One of the 20th-century’s most illustrious pastors represents a class of Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) leaders, who helped sustain the denomination during the turbulent African-American experience wrought by Jim Crow segregation.
The Rev. R. T. Fouse served in a pivotal time of the church when Methodism in the African-American community post-slavery meant preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and advancing the causes of civil rights and higher education.
“I was pastor of 12 churches during my career,” said Fouse. “But I drove a school bus, taught school, sold insurance and was employed as a social worker for 10 years. I loved being a pastor, but I always worked to take care of my family.
“We wanted all our children to get a college degree. I went back myself and graduated from Lane College in 1966 with my second oldest daughter.”
Fouse, an emeritus CME treasure who turned 100 on July 1, was committed to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. And, like all the organization’s pastors, Fouse moved with his family as often as he was assigned a new church. But starting out, he was an itinerant minister.
“I remember when our father was an itinerant,” said Robert Timothy Fouse. “This one church had one window, an outhouse, and a pot-bellied stove. I can just see that little church.”
Fouse felt a call to ministry very early as a young man, and received Elders Orders from the CME Church when he was 21 years old. Itinerant pastors would sometimes have to preach at a different church each Sunday.
“I had to drive to a church where I was preaching, and I would load my family up in the car, and bring them with me,” said Fouse. “The people would bring food up to the church, and that’s what we would eat. We would take some home, too. That was my pay many times — wasn’t much money in those days.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, Fouse went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Memphis Theological Seminary in 1976.
In 1983, Fouse was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities and Religion from St. Stevens University in Los Angeles, California.
Fouse was born on July 1, 1921, to sharecroppers Dave and Mattie Sue Fouse in rural Haywood County (Brownsville). Fouse’s mother died when he was 7, leaving him to be reared by his father and older siblings.
Fouse completed high school at Haywood County Training School. He married Mary Lena Jackson, and seven children were born to that union. The couple dreamed of every child attending college. And so, it was.
Five attended Lane, one went to Tennessee State University in Nashville, and another went to the University of Tennessee, at Martin
The Fouse family roots run deep in Haywood County, but Fouse knows little about his family in the antebellum South. His father was born in 1881, and his grandfather, Anderson Fouse, was a slave. At some point, a migration of the Fouse family took place, from North Carolina to Haywood County.
Fouse lives in North Memphis with three of his children. Their roots run deep in the CME Church. Fouse has 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Fouse has published three books: “Why I Love the CME Church,” “Poems of Strength and Comfort,” and “Inspirational Poems and Special Tributes.”
In his retiring years, Fouse founded the House of Prayer Outreach Ministry. One daughter, one son, one grandson and two sons-in-law followed him into the ministry.
Fouse’s favorite scripture is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me.”
“Now turning 100, I like to meditate on a quote from the late Dr. Howard Thurman: ‘There is strength beyond our strength that gives strength to our strength.’ And because the Lord’s great strength, I’m turning 100 years young.”