April 6, 2020 - When I became Pastor of The First Baptist Church of Mauriceville, Texas in 1964, I didn’t realize that my six years there would make me some of my finest life-time friends. During my years there, Ed Hall’s family became some of my dearest friends. The fact that Ed and Johnnie had six children made every visit I had with them like sitting down with my own family of nine siblings. After a meal together, Ed would get a toothpick, lean back in a chair and entertain us with his stories. He grew up in Gary, Texas and was a childhood friend of singer “Tex” Ritter.
“As I grew up, a friend of mine and I would get together with “Tex” Ritter to play our guitars and sing.” “Tex’s” singing and playing was so bad that we kinda hated to see him join us,” Ed laughed. “But here we are,” he continued. “I am tax collector for The Mauriceville School District, my other friend works for The Highway Department in Carthage, and “Tex” is in Hollywood singing “The Boll Weevil Song,” making movies, and is a member of The Country Music Hall of Fame.”
I had told Ed that I needed to break up our little garden behind the Parsonage. Early one morning, I heard a noise outside and when I went out to see, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There Ed was…plowing up the garden with a mule and plow! It took a while for me to learn what “Gee” and “Haw” meant, but Ed already knew….and so did his mule.
Ed knew where every pond and puddle was that had fish in them and showed me “Eight-Gate Check” on the rice canal and several stock ponds as far away as Buna, Texas. He called me one day saying a huge bass was spawning in a pond near hs house. Late one evening I crawled up near the pond’s edge and watched the big bass slowly swim in and out her nest. Since her nest was only three feet deep, I decided to fire my powerful 30.06 center-fire rifle above her assuming the blast would probably at least knock her out. I pulled the trigger and BOOM!!! A high cloud of water shot in the air and when all settled, my bass was still casually swimming near her nest. One evening later, I crawled up near the pond’s edge again and blindly cast a plastic worm near her nest. When it hit the water with a “Thud”, I thought I’d hooked a log. But suddenly the huge bass burst from the water with a power that my little reel couldn’t handle. When my reel froze, I threw it down, wrapped the line around my wrist, and began backing slowly into the woods. I finally pulled the fish onto the grassy bank, strung it up, and ran to show it to Ed and Johnnie. I then proudly showed it to everyone I saw on my way home. Deacon Thamar Dickerson asked me if I knew shooting fish was unlawful. I laughed and replied, “No, but I know now that it’s also unreliable.”
The Hemphill First Baptist Church called one day and asked if I would be interested in being their Pastor. I finally decided to leave my wonderful six years at Mauriceville and read my resignation at a Sunday night service. After I read it, Ed Hall stood and with his voice breaking, said, “I move that we accept 'Our Beloved' Pastor’s resignation…. with regret.” His words… and the way he spoke them… burned into my heart and humbled me beyond measure. During the following years, the only contact I had with the Halls was when I preached revivals for their Pastor/son, David at Woods Community Church near Carthage and later at David’s pastorate in Tupelo, Mississippi. Then in 1971 while I was pastor in Lumberton, our precious six-year old daughter Sandy died in a car accident in Lumberton. I hardly remember the two-hour drive with Funeral Director Pete Farmer to the cemetery in Center, Texas. As we neared the grave site, parked close to the funeral tent was Ed and Johnnie Hall. As Ed slumped down on the passenger side, Johnnie whispered, “Ed has been very sick, but said he was going to Sandy’s funeral.... 'even if it kills me.'” That was the last time I ever saw Ed Hall.
I am 86 years old now and this article will appear in my second book to be published sometime this year. I received a Facebook message from Mike Hall (Ed and Johnnie’s younger son) yesterday. He said Ed died of a heart attack in 1987 and Johnnie died in 2011. David, Mike’s older brother, also passed away several years ago. I have outlived many of my older friends in Mauriceville, but still stay in touch with the five Hall siblings through Facebook. And they all know that their father was more than just a friend to me.
He was “My Beloved Friend.”