“The Black Gum Tree” by Doug Fincher

July 8, 2019 - In 1984, I moved to the Vinton Big Woods Magnolia Baptist and became their Pastor. I moved into the parsonage… on a remote dirt road in an almost untraveled part of Southwest Louisiana. I was overjoyed to live in this quiet community of people. 

I loved all my surroundings. I was only a mile from beautiful Bearhead Creek—and only 25 miles from Holly Beach, Louisiana on the Gulf. But there was something else that became one of most treasured surroundings: a backyard Black Gum tree. This is one of America’s most beautiful native trees, and it is one of our best shade trees. The one I saw that October day was in striking fall color. Summer leaves are a dark green with a high-gloss appearance, but the most spectacular part of this tree is the fall foliage with its many shades of yellow, orange, bright red, purple and scarlet. When I saw my tree, I picked up a beautiful fallen leaf, photographed it, and saved it in my computer.

Our church grew, and we saved $20,000 toward building an Education Building. My friend Bobby Spross, agreed to bring his team of builders and construct our building--- labor free. So our Building Committee met to make plans. When Lawrence Mitchell said we’d build the wing on the south side, I immediately told him we couldn’t. His quick reply was, “And why can’t we?” “Our black gum is in the way,” I replied. “Then we’ll cut it down,” he barked. The argument took off and we finally decided to wing off to the north side. It took a while for Lawrence to accept our plan, but we soon had the building done. 

Last year I went back to Magnolia Baptist to deliver the Homecoming sermon. The old parsonage had been moved, but when I walked to the back… there it was... our beautiful Black Gum tree… still standing tall…

… and more beautiful than ever.