Former Liberty pastor honoredcomment (0)
May 9, 2002
After serving as pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa Association, for 53 years, John Wesley Tatum, 83, was presented a House Joint Resolution (HJR) by Rep. Gerald Allen, D-Cottondale, during Liberty’s morning worship service March 10.
“The HJR Resolution is a way to pay tribute to outstanding citizens who have contributed to their communities, state and country,” said Allen.
“Dr. Tatum deserves this recognition because he has given two-thirds of his life to Liberty Baptist Church and the surrounding Hagler Community. Any pastor who has served a church more than 50 years should be commended for unselfish service and faithfulness,” Allen said. Once the Legislature and Senate approved an HJR, individuals’ names and recognition are placed in the journal of the State of Alabama Archives.
Allen Foster, the new pastor of Liberty, said, “Dr. Tatum has supported me and he is my number one cheerleader. He sits on the front row and he is there to support me, not to intimidate me.”
Foster, who is the church’s first full-time pastor, said Tatum has made his job a lot easier.
Tatum, a Coaling resident, was ordained at age 16. “Many times I would catch the train that stopped in Coaling on Saturday night or early Sunday morning to preach in churches all the way to the Jefferson County line,” he said. “I shared my first preaching duties among East Mount Olive Baptist Church and Mount Zion Baptist in Tuscaloosa County,” he explained.
“When I preached at East Mount Olive, I walked four miles through the woods from my home to preach. However, when I was to preach at Mount Zion, my grandfather permitted me to ride his horse to church. It was quite a deal for me. The horse was a spirited mare that did not like to be tied. Some of the most upsetting moments during the horse escapades came when the horse would break loose and all the men of the church had to run and catch it.”
Tatum became a member of Coaling Baptist Church when he was 10. “My first job was janitor of Coaling Baptist at age 8. I received $1 per month for this job, which I gave to my mother for the family,” said Tatum.
Tatum has always been a bivocational pastor and is currently employed as the manager of the Coaling Water Department. Tatum said, “I have always been a working minister, meaning I have worked for a living and preached for pleasure.”
Tatum enlisted in the U.S. Marines during World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service during battle. He became the pastor of Liberty Baptist in 1948 until he was called back into service during the Korean War in 1950 for two years. “Liberty would not accept my resignation and waited for my return.”
Tatum appreciates the support of his family during his ministry. His daughters, Dawn and Beth, are the musicians at Liberty, and his son, George, sings in the choir. Tatum’s eight grandchildren have been active as well.
“Minerva, my wife of 49 years, has been a constant support, and my family has been involved with every aspect of the church but preaching,” he noted.
John David Williams, a deacon at Liberty, said, “Dr. Tatum’s enduring character and his basic Southern Baptist doctrine has endeared him to the congregation.”