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Billy Frank Gerald

The Reverend Dr. Billy Frank Gerald, long time resident of Brookhaven, Mississippi, passed away peacefully in his home on April 11 at the age of 87. He leaves behind his wife of 66 years, Fay Ivey Gerald, and their six children: Judy Ratcliff (Scott), Larry Gerald (Delores Myers), Cindy Smith (Oscar), Keith Gerald (Aimee), James Gerald (Emily Dabney) and Sharon Gerald. The family also includes 14 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.

Born Aug. 19, 1931, in Greene County, Mississippi, to Claude Frank and Rosa Holder Gerald, Dr. Gerald was the third of 11 children. He joins his parents in the Promised Land, along with his siblings Gayle, Nell, Sam and Ben. His surviving siblings are John, Ralph, Patricia, Paul, Sandra and Darlene.

Ordained as a minister on Dec. 4, 1949 by the Methodist Protestant Conference of Mississippi, Dr. Gerald attended Kletzing College at University Park, Iowa; Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky; and graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Additionally, he held a lifetime teaching certification in secondary education from the State of Mississippi.

As a minister, he pastored 18 different churches during his career, planted four Methodist Protestant churches, and founded several independent Methodist congregations. His ministry included three years as President of the Methodist Protestant Conference of Mississippi, eight years on the Board of Religious Education for the General Conference as well as six years on the Board of Missions. He served for 10 years on the Board of the World Gospel Mission from 2000 to 2010.

As an educator, he taught and served as an administrator in several high schools around the state, but he is most remembered for his years at Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi.  There, from 1960 to 1976 as first dean and then president, he helped mold the next generation of both preachers and teachers, raised children and become a member of the community he loved. Many in Brookhaven will also remember him as the owner of the WCHJ and WBKN radio stations.

Most importantly, as a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he showered everyone with love, lived the example we were to follow, and shared his deep devotion to God. We followed him as he whistled gospel tunes, walked in his footsteps in the fresh tilled soil of his garden and counted pine trees with him in the woods of south Mississippi. His love of growing things was so great that the Lincoln County and Southwest Districts of the Mississippi Forestry Association both recognized him as the 2013 Tree Farmer of the Year. In their words, there were planters with more trees, but he was the only one that knew them all by name.

Visitation will be this Sunday, April 14, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Riverwood Family Funeral Service on Hwy. 51 just south of Hwy. 84. A funeral service will be held here in Brookhaven at Riverwood on Monday at 10 a.m. The graveside service will be held at Clear Creek Church near Brooklyn, Mississippi, at 3 p.m.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers or other gifts, you donate to one of Dr. Gerald’s two favorite charities: the World Gospel Mission (www.wgm.org) headquartered in Marion, Indiana; or the Wesley Biblical Seminary (www.wbs.edu) in Ridgeland, Mississippi.