Thomas A. Moak, Jr.

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Thomas Andrew Moak Jr. passed peacefully on Jan. 9, 2024 in Ridgeland after a long illness. Known affectionately as “Brother Tom” to many people influenced by his life and work, Tom served the Lord as a church musician for more than 70 years in Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Visitation is at Montgomery Baptist Church in Bogue Chitto, MS on Friday, January 12, 2024 from 9:00 AM till 11:00 AM. The funeral Service will start at 11:00 AM with interment at Johnstons Station Baptist Church Cemetery in Summit.

Tom’s remarkable life began on January 25, 1929, at the old McComb Infirmary. He was the son of Thomas A. Moak Sr. and Rachel Wallace Moak, who preceded him in death. Also preceding him in death were Willa Jean Montgomery Moak, his wife since 1955; a son, Randall Montgomery “Monty” Moak; a sister, Vivian Irene Moak Hart; and brothers, James Vernon Moak and George Preston Moak. He is survived by sons Thomas A. Moak III (Becky) of Dandridge, Tenn. and William D. Moak (Lori) of Madison, four grandchildren: James Lucas Moak (Andrea) of Detroit, Mich.; Andrew Wiley Moak of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Daniel Montgomery Moak of Pensacola, Fla.; and Caleb Thomas Moak of Madison; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

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From earliest childhood, Tom basked in the musical traditions of his family and community. He recalled hearing his grandfather and others sing hymns and folk songs, leading to what would become a lifelong love of music. He told of accompanying his siblings to the old Stamps-Baxter Singing School (a traveling music school) where he learned the songs despite being considered too young to participate. Tom professed his faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 12 at Bethel Baptist Church in Lincoln County, and at the urging of his aunt Hazel Leggett, began leading the music at Bogue Chitto Baptist Church in 1947 while a senior in high school.

After graduating from Bogue Chitto School, Tom earned an Associate of Arts degree from Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, going on to receive a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi College in Church Music, a Master of Science in Religious Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sacred Music from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. While in college, Tom served at churches in Bogue Chitto (Bogue Chitto Baptist), Magee (First Baptist), and Mendenhall (First Baptist).

At Co-Lin, he met his future wife, Willa, leading to a lifelong partnership with Willa as his accompanist on the piano. After they married, the couple served full-time at churches in Bogalusa, La. (Second Baptist); Crystal Springs (First Baptist); Baton Rouge (North Highlands); Memphis (Temple); Jackson (Ridgecrest and Hanging Moss); Pearl (Eastside); McComb (South McComb); Bogue Chitto (Pleasant Hill) and Brookhaven (Pleasant Grove). The couple served in interim and part-time roles at numerous churches through the years.

Tom is part of a generation of pioneers, helping to build the profession of church musician at a time when many churches only paid pastors. Through the years, he led music in more than 150 church revivals, built and directed choirs of all ages, trained and prepared soloists and singing groups, and composed dozens of original songs and poems. Tom was also active in civic affairs, serving as president of the Summit Rotary Club. Tom and Willa were selected for the Book of Golden Deeds Award from the Brookhaven Exchange Club, and Tom was later named Father of the Year by the McComb Enterprise-Journal.

He was a charter member of the Mississippi Singing Churchmen, founded the Lincoln Chorale (a senior choir that grew to more than 80 members), and performed hundreds of times at weddings, funerals, special events, and conferences. His poetry has been published in Mature Living magazine and other publications. He also enjoyed gardening, baking, and composing music. A cancer survivor, Tom often remarked that it was during the lowest times in his life when he most poignantly felt God’s comforting presence. He and Willa ensured that visitors to their home felt welcome, well- fed and often joined the couple in song. Tom and Willa never failed to ask visitors about their relationship with God.

Their witness led untold numbers of souls to Christ, and in 1976 after the tragic loss of their second son Monty, Tom and Willa began personally ministering to families facing the loss of a child. They could often be found in the kitchen before dawn, making cakes to take to grieving families and anyone in need. The couple also started a memorial fund in Monty’s memory at the Mississippi Baptist Foundation, the interest of which goes annually to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

Despite all his accomplishments and activities, Tom’s views on life were simple, based on his understanding of Scripture and guided by his unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ, his eternal gratitude for his unearned salvation through grace, and his service to and love for others. He often reminded his children and grandchildren, “You can only take with you, what you give away.”

The family wishes to thank the Beau Ridge Memory Care Center staff, Compassus Hospice, and Ridgeland Place Assisted Living for their service and support. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial gift to the Mississippi Baptist Foundation’s Monty Moak Memorial Fund, c/o Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205.