Two Good Men Who Made a Difference

Years ago, the Marines advertised that they were looking for “A Few Good Men.” That slogan has been revised to become reflective of the dual genders existing in the corps. It is now, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines” or something resembling that statement.

Recently, I led in conducting the funeral services of “Two Good Men.” Both of these Christian gentlemen were distinctive and unique in their own ways. Yet, in their personal legacies, they were very similar. Both were devout Christians, strong family men and civic leaders. Both lived full and meaningful lives. Each of them touched my life and made it richer and better.

Sam McGee was a World War II veteran, who served our country in that enormous conflict by being a combat member of the distinguished 82nd Airborne. Beginning in North Africa and then to Italy and later to Holland and the Battle of the Bulge and finally into Germany, Sergeant Sam McGee proudly wore the uniform of his country. He was wounded in action in the Battle at Anzio, and he fought in the frigid cold winter of ’44 at the famous Battle of the Bulge. For these acts of bravery, Sam was awarded the appropriate medals.

After the war, Sam married his wife Johnnie and together they made a home for their four daughters. He was in business for years in the Tuscaloosa and Northport area. Sam and his family were active members of the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa. His Sunday School teacher, Dr. Lanny Gamble, said that Sam was his spiritual mentor and special friend. That was a telling description of how this self-made man and dedicated Christian influenced so many people, including his pastor.

A week later, a legend in high school sports in the greater Tuscaloosa area passed away. Coach Pete Pierson was the Bear Bryant of high school coaches. He coached men who are now in their fifties. He also was very interested in women’s sports. In that sense, Coach Pete was way ahead of his time.

Pete Pierson had the most winsome smile I have ever seen on a mature and strong man like a coach. Most coaches don’t smile much, but Pete had an Academy Award-winning smile and he used it for the glory of God. You see, Coach Pete was one of our greeters on Sunday morning at First Baptist. When you entered the front door of the church, most likely, Pete Pierson was there to welcome you with his effervescent and contagious smile.

Coach Pete was a visitor too. You could count on him to be with his sidekick, Grady Friday, every visitation night. I remember on one occasion, a family joined our church and then revealed why they felt so much at home with us. “Two men came to see us and one of them had the most beautiful smile and the other was a man who had lost in his arm in an accident (Grady Friday, the sidekick). We said to each other, ‘Now that is the church for us’.”

Two good men who made a difference for Christ in their own ways. They both made a difference in my life too. I want to be like the wise Sam McGee, who could be the unassuming and unpretentious mentor to his university professor Sunday School teacher. I also want to emulate the winsome personality of Coach Pete Pierson, who had the gift of making people feel at home, even when they were guests at church. Wisdom or practical judgment and discernment and winsomeness of personality — two difference making qualities of “Two Good Men.”

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention's 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

Any requests for Rick Lance to speak in or visit your church should be directed to Billie Davis at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 253 or (334) 613-2253, bdavis@alsbom.org.

For questions about Dr. Lance's Facebook and Twitter accounts or his blog site, you may contact his social media assistant, Keith Hinson, at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 289 or (334) 613-2289, khinson@alsbom.org.