From our Sunday Annual Conference edition (download)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rev. Wallace Newman, age 100, is wearing a suit on Memorial Day. It’s 8:30 a.m. and the sun is already baking the parking lot at Asbury United Methodist Church.
The Reverend has been up since 5 a.m., the time he rises every day, says Peggy Trout, his longtime friend and Asbury congregant. She’s never seen him in church without a suit and tie, although Newman officially retired as a Holston pastor in 1979, after serving at Asbury for eight years.
“I don’t remember any of his sermons. He is the sermon,” Trout said. “It’s the way he lives his life.”
Newman is believed to be the oldest living elder in Holston, and he plans to attend the Holston Annual Conference again this year. One of his two daughters will drive him from Knoxville to Lake Junaluska, N.C., on June 8.
A lifelong Methodist and native of Adams County, Neb., Newman came to east Tennessee in the late 1930s.
“A young friend who knew my desire was to become a minister told me of a school in Tennessee where I could work my way through,” Newman said. “I sent in my application to Johnson Bible College, and it was accepted.”
Newman had worked hard in Nebraska as the son of a sharecropper, and he worked hard as a farmer, student and pastor in Tennessee, too. He graduated from Johnson, married a teacher (Anna Belle), and attended Maryville College. He served at the Marble Hill, West View, and Hendron’s Beulah churches in the Knoxville area. His annual salary was $600.
In 1945 he was sent to a three-point charge in the Wisconsin Conference with instructions to attend Garrett Theological Seminary in Chicago.
After two years in Wisconsin and no money to attend a college that was 100 miles away, Newman asked Bishop Paul Kern for an appointment back in Tennessee.
“I am a firm believer that hard knocks make a good teacher,” Newman said.
He was sent to appointments in the Tennessee Conference – in Crossville and Tracy City -- that required his construction skills to build churches and a parsonage. After three years of building and moving five times to different rental homes, the Newmans finally settled into a new parsonage in January 1950. Nine months later, they were moved to a new appointment.
In 1955, the Newmans returned to Holston Conference, serving Pikeville (1955-1966), Lonsdale (1966-1971), and Asbury (1971-1979).
Anna Belle died in 1980. Newman now lives six miles from his alma mater, Johnson University, and attends Asbury, where he is loved by both members and pastors.
“He is an incredible man, a committed pastor, and one of the finest persons I know,” said the Rev. Larry Dial, Asbury pastor from 2004 to 2010.
Church member Don Barksdale said he once asked “Preacher Newman” if he regretted his career path. The pastor shook his head “no.”
“To be a preacher, you have to be very sure that God is calling you,” Newman said. “You have to be willing to go wherever you are sent and be prepared to take what comes.”
“I found out in my own ministry that things that look like blows to you were good in the long run.”
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.