Pastors' Memoirs

Amos Purnell Bailey, 1918 – 2006

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Dr. Amos Purnell Bailey, a Virginia Conference pastor for 68 years, was promoted to glory on Sunday, July 16, 2006.

A native of Grotons, Accomac County, Purnell received his call to ministry at age 15 while listening to the congregation of Pocomoke Methodist Church sing "What a Friend We Have In Jesus." He was educated at Randolph-Macon College (B.A.); Duke University School (B.D.); Union Theological Seminary, Richmond (Th.M.); Union Theological Seminary, New York, and the Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem. Purnell was later honored by Randolph-Macon College with a Doctor of Divinity degree. A significant endowment was given to the college in his name to fund scholarships for students in pre-ministerial studies in 2002, to be named the A. Purnell Bailey Pre-Ministerial Program for Ordained Ministry.

Purnell had a distinguished career as an Army Chaplain with the First Cavalry Division during World War II. He began writing the syndicated column, "Our Daily Bread," in the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Tokyo in 1945 while serving on General MacArthur’s staff.

As a member of the Virginia Annual Conference, Purnell served the following churches: North Emporia; Beulah, Chesterfield; New Kent, Richmond; Oak Grove, Norfolk; Grace, Newport News; Centenary and Reveille, Richmond. He also served as the superintendent of the Richmond District 1961-67 and led the district to purchase and develop Camp Westview on the James. From 1970 until

he retired in 1982, Purnell served as the Executive Secretary of the Division of Chaplains, Board of Higher Education and Ministry and as Vice President of the National Methodist Foundation of that same board. He served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences four times.

Purnell is survived by his wife, Betty Lou Sheffield Bailey. His first wife, Ruth Hill Bailey, died in 1992. He has four daughters, Carol Harriman of Alexandria; Anne Page of Raleigh, N.C.; Elizabeth Richardson of Richmond; and Jeanne DodgeAllen of Fairfax; 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He is also survived by one brother, Homer Bailey, of Tulsa, Okla.; and three stepchildren, Walter Sheffield of Fredericksburg; Dr. Polly Roberts of Roanoke; and Courtney Lou Tierney of O’Fallon, Ill.

After a private burial at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond on July 21, a memorial service was held at Fredericksburg United Methodist Church on July 22, 2006.

Purnell will be remembered for his genuine love of God, his compassionate spirit, his winsome personality, his marvelous voice, his sharp wit, his love of the church and those called to serve in ministry, and his deep devotion to his family and his friends worldwide. For over 73 years, Purnell served as a faithful servant of God. On Sunday, July 16, on the way to celebrate the resurrection, he slipped quietly into the eternal Kingdom. May he rest in peace.

— L. Douglas Hill




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