George Epsy Simmons

Pastor FBC Hillsborough, 1966-1973
The church approved the recommendation of its pulpit committee to call Rev. George Simmons on September 18, 1966.  Simmons accepted the call by sending a letter to the church dated Sept. 22, 1966 saying, “My work with First Baptist Church of Wadesboro will be terminated on October 15, 1966. I will assume my duties as your pastor on Sunday October 16, 1966.”  Simmons had served as pastor of the Wadesboro church for nearly 13 years, beginning his work there in January 1954.1  During his time in Wadesboro, he served on the General Board of the NC Baptist State Convention for four years, as first vice president of the State Convention for two years, and as a trustee to Campbell College (now University).  In his resignation statement to the Wadesboro Church, Simmons said, “Your generosity, patience, kindness and affection have made us forever your debtors.”  Simmons succeeded Glen Holt as pastor of the Hillsborough congregation.  Holt left Hillsborough to become pastor of the First Church in Mount Olive, NC.2

During his pastorate, the church raised money to fill in the gulley adjacent to the “new” parsonage and make it into a parking lot.  New carpet was placed in the sanctuary and pews were cushioned and the educational building constructed in the 1950s, was air conditioned.  The parsonage debt was retired and the alley behind the church was paved.  In November 15, 1972 the church voted to encourage and support a Christian Youth House in Hillsborough but not to be formally recognized as its sponsor.  Many of the church’s youth were involved with this ministry which sponsored an interdenominational Youth Revival held at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater from July 16 to 20, 1973.    During his last year at Hillsborough, a space committee was appointed to assess needs and make recommendations that were eventually acted upon during Dr. Thomas Denton’s pastorate several years later.    In addition, the church supported a Billy Graham Crusade held in Raleigh, NC.1  Simmons was an active member of the Hillsborough Exchange Club and spoke often to groups about the clubs emphasis on “God and Country.”

Simmons was born October 8, 1904 in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee.   He was the son of John Robert Simmons and Eula Moyers.  His father was a master carpenter by trade.  He had two older brothers and two older sisters.  At age 16, he is listed in a 1920 census as living in his parent’s household and working as a soda dispenser for a local drug store.3 Simmons was ordained at the St. Elmo Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN during the pastorate of Rev. Luther Wilson Clark - sometime between 1925 and 1935.4 He married Ruth Rymer, the daughter of William Hughes Rymer, a much loved and highly respected Baptist minister from Polk County, TN.  They had two daughters, Margaret Rymer and Ruth Ann both graduates of Meredith College.  Margaret became an accomplished pianist and recently retired as a professor of music from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale IL.

One of Simmons first pastorates was at the Arlington Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN.  He was pastor of the Starling Avenue Baptist Church. Martinsville, VA when he enlisted and served as a Lt. Colonel in the US Army Chaplain Corps during the Second World War.  In 1946, he was elected president of the Chaplain Association of the Southern Baptist Convention while serving as pastor of the Spurgeon Memorial Baptist Church in Norfolk, VA.5 In a brief article appearing in the Biblical Recorder in June 1969, Simmons recounts how surprised he was to see the Liberty Ship on which he sailed home from the War anchored in a harbor in New Orleans.  The name of the ship was the Sea Gull.

Simmons read his letter of resignation and retirement after 11 AM worship service on Sunday, October 7, 1973 … effective December 31, 1973.  He and Ruth continued to live in Hillsborough after his retirement from the ministry.  The church wired him flowers July 17, 1974 when he was a patient at Womack Army Hospital, Fort Bragg, NC.1   He died the following year on July 10, 1975 and is buried at the Montlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Raleigh, NC. He was 70 years old.

References:
  1. Minutes, 1974-1987, from First Baptist Church, Hillsborough, NC Records 1853-2010.
  2. George Simmons called to First, Hillsborough (Oct. 8, 1966) Biblical Recorder, p.5, Retrieved at:  http://recorder.zsr.wfu.edu/Default/Skins/WakeforestA/Client.asp?skin=WakeforestA&AW=1333247219577&AppName=2
  3. Stoy Family Genealogy by Robert Stoy.  Accessed on January 25, 2013 at: http://www.robertstoy.com/database-PhilipStoy/StoyFamily-o/g0/p36.htm#i5421
  4. McNamara, Billie R. Biography of Luther Wilson Clark. Sevier County TN Genealogy & History.  Accessed on January 25, 2013 at: http://sevier.tngenealogy.net/research-aids/38-families/4-biography-of-luther-wilson-clark
  5. Notes (June 4, 1947) Biblical Recorder, p.5, Retrieved at:  http://recorder.zsr.wfu.edu/Default/Skins/WakeforestA/Client.asp?skin=WakeforestA&AW=1333247219577&AppName=2
Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian.  Photographs are courtesy of the FBC Hillsborough Archives.
Last updated on January 25, 2013.