|LIFE AS A P.K. - PAPA WAS A PREACHER
I took me years to realize that I have a different perspective on many things as a result of being a P.K. – “Preacher’s Kid.” Even in my golden years I am still discovering how
the experiences that I have had and accepted as ‘normal’ were actually in many ways unique. “Unique” could be just the word to describe my father, who set the stage for my
Born on a farm in 1899 to Carrie Ella and George Alexander Palmer in the Bethany community near Baldwyn, Mississippi, Clarence Palmer spent his childhood with parents
whose work ethic and honesty was exemplary. He and his two brothers and two sisters shared in the typical farm chores: tending to the crops and farm animals and helping
with the housekeeping duties. But Daddy had a calling in an entirely different direction than farm life.
At a young age he began acting out his dream as he would stand on an old tree stump where he was working in the field and preach to his congregation of one – his sister,
Lula. He was only sixteen years old in 1916 when he stood behind a pulpit to preach his first sermon, “in knee trousers,” he would want me to add. From that point on
“determination” would be evident in his character with a lifetime of learning and serving as his theme.
Completing the schooling offered in the community, he continued his education at Mississippi Heights Academy (private high school for boys in Blue Mountain), Mississippi
College, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Even with all that education his dedication was to the country people. He spent his sixty plus years of ministry in rural
and small town churches in Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama.
There are many examples in my father’s life to show the living standards he possessed. Church minutes from Wheeler Baptist Church revealed that Daddy was called as
pastor on September 24, 1937 under these terms: Budget for 1937-38 was that the general collection go into a general fund to be divided on the following bases: 10% for the
Cooperative Program; 90% for the pastor’s salary, coal, and light bill. Wow! 90%! Sounds like big bucks! That is, until we look at the report for Sunday November 6, 1938.
Sermon subject: Contacting God
Offering today: $7.77
According to my calculations Daddy received $7.00 less the cost of lights and coal! Soon after that, the church voted to supplement the pastor’s salary with produce from the
No, Clarence Palmer never made much money but then he could squeeze more out of a penny than any Scotsman you ever met. He likely missed few State and Southern
Baptist Conventions. Usually, the church where he would be pastor would send him as a delegate and contribute to the expenses of the trip. True to his frugal characteristic,
Daddy was as careful with any expense coverage that the church provided as he was with his own money. Although the amount allowed would be very small he always came
home with some amount to return to the church. While many preachers lived “high off the hog” for that week, Daddy made reservations at the YMCA and lived on cheese,
peanut butter and crackers (that he took from home) with an occasional meal at the Krystal. He carefully itemized every penny that he spent.
Not only did he survive on almost nothing, he made sure that he got his money’s worth. The church had paid his expenses so he had to honestly use that time for the church’s
benefit. He attended every session and had the notes to prove it!
Lack of funds did not hinder my father’s ministry and effectiveness, however. I learned from a newspaper clipping:
The Rienzi Baptist Church heartily and enthusiastically called Rev. Clarence Palmer to remain as pastor for another year. The records show for the last 22 months in addition to
his pastoral work, preaching in revivals, and travel, that Brother Palmer has conducted 347 mission services in jails, penitentiaries, CCC camps, beer joints, county poor
homes, colored schools, and colored churches, with 591 requests for prayer and 177 professions. Much of this work was done (? – unreadable) is untouched or unworked by
My mother taught school in all of the places where my father was pastor. After I was born and still preschool age, it was necessary for Daddy to take me along most of the
time when he made home and hospital visits, attended meetings, spoke in schools, and, yes, preached in jails. Sometimes I would stay with the jailor’s family on the first floor
while Daddy did his thing but sometimes there was not that option. I would be spellbound as I quietly observed the deplorable conditions and the behavior of the prisoners.
Some continued talking with their cellmates, laughing and joking. Daddy never missed a beat! He was doing what he needed to do. Some listened intently and a few made
At least I was not along for the following incident that happened before my time. This newspaper article likely appeared in the Commercial Appeal.
Pastor’s Visit to Prisoner’s Cell Almost Ends in Jail Break at Iuka
IUKA, MISS. Jan. 31 (Special) – Rev. Clarence Palmer, pastor of the Iuka Baptist Church, will continue to visit the prisoners of the county jail here but after his recent
experiences he will exercise more caution. For unwittingly, he almost lost his life and came near being the means of a jailbreak Thursday.
It is the custom of the pastor to visit the jail and its inmates occasionally preaching a sermon. He usually is given the keys to the cells but the door leading from the hall to the
cells is locked by the jailor’s wife every time he visits.
Thursday afternoon after the service a young man named Welman asked the pastor to come into his cell as he wanted to talk with him. Unsuspecting, the young minister
stepped inside when immediately a knife was stuck at his throat and he was ordered to hand over the keys at once.
With no alternative, Rev. Palmer delivered the keys. But another prisoner named Tweety closed the cell door and called for help. The sheriff and deputies came at once and
released the preacher.
The prisoner confessed the attempt to escape but said he wasn’t planning to hurt Rev. Palmer. He said he determined to escape and take other prisoners with him and that the
plot was arranged beforehand. Welman is a young man and is held for passing bad checks and breaking in a house in the southern part of the county.
Daddy used this experience as an illustration in many of his sermons. The experience did not interfere with his ministry to prisoners for he continued that practice for the next
fifty years or so.
My father was content to serve people who were unable to pay him in line with his education. He was able to conquer fear to share the Gospel in places of potential danger. As
his daughter, I, too, was exposed to many circumstance that were not considered ‘typical.’ I learned and became accepting of people and ‘differences.’ If that is ‘unique’ then
‘unique’ must be okay.
|How Did I Get Here?
by Shelley Jamieson
Shelley captures and shares the culture and life style
of the mid-century South. She understands the
nostalgia of the country church, the country store, the
blizzard of '51, remembering the hard times of the
South of post-depression austerity. Told from the
unique interpretation of the daughter of a Baptist
pastor, she lived the routine, ritual, and revival spirit of
Southern religion that shaped her world.
Bill Peach, author of South Side of Boston
(Tennessee) and Random Thoughts Left and Right
Every family needs a Shelley Jamieson to write its
history, for she gives a detailed and rich account of
her family, her community, and herself. This story
will encourage cousins, nieces, and nephews, as well
as children and grandchildren to come to their heritage
with respect for the positive attitudes and hard work
of their forebears. In a personal and informal style,
she brings to life her people, the details of their lives,
and the feelings that create a family.
She includes quotations from original sources: letters,
scrapbook notes, and short histories by others in the
several communities in which she grew up. These
sources especially augment the early years before
memory can help. She has often gone back to speak
with old friends in places where she lived, so she
gives some account of how life turned out there. Her
care with names, places and rich use of quotation will
make this work valuable to many county archives.
Sally Lee, author Spirit of Monterey