For Hugh it was love at first sight. As I stood to play my Olds Super Trombone, I saw Melvine in the congregation and fell in love with her at first sight.
For two years I courted Melvine, and every opportunity I had to drive to Draper, NC, from Greenville, SC, I drove to see the love of my life. Melvine's parents, Russell and Frances Shropshire Stewart, were kind and gracious to me. I loved her local Pentecostal Holiness Church that had a number of married couples who loved going to church, and having fun with each other after church in the homes of these couples.
In January 1960, I proposed to Melvine. She said "Yes." The hardest assignment I ever had was to ask Melvine's father if I could marry his daughter, Melvine. I rehearsed what I would say, and the fear I had faded into a calmness and peace when Russell Stewart gave me his blessings.
The year 1960 was big year for me. I graduated from Furman University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a double minor in English literature and speech. In addition, I completed three years of Bible study under the teaching of Dr. Paul F. Beacham and Mr. Jesse Daniels. What I learned and experienced at Holmes Bible College became the foundation of the Biblical theology and Christian formation for my personal life and work and ministry in the church.
Not only did I graduate from college, but I was ordained in 1960. Robert L. Rex ordained me at River Springs Camp Grounds where our Alabama Conference was held. But wait, I got married on Saturday, August 13, 1960. Following Melvine and my honeymoon in the mountains of North Carolina, we drove to Wilmore, KY, where I enrolled at Asbury Theological Seminary.
I had to have $200 to register at Asbury Theological Seminary but I did not have that kind of money. I was able to borrow $200 at the Wilmore Bank. However, my brother-in law, R. H. McDuff, sent me a letter with $200 it it. I was able to pay off of the bank loan without any interest, and was able to register as a student in seminary.
Little did I know that a Methodist lady from Sebring, Florida would be the donor of a scholarship for all three years. She paid one-half of my tuition every quarter while I was as a student. She wanted to invest in a Pentecostal Preacher boy, and I was that boy. Melvine taught school in Versailles and then in Wilmore and helped me get through seminary. I worked in the IGA store and made enough money to purchase most of our groceries. During my senior year, I served as the minister of music at the Wilmore Presbyterian Church. and Melvine directed our children's choir.
God enabled me to finish college and seminary without taking out a student loan. I was able to use my GI Bill to finish college following a three-year enlistment in the Marine Corps. And at Asbury a Methodist lady helped me, as well as Melvine by teaching school. I made a commitment to God in college and seminary that I would not study on Sunday for any exam or class. God honored that and I graduated in seminary in the top 6% of my graduating class. I worked hard and enjoyed taking classes at Asbury Theological Seminary and making friends for life with my professors and fellow students.
During my second year of seminary I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Staff Specialist Program for Chaplain Candidates. I attended and graduated from the Army Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Slocum, NY, on David's Island about 30 minutes by ferry boat from New Rochelle, NY. One week was spent in the field at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
The good Lord helped me to graduate from Asbury Theological Seminary in May 1963. Melvine and I were debt free. God has supplied all of our needs. Leon O. Stewart was my conference superintendent. I applied to him to pastor a church. There was only one church available that year. It was the Brownville Pentecostal Holiness Church near Evergreen, AL. My weekly salary with out any gas allowance was $35 a week. The church did furnish us with a parsonage, but no furniture. The fist night, we slept on the floor. When the people learned about it, they rallied and brought beds and furniture until we could purchase our own. Leon Stewart said it is a small church of only 66 members, but it has great potential. He told the truth. Every church has great potential if you work at it, give it your best and depend on the Holy Spirit and the people to help you. Our local church grew and was filled Sunday morning and evening. I got three raises while I was there for two years. It was there that Jesus baptized me with the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. I spoke in tongues off and on for three days. I needed all of that for my ministry as a pastor and as an Air Force chaplain. That glorious experience changed my life and my ability to read and study the Bible.
It was during this pastorate that Greg was born in June 1964 at the Evergreen Hospital by C-Section. We had lost our first child, Julia Frances, while in Wilmore due to our doctor's mistake. He failed to exam Melvine properly. She has a curvature in her spine and could not have a child by natural birth. Julia Frances is buried in Lexington Cemetery in the Children's Section.
It was from the Brownville P. H. Church that God used Bishop J. A. Synan to call me to ask me to go into the Air Force Chaplaincy to fill the vacancy when Chaplain, Colonel Eugene Myers, USAF was killed in an Air Force Military Transport Plane crash over Manila, Philippines. There were 57 people who died in that tragic airplane crash. Since there was no one else qualified and interested in being an Air Force chaplain, I resigned my Army Reserve Officer Commission as a Chaplain to be commissioned in the Air Force Chaplaincy. So, in May 1965, we left Brownville in a brand new Dodge Polara to drive to McChord AFB. Tocoma, Washington for my first assignment as an Air Force chaplain.
It was there in Washington State that our Stephanie Ellen Morgan was born on November 19, 1966 at Madigan Army General Hospital at Fort Lewis Army Post adjacent to McChord AFB. Melvine's mother flew out to Seattle to be with us and help Melvine and me with Stephanie.
God has been good to us, and He continues to bless our lives.