The Daily Times (Blount Co. TN) Saturday, April 21, 2012:
By Melanie Tucker
"Stand And Deliver---'Son, there are three things I want you to get from the start,' the elder pastor said. 'First, stand up when you speak, and second speak up so everyone can hear you. And for Heaven’s sake, when you are done, shut up.'
That was good advice for a young preacher boy, Patton said. It’s served him well for the past 74 years, and counting.
Patton was born April 28, 1918 in Monroe County, the third of 11 children. He said he announced his calling into the ministry on Sept. 1, 1938. For the first two years, he preached by appointments and revivals.
That first revival required Patton to hike 22 miles over to Tellico Plains area and stay for two weeks as he led the services. He said in those days, as the Depression was ending, people had little money to offer a preacher. They took up a freewill offering as the revival winded down. Amount collected: $3.65.
'I had walked the 22 miles to get there but I got sick toward the end and couldn’t walk back so I had to ask someone in the church to drive me home,' Patton recalled. It was about 100 miles by car. The man who took him back home told Patton it would take $3 worth of gas, and Patton agreed to pay him, making his take-home pay for two weeks 65 cents.
After telling that story to one man, he asked this new preacher why he didn’t just quit the ministry. After all, who can live on that paltry sum.
Patton quoted from 1 Timothy Chapter 1, verse 12:
"And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;"
'He put me in the ministry and I was afraid to quit,' Patton said. God placed him in service, he said, so God was the only one who can take him out.
After Patton had been preaching God’s word for two years, he was grouse hunting with friends near Calderwood when he got hungry and couldn’t get to the food in their locked vehicle. So Patton hiked to a nearby family’s home to plead for a sandwich. He could hear people praying inside, and they got louder and louder.
Patton knocked on the door and the woman who lived there, answered.
'When she saw me she threw up her hands and shouted ‘"Praise the Lord," this young preacher said. "She said we have been asking God to send us a preacher and one is walking through the door."
The pastor at the church, Calderwood Baptist, had resigned three weeks previous, Patton sad. He did become Calderwood’s pastor. He stayed for four and a half years.
As for the sandwich he came for — he got a full dinner instead.
Patton will turn 94 next Saturday. He will begin preaching in revival services this Sunday morning at 10:45 a.m. at Springview Baptist in Maryville, one of the churches he has served as interim pastor. He will preach that Sunday morning revival service and also at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and April 28, his birthday.
After Patton left Calderwood, he went to serve as pastor at Union Fork Creek in Loudon County. He has also been the minister at Howard’s Chapel in Monroe County, Four Mile Baptist, Mt. Zion, Old Piney, Oak Grove, Kagley’s Chapel and Liberty Baptist. Nine churches in all asked Patton to be their pastor and he accepted. He returned to many of them over the years to fill in when pastors moved on.
"All of them have been country churches," Patton explained. "I am a country boy."
Today, Patton has extremely poor vision because of macular degeneration and gets around slower these days due to severe neuropathy. His eye problems began decades ago and Patton hasn’t driven a car since 1986.
His daughter, Linda Griffing, said her mother, Bessie, drove Alvin around before she passed away in 1997. The couple had been married for 69 years when she died. Together they have seven children, four of them still living — Linda, Bernice Long, Calvin Patton and Richard Patton. Alvin Patton has five grandchildren, seven grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Grandson Jeff Patton is preaching in the revival at Springview with him.
It’s remarkable when you think about a man who has been serving God for 74 years and for the past 26 of them has been dependent on others to get him places, Griffing said. And yet he continues on. He preaches funerals, accepts invitations to share God’s word in revivals, visits the sick in the hospital and never finds an excuse to silence his testimony.
"What is so profound is he has never complained about anything," Griffing said. "Whether he is late or early or we don’t go."
Patton had no formal seminary training and wasn’t financially supported by the congregations he served, so he worked various jobs over the years. One of them was with Cherokee National Forest. He was stationed at a fire tower to keep the forest safe.
"I didn’t have anything else to do except watch for fires and read my Bible," he said. "I got my seminary training right there. I memorized a lot of Scripture."
That memorization definitely came in handy when, for three years, he was unable to read. "I would have been left behind had I not stored up Scriptures in the old computer," he said as he pointed to his head.
There are so many memories that bring a smile to Patton’s face. He remembers back decades ago when then Tennessee Gov. Frank G. Clement came to hear him preach at Four Mile Baptist. Clement was in town enjoying Hillbilly Homecoming.
Then there’s the greatest revival he preached, in Loudon County. He preached every night for three weeks. "I baptized 33 people in the cold water of the Tennessee River," Patton recalled.
That advice from the older and wiser preacher brings a chuckle to Patton whenever he shares it. Direct and to the point it is. And Patton said his church families didn’t get burned out on his preaching because he followed it. “I never got thrown out of a church so I could always go back,” the preacher said.
A pair of thick magnifying eyeglasses enable Patton to read a little, but he has no vision in one eye and very limited use of the other. Despite that, he manages to live at home and care for himself. He and members of his family attend Liberty Baptist Church, where he served as pastor for 18 years and then went back on two other occasions as interim.
Griffing did the math once to figure out how many sermons her father has preached. She said he has given at least 3 sermons per week for years, counting revivals, etc. Multiply that over his 74 years and it comes to almost 12,000 sermons. Then there are the funerals and weddings.
Thousands — that’s how many people this country preacher has witnessed and ministered to. Countless lives given over to Christ.
But he’s not done, hence the revival services that are starting up Sunday. Some feel this might be his last revival because of his age and health. Patton said it’s not his right to say.
"I have always believed the Bible," Patton said. "I believe if God put a man in the ministry, he will serve until God takes him out."
And even though it’s been 74 years, Patton said he still gets new ideas for sermons. He said they have come to him over the years when he’s been alone in his vegetable garden. He’s always eager to share what God places on his heart.
'I enjoy preaching as much now as I ever did,' he said."