For 38 years, Dr. James L. Fowle was the 10th pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga. He was also Chattanooga’s third and final city chaplain.
On Friday morning, retired newspaper veteran and historian David Cooper told Civitan Club members stories about Dr. Fowle’s life directly from his Bible classes.
Cooper said that Dr. Fowle was from North Carolina where he lived with his six siblings.
“I was the seventh child in our family,” said Mr. Cooper referencing Dr. Fowle’s life. “Seven is God’s number for completion so after I arrived the family was complete.”
Mr. Cooper then told one of the stories of the beloved pastor:
"One of the most difficult things for us to do is to listen if the sermon is not well thought out and I know that only too well. You folks go to church and look right straight at the preacher and he thinks he’s getting his message over in a wonderful way. you’re sitting there and this is what’s going on in your head. Did I turn the stove off? Do my earrings look good with what I’m wearing?
"You know I had this impression on me when I was preaching in West Virginia. One night I had a man look at me straight in the eye and listen to everything I had to say. After the service I made a mistake. I went to him and I said you don’t know how you had me preached tonight. You looked at me and gave me such rapt attention. The man said, “well Mr. Fowle I have a confession to make. I didn't hear a word you said.”
"I asked him what he was doing looking at me so square in the eye. He said “well I’ll tell you, I’ve been setting up tobacco all day today and I was just trying to figure out how many sticks of tobacco would fit in this church if it were a tobacco barn.”
"So just because you’re looking at me so pious like don’t think for a moment I think you’re interested in one word of what I’m talking about."
Mr. Cooper, who had a long career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press and at the merged Times Free Press, is the author of the official history of First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga.
He was asked to speak to the club by his longtime Missionary Ridge neighbor, Civitan program chairman Neal Thompson.
The Civitan Club meets on Fridays at noon