A verse that is appropriate to use in connection with Dr. C. Y. Melton’s life is Psalm 27:4 – “One thing I have
desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”
For many years Dr. Melton claimed a verse from a hymn written by John Wesley as his personal prayer: Guide Thou, my Lord guide Thou my course And draw me on with thy sweet force. Still make me walk, still make me tend By Thee my way, to Thee my end.
To Jim, Martha, Jonathan, and Lori – we mourn with you today at your loss. We are all sad at our loss, but your dad and granddad is basking in the sunlight of God’s presence and has been reunited with Lorraine, his parents, and a host of other loved ones and friends who have also gone before. I am confident that he knew this world was not his home, but just a temporary dwelling place.
I have to confess that I am not going to do what Dr. Melton wanted me to do as a message at his Memorial Service. I have in my possession a number of letters Dr. Melton has written to me over the years. I always enjoyed corresponding with him because of his unique way of communicating. Of course, he wasn’t big on computers, texting, emails, and that sort of thing, so they are all written in his easily recognized handwriting.
Over the years Claudia and I always made a point to stop by and chat with him for a while, and in a conversation in 2009 he asked me if I would speak at his and Lorraine’s funerals. At the time I considered the invitation a huge honor and privilege but dreaded the prospect of that day coming.
In a letter dated May 2, 2009, he reiterated his request for me to speak and in characteristic fashion said “I would like for your message to emphasize God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.”
I will honor his request, but I would really be remiss if I did not take this one opportunity to talk about Dr. Culbreth Young Melton’s enormous contribution to Emmanuel College and to the Kingdom of God.
After all, many of us in this sanctuary today have been tremendously blessed by his life.
One writer has described our life on this earth as a ride on a train. “When we are born, we board this train with our parents, and we believe they will always travel by our side. As time goes by, other people will board the train, and they will be significant--people like our brothers and sisters, friends, children, and even the love of your life. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone. Others will step down over time and leave a permanent vacuum. Some, however, will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize they have vacated their seats. This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and permanent farewells. Our success on this ride consists of having a good relationship with all passengers and treating everyone we meet kindly and with love and respect.
“The mystery to everyone is the fact that we do not know at which station we ourselves will get off. The important factor is to try our best to love, forgive, and offer of ourselves the best we can. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step off the train and leave our seat empty we will have left beautiful memories to those who will continue to travel on this journey” (John McDonald).
Dr. Melton is certainly a great example of how to do that.
On January 30, 1928, in Danville, Virginia, “Cub,” as he was affectionately called, entered the world and boarded the life-train with his parents, Rev. Thomas A. Melton and Emma Elizabeth Melton. This was a Pentecostal Holiness train, and he grew up under the guidance and love of two of the sweetest, most genuine parents anyone could have. A quiet, humble, yet very capable leader, his father served the Pentecostal Holiness Church in a number of capacities and at one time served as Bishop of the denomination. Like many of us, Cub grew up going to church – Sunday school, youth service, Wednesday night prayer meeting, revivals. In other words, he grew up having the Word of God instilled into his life. With the examples set by his parents, very early in life Cub demonstrated superior intellect, a solid work ethic, and the ability to set goals and maintain priorities.
During high school in Durham, North Carolina, one of his first jobs was delivering news papers for the Durham Sun publication. He noted that he began with about 80 customers and soon increased his deliveries to 132 regular readers. The money he earned went toward clothes, lunches, YMCA, and Sunday school. Whatever was left he wisely put into a savings account or bought war bonds.
After high school, Cub Melton’s train ride took him to a little college in Northeast Georgia. His pursuit of higher education led him to Emmanuel College in 1945. He fondly recalled that, during a Sunday evening service at Emmanuel College, he accepted Christ as his personal Savior. He recollected, “I don’t remember receiving a specific call to Christian service. It just seemed to me that service is part of the Christian package.” He graduated with the Associate of Arts degree in 1947. Those two years proved to be pivotal in God’s plan for his future. While a student at Emmanuel, he met Lorraine Wells, who happened also to be from
Durham, North Carolina. A couple of years later, when her father, the Reverend T. A. Wells, went to pastor the Hyde Park Church in Durham, Cub and Lorraine started dating and getting serious about their relationship. They were married on February 3, 1951.
From Emmanuel he continued his education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He then earned the Doctor of Education degree from the University of Georgia, with a specialty in counseling and psychology.
Dr. Melton also served 18 months in the United States Army (1952-1954) and was based most of the time in Puerto Rico where he taught English to basic trainees. Always a serious educator, his academic experience also included four years as associate director of the Reading Laboratory and Clinic at the University of Florida and member of the Personnel Services Department responsible for counselor education. In addition, he served as consultant for reading services of Volusia and Hernando counties in Florida and participated in programs of state and national professional associations.
Before his years at the University of Florida, for three years Dr. Melton had been a member of the faculty and registrar at Emmanuel College. In 1965 he returned to the College to become the academic dean under President W. G. Drum. I have said that one of the most significant events in the history of Emmanuel was Dr. Melton’s decision to return to his alma mater to give leadership to the academic programs. He got on the Emmanuel College train with such heroes of the faith as W. G. Drum, Kirk Hartsfield, Ruth Tew, Bea Coley, and others. His leadership was crucial toward regional accreditation and state recognition of the College’s
Dr. Melton’s many contributions to Emmanuel College really culminated in his being elected president in 1970, an enormously challenging time for the school. He had hardly been in office a year before there was serious discussion about moving the College to another location. Change was in the air for the location of the General Headquarters of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, and along with that talk, the College got included. Weathering that storm was a test of any man’s tenacity, but he and the school made it through.
In 1969 Dr. Melton had invited me to join the faculty in the English department, so his years as president are vividly etched in my memory. Having worked closely with him during that time, I can point toward some outstanding aspects of his leadership. First, as I have already mentioned, he was well-respected and deeply appreciated by his colleagues at other institutions.
He participated in and served as president for a term of the Georgia Association of Junior and Community Colleges. He also represented Emmanuel as a member of the Southern Association of Junior and Community Colleges and was elected to serve as president of that prestigious organization. With dignity and class, he was also active in the Association of Private Colleges and Universities in Georgia. For a time he served on the Executive Committee of APCUG, and in 1978 he was appointed to a special advisory committee of the Georgia State Department of Education concerning private degree-granting institutions.
He was always a scholar and insisted on quality academic programs. Mediocrity was not accepted and excellence was encouraged in every program of study. The fact that Emmanuel’s two-year degree programs received full regional accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools was no small accomplishment, and, when he established the School of Christian Ministries and four-year degree in Religion in 1973, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools was not accrediting Bible Colleges, so he convinced the American Association of Bible Colleges to grant accreditation to Emmanuel’s School of Christian Ministries as an upper level, junior/senior year program. They did, and
Emmanuel’s program was the first in the nation to be accredited under those guidelines. In many ways, the School of Christian Ministries was the crowning achievement of Dr. Melton’s administration, and many of the International Pentecostal Holiness pastors and leaders are graduates of that school.
The list of his accomplishments is lengthy, but let me mention as many as possible for you:
1. The junior college had its accreditation reaffirmed in 1971 and 1981.
2. Drum Hall was erected in 1974.
3. Eight townhouses were built to house married students.
4. The gymnasium was enlarged to double the seating capacity.
5. A large house was transferred to the College to be used as the president’s residence.
6. The administration building was formally renamed the Aaron Building in honor of former President T. L. Aaron.
7. The athletic field was improved and six tennis courts added.
8. The Shaw-Leslie Learning Resources Center was constructed and volumes in the library greatly increased.
9. The former library in the Taylor building was redesigned to accommodate a new music wing and student center.
10. From 1969 to 1983 there were 1,400 graduates from the two-year Associate of Arts degree programs.
11. The Northeast Georgia Advisory Council was established to provide closer relationship with the College’s Northeast Georgia constituency.
12. The Irene Todd Christian Education Seminar and the Staley Lecture Series were established.
13. The four-year Religion degree-granting School of Christian Ministries was established and granted full accreditation by the American Association of Bible Colleges.
14. From 1975 to 1983 over 200 students graduated from the SCM with bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees.
15. Endowment fund development opportunities were strengthened by the establishment of a separate entity from the Board of Education called Emmanuel Endowment, Inc.
16. The annual alumni “Phonathon” was established, resulting in a significant increase in giving.
17. The Lee H. Firebaugh Award was established to honor superior faculty performance annually at graduation exercises.
18. The Lions and Lady Lions basketball teams excelled in junior college competition, with the men winning the state championship in 1975 and the women in 1982 and 1983.
19. Campus improvements included renovations to residence halls, the Aaron Building, Music Hall, and the SCM Office Building.
20. In 1970 the operating budget was $436,220; by 1983 it had increased to $1,947,836, including the junior college and the SCM.
21. Total assets of the College increased from $753,000 in 1969 to over $3,145,000 in 1983. Total giving increased from $113,662 in 1969 to $494,119 in 1983; alumni giving increased from $17,800 in 1969 to $192,749 in 1983.
22. Faculty credentials were strengthened by the addition of six doctorates.
I would say that if we are going to talk about the goodness, grace, and mercy of God, those facts are a good place to start.
Now, I am sure if Dr. Melton had a chance to edit my remarks, he would cross out all of what I just said and say, “That’s not important. Talk about something eternal.” Okay, I will. I want to share with you, not just the accomplishments of President C. Y. Melton, but C. Y. Melton, the man.
We are all aware that a job description is not the same as a person’s character. Paul David Tripp, in his daily devotional series, New Morning Mercies, puts it like this. "The character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments. Character is built by a life of ten thousand little moments. The character that is formed in those little moments shapes how we respond to the big moments in life. And what makes all of this character change possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace! So we wake up each day committed to live in the small moments of our daily lives with open eyes and humble, expectant hearts.” I think that describes C. Y. Melton perfectly.
When I think of words to describe Dr. Melton, I think of scholarly, witty, servant, integrity, sincere, humble, loyal, faithful, generous, loving father and grandfather. Cub and Lorraine were two of the most giving people I have known. Generosity is one of the surest signs of a person’s true discipleship. I’m sure he gave away much more than he was paid as president.
I loved Rick Haug’s tribute on Facebook. When Rick was a student at Emmanuel. He was walking up the sidewalk outside the Taylor Building behind Dr. Melton one day, and Dr. Melton was picking up trash along the way as he went. That is classic C. Y. Melton character. And I know that he never received compensation from the College for many of the trips he took. He would drive his own car, pay for his gas and meals, and stay with friends whenever possible to avoid having to spend the College’s money. He considered his role a sacred one and all the funds coming into the school as God’s money to be utilized only for up-building the Kingdom.
Behind the scenes both he and Lorraine demonstrated kindness and love to many students and faculty that no one else even knew about. I’m sure there are many here today who could testify to that fact. As he said, his calling was service to God, and he stayed true to his calling.
And even after his retirement as president he continued to serve on the faculty and taught until January of 2000, completing 50 years in education. He was also faithful to the Franklin Springs Pentecostal Holiness Church and served as an outstanding Sunday school teacher for many years. Whenever the Church had a work day, he was always there to do his part. When he When he moved to Mullens, West Virginia, he continued to teach a Sunday school class there as well as long as he could.
Then, everyone knows his disarming, quick wit and unusual sense of humor. In the middle of a serious speech or otherwise routine conversation all of a sudden he would drop a one-liner that would shock everyone. On one occasion he was asked to speak for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society induction. The student president of PTK had been cautioned about giving Dr. Melton a time limit, since he was known to “chase rabbits” now and then in class. As the student introduced him, he commented, “We’re glad to have President Melton to give a brief speech to the inductees. We know how he can ‘chase rabbits’ sometimes, so he will keep it short today, we hope.” Dr. Melton went to the podium, looked at the crowd, said, “Congratulations!” and sat down. For a few minutes there was stunned silence in the room. I remember, at my retirement dinner he was one of the speakers and commented, “Now it would be nice of the Board members to visit David sometime. After my retirement I really enjoyed the visits–both of them!”
I also enjoyed his letters. After he moved to West Virginia, in March he wrote, “Thank you for your letter. It’s good to hear from the other world” and ended with “Today is spring, but not here. I think we’ll have spring on July 4.” In another letter he wrote, “We like the people up here, but I think I’ll have to take up smoking to integrate into the subculture” and “on top of 20 inches of snow we got two more inches last night. We hope we’ll see the ground again some day. We haven’t had church services in two Sundays. I may be totally senile before we have Sunday school again.”
Most importantly, Dr. Melton loved his wife, family, and friends, and always put others first. Jim, he loved you and was so proud of you and your family. He adored Martha as well. I know you are so thankful that you had those last few years with him in your home. The testimonies of his grandchildren are evidence of his love for them. And he was a friend you could count on. He was down-to- earth and friendly to students and he and Lorraine knew them by name. He was a friend to the faculty also. By his actions and through his words, you knew he was genuine and real. Down through the years I never had to worry about his support or friendship, and after I retired our friendship became more solid. I guess we had the unique connection of having lived through some rough years and survived. And he remained a friend to many of his former colleagues.
I talked to Ed Henson the other day, and he remarked, “Dr. Melton was my friend; I will miss him. In April of 2015 Lois, Perry, and I went to see Dr. Melton, Jim, and Martha in Mullens, West Virginia. We started sharing with each other and before we realized it we had been talking almost four hours. Dr. Melton sent us a Christmas card and said the highlight of 2015 for him was that visit. There is now a lovely couple reunited in heaven.”
On December 28, 2016 our beloved friend stepped off the train or rather transferred to another line that has departed to a heavenly destination. Shortly after he passed away, Jim told me of a beautiful vision of his dad God gave him. Dr. Melton was standing on the other side of a river, looking back, and Jim saw him wave to him.
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 an aged Apostle Paul says to his young friend Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved
His appearing.” In the Greek, the word “departure” in verse six is a nautical term used of a ship which pulls up its anchor and sets sail. It also is used in a military way of an army breaking camp to move on or to imply someone being freed from his chains. It implies the eager anticipation of one who has been waiting for a long time for the departure for home. You know the feeling when you’ve been away from home for a time, and you are boarding the plane for home.
Death for a Christian is setting sail, breaking camp, being freed from chains, so he can go home!
Dr. C. Y. Melton is finally home. His destination has been reached, and we should live our lives in such a way that we will see him and many other friends and loved ones as we depart this journey. But the most significant and exciting part is that we will see Jesus.
In John 17:24 we read the words of Jesus as He prepared to leave this world, “Father, I desire that they also,
You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
Then, in John 14:1-3 He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.” What a blessed thought and comforting reminder that Jesus wants his children to be with Him in heaven, and Romans 8:34 tells us that He is there seated at the Father’s right hand interceding for us. As the song writer of “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy” pictured it, as he is being shown the sights of heaven and sees Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, James, John, Peter, and so many other saints, he exclaims, “I want to see Jesus; He’s the One who died for me!” To bask in His glory, to be in His presence, we can only imagine.
When a brother or sister in Christ departs this world, we should remember that the Father has answered Jesus’s prayer. The Father is granting to His Son a request that Jesus prayed nearly two thousand years ago on the night before He died for the sins of the world. In other words, our loss is His gain! As we read in I John 3:2, “Now are we the sons of God, but it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. For we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
In a moment we are going to join together in singing “Amazing Grace,” a song very appropriate for a memorial to Dr. Melton. I learned recently that John Newton, a sin-hardened seaman and slave trader who became a powerful preacher, wrote this song to be sung first on New Year’s Day of 1773. Speaking of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy, Newton certainly was one who understood that. “Amazing Grace” speaks of God’s past, present, and future grace. In a letter to a friend, Newton explained his reflective thoughts: “New Year’s finds me employed. I compare it to a hill on the road, from the top of which I endeavor to look back on the way that the Lord has led me thus far through the wilderness. I look around to contemplate the difference His goodness has made between my situation, and that of thousands of my fellow creatures. I then look forward, and perceive that I am drawing apace to my journey’s end. I shall soon be home. (Quoted in the article, “God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far,” by Tony Reinke).
Thus, this hardened sinner saved by grace could not help but write about God’s goodness in the past (Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That sav’d a wretch like me! I once was lost but now I’m found, Was blind, but now I see. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears reliev’d; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believ’d!) and in the present (Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.)
Finally, with a rising crescendo, he sings of God’s future grace: The Lord has promis’d good to me, His Word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine; But God, who call’d me here below, Will be forever mine.
This familiar verse was added later: When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun; We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we’ve first begun.
One reason we have chosen to sing “Amazing Grace” today is something that happened in the final days of Dr. Melton’s earthly sojourn. Martha shared this with me: “On the Sunday before Christmas, Jim and I were with Poppa in the hospital room when a spry, friendly, elderly gentleman knocked on the door and asked if he could come in. He was carrying an unfamiliar instrument and after introducing himself he told us that he enjoyed playing songs for sick folks in the hospital on his electronic “git-fiddle.” He told us that in his younger years he was on fire for the Lord, but after marrying and starting a career he had drifted away from the Lord for many years. Nine years ago he returned to the Lord and now, at age 83, he loves ministering to folks by playing his electronic auto harp and singing with them. He asked if we had a song we’d like for him to play, and I suggested ‘Amazing Grace.’ Now Poppa’s speaking voice had been weak for several days and his breathing had been labored for a couple of days, but when we started singing ‘Amazing Grace’ his voice was strong and beautiful as we sang ALL the verses together.
Hearing Poppa singing that afternoon is such a treasured memory from the difficult days of his illness. Thank God for His amazing grace.”
I can hear him singing now, with all his might. In honor of Dr. C. Y. Melton, will you stand and sing with me this great hymn?