Rev. Dr. John W. Tatum

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COALING Dr. Rev. John W. Tatum, age 93, of Coaling, Ala., a patriarch of his family and humble servant of the Lord, died on Monday, June 10, 2013, in his home, surrounded by his family. Graveside services will be 10 a.m. Friday at Coaling Cemetery with Tuscaloosa Memorial Chapel Funeral Home directing.

Tatum was preceded in death by his parents, George and Ina Tatum; his brothers, Murray and Ward Tatum; and his sisters, Mildred Munkus and Mabel Gray.

He is survived by his wife, Minerva Dockery Tatum; his daughters, Dawn Mitchell (Scott) and Beth Brown (Joe); his son, George (Susan); eight grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; his sister, Margaret Goins; and his brother, William Tatum (Dot).

He was born on September 5, 1919, in Coaling and graduated from Brookwood High School. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Tatum joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the First Marine Division in the Pacific Theater of World War II until 1945. As a Master Gunnery Sergeant, Tatum trained soldiers during the Korean War.

In 1953, Tatum married Minerva Dockery of Duncanville, and they made their home in Coaling; three children followed. He worked for City Furniture Company as a salesman and bookkeeper until retirement when he took over as manager of Coaling Water Authority. Tatum worked for CWA until age 85.

Very early in life, Tatum received a calling to become a pastor and began preaching at Coaling Baptist Church at age 16. Through correspondence courses, Tatum received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate in theology from Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla. (now of Lithonia, Ga.). In 1948, he became the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in the Hagler community, a position he filled for more than 50 years.

As a pastor, Tatum was known for delivering thought-provoking sermons, full of Bible and research-based facts peppered with personal anecdotes, hymn lyrics and poetry. His compassion for and camaraderie with his flock made him well-loved within the Hagler community. Relationships extended well past Sunday and Wednesday services to include shared meals and shared bounty from his vegetable garden and grist mill.

After stepping down as pastor of Liberty, Tatum was able to fill in from time to time at Coaling Baptist, going back to his roots and preaching to some who were present in his first services there. Serving God remained his life passion and duty until the end.

Through his experiences as a marine in World War II and earning his education correspondence courses, Tatum became an extremely disciplined man. He loved to read and could be found most nights in his study, a book on his lap and a bowl of parched peanuts or Fritos within reach. He loved his family and happily sat at the head of the table at family meals taking in the scene, and then going around ruffling heads, patting backs and asking how everything was going. He valued frugality, simplicity, lifelong learning and hard work above all else. But his clear-headedness, rationality and compassion drew people to him. He will be missed by many, especially his family and community.

Pallbearers will be Benjamin Mitchell, Wesley Tatum, Chad Roberts, Daniel Cooley, Rob Barlow, and Rick Bonds.

Honorary pallbearers are Stephanie Edgeworth, Tuscaloosa VA Hospital, Alacare, friends of Liberty Baptist Church, and the Coaling community.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Liberty Baptist Church in Duncanville, Ala.
Published in Tuscaloosa News on June 13, 2013
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