you that we talked about matters of the heart and spiritual things but we didn’t. I let OB lead the conversation. We talked about what he wanted to talk about. He picked at me a little about my political views. I didn’t pick at him that much.  The strange thing about the friendship is that we never agreed on anything. What ever I said, he always disagreed. It became a sport to me. I would stand by him on the fence watching a high school football game and I would pick out a player and say something like this…Coach that number 41 is going to be a player, don’t you think? He’d say, “Hey, that dude is going nowhere. He is as good as he’ll ever get and that aint saying much, besides he has a bad attitude, know what I mean. He isn’t worth a plug nickel.” If I had said, “That kid is not worth a plug nickel, he would have said, “Hey, slick, that kid is a winner. He has heart. If I were picking a team, he’d be my first pick.
Those who didn’t know him well will be shocked at my third observation…
  1. OB was compassionate
  2. OB was generous
  3. OB was a Sage…he was a wise man
At first, I thought he was a smart alec but I learned that he knew what he was talking about. He had a deep insight into things and he had a gift of discernment that I don’t have. I thought he was too hard on certain people but he knew human nature and he did know a bad attitude when he saw one. It took some time for me to come around but I learned that OB was a Teacher, a mentor and I came to respect him as such. Believe it or not, for the most part, OB talked and I listened. That is how much respect I had for the man.
I do have one haunting regret. I tried to hook up with OB this past year to talk with him about some personal things. I stopped at the florist several times hoping I would catch him. I even went to the house he bought in Falkville, hoping to catch him there. I do wish now that I had tried harder. I will say this: OB’s departure has definitely changed my world and it has given me one more reason to long for the world I was created for. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha…it is good to have a God who will weep with us but it would be sad indeed if weeping with us was all that He could do. Jesus not only weeps with us, He has defeated death and the grave in our behalf and once we reach the other side, He will wipe all the tears from out eyes. That being the case, I will cling to the hope that my friendship with OB will be renewed and on a much higher level. I love you family and I long as I have memory, I will remember OB and cherish his friendship.
P.S. Huge crowd at the Celebration of Life Service.
O.B. was survived by his sweet wife Linda, one daughter Jonna, one precious and beautiful grandaughter Macy Beth Lee, two sister–Barbara Cherilla and Brenda Mutchler and several nieces and nephews.

In Memory of Jack Maddox

Jack E. Maddox

March 20, 1928-October 14, 2012

My friend and neighbor, Mr. Jack Maddox was promoted on the night of October 14. I had just gotten home from the service at Sardis Springs when I got the call. Jack’s dad was Atticus Golson Maddox and his mother was Gladys Ann Breedlove Maddox. Mr. Jack served three yeas in the U.S. Air Force, was District Two Commissioner for three terms and was also a farmer and cattleman. He loved working with livestock. Mr. Jack epitomized enthusiasm and zest. He enjoyed life and he loved people. I was honored to get to say a few words at his grave side but there is a lot more I want to say.

It amazes me: there are folks that despise me and I don’t even know why but the greater enigma is the fact that some people love me and treat me with kindness and respect. I have no idea why Jack and Eloise Maddox been so good to me but they have always treated me with he utmost respect. What is strange is that they are not members of DBC. They are members and were faithful attendees of Neel United Methodist church as long as they was able. I was never Jack’s pastor but that was no problem for he or myself. We hit it off from day one. Jack was a hard worker and we had a lot in common. Jack would take a nap now and then during a sermon and he told me one day, “I like the way you preach preacher.” It’s hard for me to doze off when you are preaching. About the time I get comfortable, you hollow.” We both had a good laugh over that subject.  I got to speak at Neel Methodist one Sunday morning and I am pretty sure that Jack had something to do with me being invited. He also inspired our last area wide Tent Revival at the High School. I saw him somewhere and he said, “Preacher, I really enjoyed that Tent Meeting at the high school, why don’t we do that again?” With Jack’s prompting, we did do it again.

Bro. Jack had a farming accident back in 1959. He got one of his arms caught in a corn picker and the arm was torn badly. He went to the old Pineview Hospital in Hartselle. I think Dr. Block was his physician. He tried to save Jack’s hand but gangrene set in and they had to amputate just below the elbow. Most folks would have been devastated but Jack bounced back like a rubber ball. He got knocked to the mat but he would not stay down. Jack Maddox was resilent.  The accident happened in September right in the middle of the harvest. Jack was in the hospital for 24 days. There was corn to pick and cotton also. John Tanner [who else] put a team together and they came and harvested Jack’s corn and did his first picking on his cotton. The money was enough to pay all Jack’s medical expense and get he and Mrs. Eloise through the winter. Annette, the first-born came shortly after Jack’s accident. Dr. Block told Mrs. Eloise, “I though there for a while that you and Jack both were going to be in the hospital at the same time.” Jack did not sign up for welfare or disability. It was not long until folks realized that he had no disability. Bro. Harold Thompson, who did Jack’s service and was his pastor for 12 years, said: “When Jack showed up for a work day, he did more work than anyone. I first thought he had a disability but I soon realized that Jack could out work all of us.”

Jack and Eloise have two very sweet daughters: Annette and Jan. Annette’s in laws are retired IMB Missionaries. They were stationed in Nigeria. I visited their home in Lagos back in 1986. Annette and family live in Huntsville and are members of the Southside Baptist Church. Jan lives near Nashville. Both of these girls were faithful in helping their mom care for their Dad. Jan sang at Jack’s service and Annette played the piano. It made the service very special. Jan has the voice of an angel and both girls are a lot like their mom, sweet as the day is long.

 Annette’s husband Jim is not in the picture but he is present: he was busy at the time of the photo. Annette is to the left of her mom and Jan to the right. Jan’s husband Larry is to her right. Jan’s son Jim is standing just behind her and Annette and Jim’s children or to the left: Jonathan and Hannah. I reckon all Hannah’s are beautiful. I told Hannah the day of the service that I would not forget her name and I didn’t. Not only are these girls [Jan and Annette] a class act; their husbands and children are also. What a legacy Jack left! This is a great family. I have had some honors bestowed on me in my life time but being ask to serve as a pallbear with the grandsons and son in laws ranks right up there at the top.  Mrs. Eloise ask Terry and Gerry Cole and myself to sit with the family. This has happened to me  only once before; it is rare but this is a rare family. I was indeed honored. The flag that Mrs. Eloise is holding was presented to her by the U.S. Air Force of which Jack was a veteran.

Bro. Jack was promoted the same week as one of my early employers and life time mentor James M. Newby. I had just gotten home from Mr. James Celebration of life service when I got the call about Jack. Although these two families do not know each other, there are a lot of similarities. I have never been the pastor of either family and yet both families have been incredibly kind to the Bailey’s and the fact that I got to help with both Celebrations of Life Services created an enduring memory for me. I do see how I can experience another week to its equal. Mrs. Eloise Maddox, so much like Mrs. Martha Newby, is so sweet and kind. I have never been in her home that she did not make me feel like a million dollars. I have been loved by some extraordinary people and I am blessed beyond my ability to articulate. I feel extremely blessed to have known Jack Maddox and it will be my privilege to continue to visit Mrs. Eloise. She is a blessing and I love her. The last time I was by, she gave me one of Bro. Jack’s pocket knives. She is a generous and kind woman and she reads the blog everyday.