Dr. William R. Harvey
Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist Church
Saturday, April 28, 2007 @ 4:00
Thank you, to my baby sis Anne, for that wonderful introduction.
I also thank the organizers, all others who assisted in making
this afternoon a reality. I firmly believe that the Dream
belongs not just to the Dreamer alone, but to all of the hands
that help to build the dream.
To the officers, members and friends of Rev. Sidney Cleophus
Tucker and Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist Church; guests; and
particularly the Tucker Family—Mrs. Laura Tucker, Rev.
Tucker’s wife of 59 years; daughter Maureen; sons Walter
and Sidney; and other family members, I am honored to be here
with you today. I am also happy to see so many of
my friends, classmates, teachers, mentors, and family. No
matter where you go in life, it is always good to come home.
Therefore, it is such a pleasure for me to be back in the town
of my birth to speak on the occasion of the retirement of Rev.
Sidney Cleophus Tucker as pastor of Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist
Church. A man who has faithfully served this congregation
for 40 years, Rev. Tucker he has left an indelible mark at Baptist
Hill and is clearly worthy of this adulation.
Under his leadership, Baptist Hill has attained new heights. There
have been several major church renovations that include an elevator,
new windows, doors, carpeting, and central heating. Both
the kitchen and basement have been remodeled. Church expansions
include the purchase of adjoining properties on each side and
behind the main sanctuary; the addition of the Claudis P. Harvey
Educational Wing; and parking lot paving and enlargement. Major
purchases for the sanctuary include a new piano, pews, hymnals,
Rev. Tucker’s inspirational, spirit-filled sermons have
touched the hearts and souls of many. He has benevolently
fed the hungry, clothed the stranger, comforted the sick, and
buried the dead— including members of my family and my
own dear mother. His religious guidance and moral
leadership have encouraged those whom satan would have to do
wicked in the world to instead study the bible, become wise in
God’s word and live a Christian life.
The educational and outreach programs, started here during his
tenure, have enhanced the lives of not only Baptist Hill’s
members, but also the surrounding community. Rev. Tucker
has served as a Southwest Missionary Worker and as the secretary
and moderator of the Evergreen District Association. He
serves as the associate chaplain at D. W. McMillan Memorial Hospital
and volunteers at the nursing home. Rev. Tucker helped
establish the Food Share Program in Brewton; served on the community
affairs group that was influential in securing adequate lighting,
sewage and drainage in areas where needed; and worked with the
chief of police to provide counseling for “at-risk” youth.
He was named “Rural Pastor of the Year” in 1978 and
received a proclamation from Tuskegee University. Rev.
Tucker is well-known for his thoughtfulness and kindness. As
has been said, “Kindness has converted more sinners than
zeal, eloquence, or learning.“
Rev. Tucker is a pastor’s pastor. He is a man called
by the Master to carry his message to the multitude—the
young and impressionable as well as the mature and wise. Rev.
Tucker is a man who takes delight in the success of others. He
is a man who yearns to always be a friend, never a foe. Rev.
Tucker is a man who is considerate of everyone and never sanctimonious
with anyone. He is a man who is a helper in times of trouble,
never a hindrance. And most importantly, Rev. Tucker is
a man who is always endeavoring to do God’s work.
Wherever Rev. Tucker goes, he is known, appreciated and respected. When
he comes to Hampton University’s Ministers’ Conference
every year, he is treated with deference by the administrators,
faculty, staff, students, visiting clergy and others. He
is known as the President’s pastor and whether in the faculty
dining hall, the President’s Box at the Convocation Center,
or just strolling about the campus, he is held in high esteem.
Rev. Tucker is held in high esteem, not only because he is the
President’s pastor, but because he is a man of God.
In that regard, I am going to continue my thoughts today from
God’s word. These thoughts turn to the topic of slaying
evil even when your enemies are giants. This is really
the story of David and his battle with Goliath. If you
don't remember it, let me refresh your memory as taken from first
Samuel, 17th Chapter. Goliath was a mighty warrior who
stood over nine feet tall. He was feared mightily as he
came in to battle with a bronze helmet and a bronze coat of armor
weighing approximately 125-pounds. He had bronze covering
on his legs and a bronze javelin on his back. Even the
iron point on his spear was mighty as it weighted approximately
15 pounds. His shield was so big and heavy until it required
a shield barrier to carry it ahead of him.
Goliath was so fierce and confident until he goaded the opposing
armies to send out their best man to fight him one-on-one. He
would shout that if the opposing warrior would fight and kill
him, then his entire people would become their subjects. Conversely,
he shouted that if he overcame the warrior and killed him, then
the opposing army's people would serve them as their subjects.
At this particular battle, Goliath's army – the
Philistines – was fighting the people of Israel. And
they were terrified of him.
This is where David enters the picture. He was the eighth
son of Jesse of Bethlehem. This is important to the story
because the Lord had indicated that he would choose one of Jesse's
sons to be king. Therefore, he sent Samuel to anoint one
of them. After seven had passed before him, Samuel indicated
that the Lord had not chosen any of them and asked the question, "Are
these all the sons you have?" Jesse replied that he
had one more son who was the youngest, but that he was tending
the sheep. Samuel then sent for him, and observed that, "he
was ruddy with a fine appearance and handsome features." It
was at this point that the Lord said, "Rise and anoint him;
he is the one."
The scriptures say that from that day on, the spirit of
the Lord was with David and gave him the power to succeed and achieve. Even
with this power and spirit of the Lord in him, David was still not
one of the warriors. The then king of Israel, Saul, utilized
David's service as one of his armor barriers and one who played
the harp for him. David actually traveled back
and forth from Saul's headquarters to tending his father's sheep.
While these things were going on, Goliath continued for forty
days to come out and yell threats and challenges to the Israelites. One
day David heard Goliath's shouts of defiance and said that he
would go out and fight him. Of course, no one thought that
David could succeed. His brother, other men, and even King
Saul himself said that David was just a shepherd boy and that
he would not stand a chance against a nine foot tall, fierce
warrior. David told them that even though he had not fought
in a battle, as a shepherd, he had fought a lion and a bear as
they attempted to carry off sheep from the flock. David
further said, "the Lord who delivered me from the paw of
the lion, and the paw of the bear, would deliver me from the
hand of this Philistine." After hearing this, Saul
said to David, "Go and the Lord be with you."
Saul was so impressed with David that he gave him his own tunic,
a coat of armor and a bronze helmet for his head. The heavy
armor and sword were so cumbersome until David could hardly move
Therefore, he took them off. In their stead, he took his
staff and five smooth stones from a nearby stream. With
only his staff, the stones in the pouch of his shepherd's bag
and his sling-shot in his hand, David approached Goliath. David
said to him, that even though you come against me with swords,
spear and javelin; I come against you in the name of the Lord. He
further stated that, "This day the Lord will hand you over
to me and I will strike you down and cut off your head."
Obviously Goliath was greatly agitated and moved closer to attack
David. As he did so, David reached in his bag, put
a stone in his sling-shot and ran quickly toward the battle line
to meet him. When he was in proper distance, he swung it
and struck Goliath on the forehead. As the stone sank into
his head, Goliath fell face down on the ground. David then
took Goliath's sword, killed him and cut off his head.
David overcame a seemingly invincible giant in his day and we
can do the same in our day. What are some of these giants
today? First and foremost, there is the giant of
drugs. According to a National Survey on Drug
Use and Health conducted by the United States Department of Health
and Human Services, 3.1 million persons age 12 or older use marijuana
daily. Approximately one in five people between the ages
of 16 and 59 said that they had used drugs at least one time.
In a 2002 report by the Justice Policy Institute, " 791,600
African-American men were behind bars with drug-related offenses." This
number does not take into account those that actually use drugs—just
those that are behind bars. Compare that number to the
603,032 enrolled in a college or university and the enormity
of this giant is apparent. By contrast, in 1980, African
American men in colleges and universities outnumbered those in
prison by a ration of more than three to one.
African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the population
in the United States, yet in 1990 they accounted for 23% of admissions
to substance abuse treatment facilities. (Alice B. Britt
in African Americans, Substance Abuse and Spirituality.) Now
drug abuse is not just bad for the individual, but for the whole
community as it fosters crime, poverty, illiteracy, limited job
opportunities, and poor education.
Violence is another one of our giants today. Many
of us have become prisoners in our homes because of the increase
in crime. Death and wounding by handguns are devastating
our own community. Statistics and other evidence document
the harsh effects of violence and the use of guns and violence.
- An increasing number of African-American males are killed
- Minority youth are victims of homicides at a rate six times
higher than whites.
- Homicide is the leading cause of death among Americans aged
15 to 25, and in many areas more teenagers die from gunshot
wounds than from any other cause.
- Drive-by shootings and resulting deaths are a daily reality. Children
as young as eight years of age carry guns to school.
- A Harvard University School of Public Health survey indicates
that 59% of youth in grades 6 to 12 said they "could get
a gun if they wanted one."
- Children in many urban areas now say, "if I grow up," rather
than when I grow up, since violence is a routine part
of their daily existence.
- When death does not result from gunshot wounds, often paralysis,
physical impairments, mental trauma, and other critical health
care problems linger for a lifetime.
Another major giant that we need to confront is sexual
promiscuity. Too many children are having children. Did
you know that 68-70% of all babies born to African-Americans
are born to single mothers? That is considerably more
than in slavery time.
Sexual promiscuity is a leading cause of AIDS, although there
are other causes as well. According to a report from
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “blacks
are still 8.4 times as likely as whites to contract the lethal
virus." The report also revealed that "Blacks
account for 69% of new diagnoses among heterosexuals" and "Overall,
new HIV diagnoses continue to disproportionately and severely
impact African-Americans, both men and women."
The Center for Disease Control said that African-Americans accounted
for 50% of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2003. African-Americans
are more than ten times more likely to die of AIDS than Whites. AIDS
is the leading cause of death in African-American women aged
25-34 and is the leading cause of death in African-American men
in the same age group. Sixty-nine percent of HIV positive
infants are African-American. It clearly has become an
epidemic in our community.
We need to confront these giants head on. Make no mistake about
it, the job will be hard, because increasingly, we live in a
permissive society. It is becoming easier and easier for
people not to speak out against the wrongs in our society. It
appears easier and easier for parents to demonstrate to their
children their immorality by cheating on income tax, on parent
confidential statements, on their friends and neighbors or on
each other through some illicit affairs. It appears easier
and easier for teachers to simply meet classes and not make their
classrooms inquiring and intellectual experiences in life and
learning. It appears easier and easier for our politicians
to put their spin on the truth. Remember when truth was
truth? Remember when right was right and wrong was wrong? Remember
when leaders of all persuasions provided real leadership and
service to better our communities? We need to get back
to a community that looks out for each other.
I remember growing up here in Brewton, if I did something that
I was not suppose to do—even in a neighborhood other than
my own, my mother and father would know it before I got home. As
a matter of fact, Miss Sally, Miss Lola, Miss Sang or Miss _______
you fill in the blank, might whip me even before I got home. That
meant that I got two whippings that day, because I surely was
going to get one when I got home.
We need to individually and collectively speak out against
the evils in our society. We need to lead, guide and nourish
young people in a positive, firm and courageous way. We
need to be unapologetic in telling them the truth. If the
village elders do not speak out against the ills in our society
and provide the necessary leadership, then the village idiot
Therefore, I say to you today that as we gather to celebrate,
commemorate, and congratulate Rev. Tucker, one of the ways to
honor him is to pledge to carry on his fight in confronting and
overcoming, in word and deed, some of our Goliaths of today. To
do so, I urge you to arm yourselves in God's love, power and
spirit. If you do, I believe that just like David, God
will anoint you with His power.
If you’re not sure by now, let me make it perfectly clear. Rev.
Tucker in my estimation, is a terrific man—a God fearing
man. He is a man of honor and an exceptional humanitarian. Rev.
Tucker is also a man whose unselfish life of service to his fellow
man has positively affected the lives of so many others – his
family, this congregation, his colleagues, and his community.
So many times, we have failed to tell others how much
they are appreciated. All too often, our feelings about
a person are expressed at their wake or funeral. Well,
I thank God today that I am blessed to stand here before Rev.
Tucker and all assembled and say to him—Rev. Tucker you
are an exemplary model of outstanding leadership, a man of superb
character. Your knowledge of God’s word, demonstrated
values of decency, dignity, integrity, responsibility, unity,
and service have made the world in which we live a better place. I
admire, support, and respect you. And, although you are
retiring, I am very proud to have had you as my pastor and blessed
to have you as my friend.
Finally, let me say to all assembled here this afternoon, that
Rev. Tucker has left a solid foundation on which Baptist Hill
Missionary Baptist can continue to build. He has served
us well and is most deserving of this retirement. Knowing
Rev. Tucker as I do, I can assure you, however, that his retirement
from daily pastoral duties is in no way a retirement from his
service to the Lord, to Baptist Hill, or to his community.
Rev. Sidney Cleophus Tucker, we thank you for 40 years of outstanding
service to the congregation of Baptist Hill Missionary Baptist
Church; the citizens of Brewton, Alabama; and the Hampton University
Ministers’ Conference. May God continue to bless
you and your family in all of your endeavors.