Pastors' Memoirs

Corbelle Katon Gray, 1909-1987

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During the pleasant nights of the summer of 1928 a group of high school boys frequently gathered on the steps of Wright Memorial Church at the corner of Fourth and Randolph streets in the city of Portsmouth, Virginia. The magnet which drew us there was "Speck" Gray.

Under the ministry of my father, Speck had accepted Jesus Christ as the "Master" of his life. It was now his purpose to share his new life by offering his friendship and guidance to us. It was under his urging that several of us accompanied him to the youth assembly in Blackstone and it was there, in 1933, that Speck answered God's call to the ministry.

In those days of the Great Depression it was not easy for one to give up a good paying job in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and go off to college. That he did so was evidence of Speck's complete dedication to the service of Christ. He enrolled in Randolph-Macon College. Here he not only excelled in his studies but also found the time and energy to serve as supply pastor of the Bland- ford Methodist Church in Petersburg. However, after two and one-half years, his financial situation forced him to return to the shipyard where he worked in various supervisory positions until 1948. During this period he continued serving his Master. He started a new church in one of the developing areas of the city, served as supply pastor of Wesley Memorial, became a leader in Scouting and was active in civic affairs.

In 1940 Speck married Ruth Hart and their union was blessed with the birth of three sons, William, Robert, and James, all of whom graduated from Randolph-Macon College and now, along with their mother and their families, survive their father.

Speck was born in Portsmouth, Virginia February 18, 1909. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1928 and entered the Apprentice School of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He then worked at his trade in the shipyard until entering Randolph-Macon College.

In 1948 Speck took full-time appointment to the Fincastle Charge. While there he attended Roanoke College and in 1952, at the age of 44, graduated with honor. Subsequent appointments were: Elliston-Shawsville, Villa Heights, Park Avenue, Greenwood, LeKies, and Bellamy. In 1974 ill health forced his retirement. With his beloved wife and helpmate, Ruth, he resided in Gloucester, Virginia until his death November 4, 1987. Funeral services were conducted at Bethany United Methodist Church, Gloucester, by the pastor, the Rev. Eugene Setchel, who was assisted by the Rev. Alfred Eastman and the Rev. Ronald Davidson. Burial was in Evergreen Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia.

How inadequate is a list of names, dates and places! The value of a man, his convictions, the reality of a spirit aflame for Christ -these and other great qualities are so much more -and to know these is to know the man. Thus, it is not by the size of the churches he served, nor by letters after his name, that Speck Gray will be remembered. He will be remembered by the spirit which ruled his life. That spirit is best expressed by the words of Saint Paul. "For I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). A life of deep consecration is always convincing and inspiring. To have known Speck Gray was to have seen the power of faith and to have felt the inspiring atmosphere of the love of Jesus Christ.

-Jacob W. Mast



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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