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gospel song of the piano man

Remembering the Life and Ministry of Herman Hersey: January 1, 1926–January 24, 2008


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HERMAN LAWRENCE HERSEY WAS BORN in 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, to Samuel and Ruth Hersey. He accepted Christ at age five and preached his first sermon at a rescue mission when he was thirteen. Throughout his youth, Herman actively preached at his church, rallies, youth meetings, prayer meetings, and rescue missions, including the Pacific Garden Mission. After being ordained in 1949 at age 23, he preached the Gospel faithfully for 58 years.

During high school, Herman studied at the Harris School of Music and Chicago Musical College. After graduating from Chicago Christian High School, he spent a year ministering with the American Mountain Mission and Bible Institute in Corbin, Kentucky. When the year was completed, Herman returned to his education at St. Louis Institute of Music and George Washington University in Missouri. In time, he became an accomplished classical and sacred concert pianist.

In 1945, however, God led him away from his music career into full-time ministry. He entered Bob Jones University in Cleveland, Tennessee and graduated in 1949. During the summer of his junior year, he worked with the American Sunday School Union, conducting Vacation Bible Schools and revivals. Throughout his college career, he preached at nearby churches on weekends, becoming well acquainted with Free Will Baptists in western North Carolina.

After graduation, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. and others encouraged him to consider serving Free Will Baptists. He moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked part time for the rescue mission and part time with a small group of Free Will Baptists who had begun meeting for prayer in Gastonia. He organized the group into the Fifth Avenue FWB Church and pastored the new congregation for two years.


Herman Hersey


He continued to work part time with the Charlotte Rescue Mission when he began traveling for the North Carolina Home Mission Board. He preached and raised funds that were divided between home and foreign missions. During that time, he met L.R. Ennis and Thomas Beamon, men who had a profound impact on his life. They taught him about church organization and how to work effectively in associational settings.

In June 1952, he married Vernie Hood, public school teacher from Bonneau, South
Carolina. One month later, they moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to reopen the First FWB Church. During a ten-year ministry in Raleigh, he and the congregation established mission churches in Garner and Micro, North Carolina. He and other local pastors also started a church in Cary.

In 1962, Herman and vocalist Bill Gardner began to present musical concerts and evangelistic services. When health concerns forced Bill to stop traveling, Herman continued traveling until 1965 when he accepted a pastorate at Garner FWB Church in North Carolina. During his ministry in Garner, Herman was elected to the national Sunday School Board. He served on the board for 11 years, eight as chairman.

In 1967, he was elected to the North Carolina FWB Board of Superannuation. As president, he (along with fellow board members and other volunteers) prepared a comprehensive retirement plan for pastors. The North Carolina State Association adopted the plan, and in 1969, the National Association of Free Will Baptists also voted to embrace the plan, resulting in the formation of the Department of Retirement and Insurance.

Although he continued to pastor the Garner Church, Herman served as part-time director of the new department, taking leaves of absence from the Garner congregation to attend state conventions and other meetings to introduce the plan. Along the way, he never missed an opportunity to preach.

In 1973, Herman and his family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and he became the first full-time director of the Board of Retirement and Insurance. During those early years, he traveled extensively to state and local associations to present and promote the retirement plan. He visited local churches across the country, introducing them to the retirement plan and encouraging them to provide retirement benefits for pastors, missionaries, and others who served them.

In 1980, the Free Will Baptist Foundation was formed under the leadership of the Board of Retirement and Insurance. Herman served as executive secretary (general director) of the Foundation for 11 of the 20 years that he worked with the Board of Retirement.

Herman HerseyAfter retiring in 1993, he continued to work with the executive office to write and compile a comprehensive stewardship manual. He continued to preach in meetings and revivals. While God always used Herman’s musical talent, and he continued to present sacred concerts, he remained first and foremost a preacher. He considered preaching his greatest privilege in life, and during his ministry that spanned nearly six decades, he preached in every state except three.

In October 1998, Herman and Vernie moved to Jackson, Tennessee, where he completed his final pastorate at Victory FWB Church.

Although God gave Herman a great variety of ministry opportunities, and he worked with a vast array of people, he always held a special place in his heart for those who preached the Gospel, especially for their welfare. He always had great faith in God’s promise and ability to provide for His church and ministers.



Herman concluded his faithful ministry when he died at home January 24, 2008. He left behind his wife Vernie, daughter Pat Lewelling, and brother Fred.



©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists