Pastors' Memoirs

Alpheus Wilson Potts, 1908-1995

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Alpheus Wilson Potts was born on May 21, 1908. His transfer to his new life came at 11:19 a.m. on April 28, 1995. In between those monumental dates, too much happened to be able to adequately chronicle it here, but some things should be noted.

As a teenager he was chauffeur and companion for his father who was presiding elder of the Farmville District. With that exposure it is no wonder that Al became one of three brothers to become third-generation Methodist ministers, their father also being the son of a Methodist minister. He attended Hampden-Sydney College and later was graduated from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Randolph-Macon College recognized Alpheus' contributions to the church as a pastor, a historian, an educator and administrator by conferring on him the Doctor of Divinity degree.

On April 26,1935, Alpheus married Josephine Smith, a pretty young lady from Texas, who he had met at the Presbyterian Assembly Training School across the street from Union Seminary.

Both while in the seminary and as a probationary pastor he served pastorates in and around Richmond: Sherborne Avenue, Beulah, Branch Memorial, and Chester-Ivey Memorial.

Al and Jo had four children: Louise, Wilson, Betty Jo, and Christie. And to these children were born his 15 grandchildren who, in turn, have been responsible, so far, for 13 great-grandchildren -- with three more on the way!

Always on the cutting edge of the church's mission, both evangelistically and in social concerns, Al served some of our finest churches, never compromising in the face of conflicting views -- always with courage and total dedication. He was fully committed to the Gospel of Christ in whatever direction it led. Among those churches were Bassett, Trinity-Petersburg, Main Street-Bedford, Huntington Court-Roanoke, Berryman-Richmond, Main Street-Waynesboro, Trinity-Alexandria, and First Church-Charlottesville. His six years as district superintendent of the Staunton District saw the district move forward in every way. Always interested in children and youth, those programs received special attention. Al worked with his preachers and laity to see that all goals of the conference were covered and met. Especially did his work with sometimes ill-prepared pastors of poor churches and circuits pay great dividends in the development of those pastors and in the effectiveness of those churches.

Throughout his ministry Al showed his love for the church by becoming a careful student and recorder of its history. The author of many research papers and a contributor to the church's various publications, he became recognized as one of the most knowledgeable church historians in our annual conference and in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. He was president of our conference Historical Society and served many years as an officer and member of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Historical Society. He never tired of discussing the journeys of Francis Asbury and the more intimate details of many early churches and church leaders. (One of his daughters told her son, "Don't ask your grandfather about history unless you have the rest of the day for the answer!")

But Al's ministry was painted with a broader brush than this: other than his involvement with his pastorates and his historical interests, he served as trustee of Randolph-Macon Academy; as trustee of Shenandoah College and Conservatory; he was at times on the Board of Higher Education, the Board of Christian Social Concerns, the Board of Missions, the Commission on Town and Country Work, the Board of our Appalachian Regional Ministries, the annual conference Committee on Redistricting (at the time 18 districts were created), and on many others. At the same time he was a Rotarian, an honored member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Jamestown Society.

Al's love for his church was exceeded only by his love and devotion for his family. In reflecting on his life, Jo said, "He was always fun to be with." And it was with great excitement in their conversation that his family recalled and relived the once-a-year monthlong vacations which took the whole clan to so many places across the country. He was always interested in their education, the progress of their work, the coming of each new grandchild, and their new homes. Music and games were always a part of their family gatherings. What wonderful family experiences and memories!

And his many friends, who had come to expect Al to top all of their funny stories, learned from him and Jo the deeper meaning of friendship -- the grand and gracious quality of the man as they drew upon his knowledge and expertise.

Remaining with us, besides his precious wife Jo, and their children and their children's children, are his sister, Frances, and her husband, Bill, as well as a number of sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law.

But now the Scriptures have spoken in their eloquent and wise manner -- and we must hear them and accept their wisdom -- at once grateful to God's mercy and at the same time reluctantly.

"For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
-- a time to be born, and a time to die...

-- but He hash made everything beautiful in His time" (from Ecclesiastes).

- M. Douglas Newman



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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