Christ Church Looks Back: The 1963-1964 Search for a New Rector and a New Rectory (continued)

Christ Church Looks Back: The 1963-1964 Search for a New Rector and a New Rectory (continued)
By Joseph Tomberlin

Posted July 31, 2014

The first part of this series of articles is available here.

Joseph Tomberlin

Closely related to the story of Christ Church’s 1963-1964 search for a new Rector is an account of the Vestry’s acquisition of a relatively new house at 2200 Glynndale Drive to replace the 1910 structure at 115 West North Street as the Rectory. As related in the previous article, the closing on 2200 Glynndale occurred at some point between December 19, 1963, and January 6, 1964. Senior Warden Bill Eager, Jr. “explained the recent purchase of a new Rectory to the incoming Vestrymen” at the first Vestry meeting of the new year on January 6, 1964. In addition, Vestry secretary John Oliver received authorization to list the old Rectory for sale “with one or two real estate dealers . . . for a period of sixty days.”

The day following the January 1964 Vestry session, Mr. Eager received by telephone an offer from two communicants, Miss E. Camm Campbell and Miss Mildred Price, of financial aid to Christ Church toward paying off the mortgage on the new Rectory. Miss Campbell and Miss Price would give $500.00 each to be applied “toward reduction of . . . [the] indebtedness on . . . 2200 Glynndale Drive. . . .” Each of them also pledged to make one month’s mortgage payment per year for five years. Specifically, Miss Campbell would pay $163.37 each May beginning May 1, 1964, and ending May 1, 1968, and Miss Price would pay $163.37 each June beginning June 1, 1964, and ending June 1, 1968.

Mr. Eager acknowledged their proposed gifts and reiterated the particulars of those gifts in a letter of the same date, January 7, 1964. He thanked them on behalf of Christ Church for what he described as their “most needed contributions,” and expressed his hope that “your action may provide an example for others to follow.” The Vestry records, however, do not contain any evidence that other parishioners aspired to emulate Miss Campbell and Miss Price.

In the second Vestry meeting of the month, on January 26, 1964, Bill Eager read to the group a letter from Mr. William Lester, of the Valdosta Federal Savings and Loan Association, which confirmed that Miss Campbell and Miss Price already had paid their promised $1,000.00 “on the capital indebtedness of the purchase price of the new Rectory . . . at 2200 Glynndale Drive. . . .” Mr. Lester also verified that each had pledged to make one monthly mortgage payment a year “for a period of five years.” A further matter related to the Rectory was a report from John Oliver that the estimated cost of painting the house “inside and out” was $400.00, a figure that included “cleaning and varnishing the floors where necessary.” Tot Amon “moved we do the necessary work,” and with second by George Twiggs, the motion gained Vestry’s consent.

Vestry heard, as well, a review from the Senior Warden “of the latest developments concerning the calling of a new Rector.” He stated that the Search Committee [Blake Ellis, Jack Fitzsimons, Marge Fitzsimons, Joe Taylor, George Twiggs] had unanimously recommended the calling of the Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, of the Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Florida, to be Christ Church’s new Rector. The Vestry then debated the proposed calling of Fr. Fitzgerald, apparently at considerable length, before Mr. Eager “asked for a motion” on the question. The motion from George Twiggs, seconded by Jack Fitzsimons, produced six votes in favor and one vote against; and two vestrymen abstained. Consequently, the motion carried. However, during the Vestry’s session on February 19, 1964, Senior Warden Eager read a letter from Fr. Fitzgerald “announcing with regret that he was unable to accept our call as Rector of Christ Church. . . .” Mr. Eager added that “other prospective Rectors were under consideration by the [Search] Committee. . . .” Fr. Fitzgerald, incidentally, had various Georgia connections. He was a native of Augusta and, after graduating from The Citadel in Charleston, earned a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of Georgia. He was the assistant to the Rev. Paul Reeves, later Bishop of Georgia, when Reeves was Rector of the Church of the Redeemer from 1959 to 1965. Then, after succeeding Reeves as Rector of the Church of the Redeemer and serving there from 1965 to 1978, he finally came to the Diocese of Georgia in 1978, with Reeves as his Bishop, to be Rector of Christ Church, Frederica, on Saint Simons Island.

Having failed to persuade Fr. Fitzgerald to join Christ Church, the Search Committee and the Vestry turned elsewhere. In a called meeting on March 1, 1964, vestrymen devoted “much discussion” to “the merits of Rev. H. Donald Harrison of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Carrollton, Ga.” St. Margaret’s did not become a parish until the late 1960s, so Fr. Harrison was the Vicar. Eventually, John Oliver moved, with Jack Fitzsimons seconding, that Christ Church issue a call to Harrison to serve as Rector, and the motion won unanimously. Then, George Twiggs moved, and Jack Fitzsimons provided the second, that the financial terms of the call be the same as those offered previously to Frank Allan and Thomas Fitzgerald, with the exception that the “utility allowance” be increased from thirty dollars per month to forty dollars per month. Vestry assented to the Twiggs motion. Christ Church was to be rejected once more, as the Senior Warden reported to Vestry in the gathering on April 8, 1964. As the Minutes relate, “Mr. Eager brought into discussion the Rector situation and read a letter from . . . [the Rev.] H. Donald Harrison declining our call.”

Once they had heard the letter from Fr. Harrison, Vestry members engaged in a general conversation about “all men who had been examined by the . . . [Search] Committee.” Mr. Joe Taylor “discussed the priest in Montgomery, Ala., whom he had contacted” and who was never identified by name. The Senior Warden also had “talked to a priest in Cartersville, Ga.,” who apparently was the Rev. William Douglas Winn, Rector of the Church of the Ascension. Mr. Eager then said that “it had been suggested to him to issue a new call to Rev. Frank Allan in Dalton, Ga., as his situation had changed since we last talked to him.” He did not specify the source of the suggestion; nevertheless, Mr. Jack May moved that Vestry issue a second call to Fr. Allan and that “a hospitalization and major medical policy” be included as “part of his benefits, which had not been included as a benefit in our previous call to him.” May’s motion received Vestry’s consent.

Vestry records do not contain any information to show that a second call actually was extended to Fr. Allan. If such an invitation went to him, he obviously rejected it, because, at a “special meeting” on April 20, 1964, Vestry moved on to another candidate. Three vestrymen, John Oliver, George Twiggs, and John Holland, had made a trip to Cartersville, Georgia, “to see and hear [the] Rev. William Douglas Winn, Rector of the Church of the Ascension.” Consequently, after they reported on the Cartersville visit, Mr. Twiggs moved, with Jack Fitzsimons seconding, that Christ Church call Fr. Winn to fill the position of Rector. Jamie Carroll then recommended that “the terms of the call be incorporated in the motion.” The terms proposed by Mr. Carroll were: a base salary of $6,200.00 per year; car allowance of $1200.00 a year; utilities allowance of $480 per year; and hospitalization benefits of about $300.00 a year. Mr. Twiggs and Mr. Fitzsimons accepted incorporation of the terms into the call, and the amended motion received unanimous approval. The Vestry Minutes lack specific information about the outcome of the call to Fr. Winn. However, one can infer that he did not respond favorably, because in the May 25, 1964 Vestry meeting, the group moved on to yet another candidate, this time with a positive outcome.

On this occasion, the Senior Warden had in hand a report from the Search Committee about a trip to Winston Salem, North Carolina, concerning the Rev. Brevard Springs Williams, Jr., who had been the Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for three years. Members of the Search Committee related to the Vestry their impressions of Fr. Williams, and “all agreed that he is the best man we have yet contacted.” Indeed, as the Minutes recount, “. . . Committee members were all very enthusiastic over Rev. Williams.” Considering the extremely positive aspects of the Search Committee’s impressions of Brevard Williams, on a John Oliver-Jack May motion, Vestry voted unanimously to call him to be Rector of Christ Church on the same terms that had received approval in the Vestry meeting of April 20, 1964. Subsequently, in the next meeting on June 15, 1964, Mr. Eager announced formally that Fr. Williams had accepted Christ Church’s call to become the Rector, and he would begin his duties on August 1, 1964. Having succeeded at last in hiring a Rector, Vestry had to deal with other, more mundane, but relevant, matters. In particular, Christ Church still possessed the old Rectory, dating from 1910, on West North Street. Vestrymen concurred that “we need to do something to dispose of the old Rectory . . . as soon as possible, or if we are not able to sell it we should make an all out effort to rent it.” Further, Mr. Eager pointed out that “the new Rector would need a new clothes washer and refrigerator and that some additional expense . . . [would] be involved . . . [because of] minor repairs to the new Rectory which were not at first anticipated.” He estimated that the additional items he had mentioned would cost “approximately $650.00.” Tot Amon, with a Jack May second, moved that the added costs be authorized, and Vestry so agreed.

Brevard Springs Williams, Jr., the older child of Brevard Springs Williams, Sr. [1899-1976] and Lucille Hamilton Williams [1907-1992], was born in Atlanta on April 28, 1931. He had one sibling, a sister, Sally Hamilton Williams Simpson. His first wife was Joan Torgeson Williams [later Doyle], with whom he had three children, Laura Williams Wilson, Susan Williams Cook, and Dr. Bard S. Williams III. According to Fr. Henry Louttit’s brief history of Christ Church, written in 1974, Fr. Williams became a Chaplain in the United States Air Force after resigning from his position at Christ Church, effective on September 1, 1966, only twenty-five months since his arrival. After he and his first wife were divorced, he remarried, this time to Maxine Alice “Mick” Shafer, on August 25, 1975, in Champagne, Illinois. “Mick” was a native of Cresco, Iowa, born on July 29, 1930, and she spent a considerable portion of her adult life in the United States Air Force, from which she retired at the rank of major. She died in Florence, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1991. Fr. Williams also died in Florence, Massachusetts, on July 1, 2010, at the age of seventy-nine and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in the same town.

As noted previously, Fr. Williams began his Christ Church tenure on August 1, 1964, and his family was the first of the two families that lived in the recently acquired Rectory at 2200 Glynndale Drive. His first Vestry meeting on August 17, 1964, dealt primarily with Fr. Williams’s recommendation to establish a series of committees to carry on much of the parish’s normal business. He proposed eight standing committees, which were Finance, chaired by Bill Eager, Jr.; Kindergarten, chaired by George Twiggs; Memorials, chaired by Joe Taylor; Grounds and Building, chaired by Jack Fitzsimons; Church School, chaired by John Oliver; Church Furnishings, chaired by Brevard Williams; Long Range Planning, chaired by Jamie Carroll; College Liaison, chaired by Bill Gabard. Fr. Williams’s committee structure gained Vestry’s endorsement. Likewise, Vestry acted favorably on a Jack May-Jack Fitzsimons motion that “all surplus furnishings, furniture[,] and fixtures which were replaced by redecoration of the Church [in 1963] were [to be] donated to the Episcopal Church [St. James] in Quitman, Ga.” The point that is not clear is whether Christ Church ever followed through on the decision to give the items to St. James. The reason is that, in the September 15, 1964, Vestry session, Mr. Fitzsimons “asked for authorization to store the old Altar and Pulpit out of the weather, in some acceptable place, preferably one that would cost us no rent.” And the Vestry “so authorized.” At that same meeting, Mr. Fitzsimons, as Chairman of the Grounds and Building and Building Committee, told Vestry that repairs had been made to the old Rectory on West North Street, still owned by Christ Church, including plumbing at a cost of $175.00 and the floors for $27.00. The tool shed located to the rear of the Church needed repairs also, at an estimated cost of $156.50. Mr. Fitzsimons noted, too, that the job of changing locks on the doors of the Church had been done and that the ceiling in nursery room in Stuart Hall had to be re-plastered, which would be done the following week at a cost of $10.00.

When Vestry convened on October 13, 1964, John Oliver shared a report on the state of the Church School, saying “the attendance had been good.” However, he noted that the Church School “was in desperate need of at least 24 adult-sized steel chairs and 12 small wooden chairs for the 3 to 6 year old groups.” Jamie Carroll moved that “we purchase these chairs immediately.” With a second by Bill Eager, Vestry passed the motion. Fr. Williams followed with a rather detailed account of Christ Church’s major deficiencies, beginning with the statement that the “most important need facing us at the present time is approximately 8 additional Sunday School rooms.” The shortage of Sunday School space was, in fact, a continuing thread in Christ Church’s history. The decision in 1946 to construct a new church in a new location on North Patterson Street originated in the Vestry’s frustrated efforts to acquire space for an adequate number of Sunday School rooms at the old church on East Central Avenue. In 1953-1954, Vestry borrowed money from the American Church Building Fund Commission to erect a “Sunday School Annex,” containing six classrooms, that was attached to the rear of the Parish Hall. Eventually named Barnwell Hall, the “Annex” now includes the whole of the kitchen and part of the dining area. Then, in December 1958, Vestry purchased from Mac Odom the house at 103 East College Street, directly behind the Church, with the intention of using it to provide rooms for the Sunday School program. That house later became Stuart Hall and presently contains the parish’s offices and the choir room.

Fr. Williams also expounded the necessity of the Church’s having both a fulltime sexton and a fulltime secretary “ with emphasis on the need for a fulltime secretary instead of one employed on a halftime basis as the situation is at present.” The Rector said that he “just does not have the time to attend to his most important duties and also have to do a lot of his own secretarial work.” Another important item on the list for the future was the “remodeling of the Parish Hall,” including an improved cooling system, the refinishing of the interior walls, and the addition of an “electric water cooler.” Moreover, according to Fr. Williams’s report, “renovation of the Rector’s office” was a must “as soon as . . . feasible.” Finally, the report addressed the issue of Christ Church’s annual giving to the Diocese of Georgia, which was 11 percent below the figure asked by the Diocese. According to the Minutes of October 13, 1964, Vestry’s reaction to the Long Range Planning Committee’s statement of needs was the decision “that no action could be taken on these matters at the present time.” Then, before adjournment, Fr. Williams informed Vestry that “Bishop [Stuart had] told him he must have $1,000.00 from each Parish in the Diocese (or as near to that amount as possible) for . . . Sewanee, and the money will be needed by 12-31-64.” This request from Bishop Stuart “was referred to the Finance Committee for study.”

Fr. Williams reported to Vestry for the Church Furnishing Committee in the meeting of November 16, 1964. He stated that both a frontal and a super-frontal for the altar were on order and contended that they would “help refurbish the Sanctuary.” In addition, the St. Lydia Guild had “presented the Church with a beautiful Book of Remembrance,” and the Guild also was to “present the Church with a stand and glass case with which to . . . [enclose] the same.” Mr. Hulyn Smith was present at this session to request that Vestry allow him “to take up the old shrubbery directly in front of the Church . . . and replace it with appropriate plants. . . .” He offered to do the necessary work “at his own expense but, also, at his own convenience during the next four months.” Vestry passed an Eager-Fitzsimons motion to give Mr. Smith permission to proceed with his project. Finally, Vestry heard an analysis of the status of Christ Church’s finances as 1964 drew near its end. The gist of the analysis was that Christ Church in 1964 had had eighty-nine pledges that provided income of $21,388.00. The Every Member Canvass for 1965 had produced one hundred seven pledges totaling $30,093.50, an increase of $8,795.50 over 1964. The rate of increase was 40.7 percent, an unusually good result achieved under the leadership of Harrison Tillman who served as chairman of the canvass.

The Rector’s announcement to the Vestry on November 16, 1964, that a frontal and super-frontal for the altar had been ordered was apparently a source of some consternation on the part of vestrymen and led to a called meeting on November 29, 1964. Fr. Williams asked Senior Warden Bill Eager, Jr. to “read some resolutions” that he, the Rector, recommended. Once read, the resolutions “would then be open for discussion.” According to the Minutes of this meeting, the resolutions were read and “discussed at length.” The outcome of the debate was two motions. First, John Oliver moved, with second by Jack Fitzsimons, that “the Rector be authorized to purchase a frontal and super-frontal for the altar.“ Vestry unanimously approved that motion. Second, George Twiggs moved, and Bill Eager, Jr. seconded, that Vestry accept the following resolution:

Resolved that the Vestry of Christ Church goes on record to recommend changes in the Chancel and Sanctuary and authorize through a budgetary item of $1,500.00 to extend the current note in 1965 to finance the changes which are approved by the 1965 Vestry. The Vestry also recommends that the incoming Vestry write a letter to Mr. Brevard Williams, Interior Decorator, asking him to present his plan personally for said changes at the earliest convenient time, so that the Vestry can approve and decide upon the specific details of the plan—and clearly understand what is involved.

The motion passed unanimously.

More on this story next time.