That was what he was known by most people in Wilkes County, NC, where he grew up and lived his 87 years. He was one of nine children and he and his brothers and sisters learned early in life the meaning of hard work and values that would stand them in good stead. Marvin would never experience the benefits of more than an 8th grade education, but he worked hard with his hands farming, painting and making furniture so that any of his five children could receive the formal education that he was not able to receive in the post-depression era of his time.
He was drafted into the Army in World War II but, because of a heart condition discovered by a physician during his military physical, a condition that prompted the examining physician to opine that he probably would not make it back home, he did not pass the physical; so, he went to the Virginia Shipyards to paint war ships and it was there that he heard Charles E. Fuller’s Old-Fashion Gospel Hour and the renowned pastor radio preacher pleading with sailor boys to accept Jesus before they were to ship out to the battle fronts of Europe and Asia. Many did so, and though Bro. Marvin was not going to be shipped out to the battle areas of the War, he bowed his head and heart at the preacher’s appeal and made a spot in the shipyards for an altar where he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. It was a decision that would change his life and the lives of countless others forever.
Though Bro. Marvin never attended Bible College or seminary, he was a man of one book, studying with diligence the Word of God, preaching wherever he could find listeners including prisons, nursing homes and on the radio with a broadcast ministry that reached the Carolinas on over five stations weekly. And, he fed his precious flock of folk who assembled at a little white chapel in the community of Cricket in North Wilkesboro, pastoring them continuously until his health would no longer permit for fifty plus years. His reputation throughout the community of Wilkesboro was that he was a man of faith and a man of prayer, and both the Christian and non-Christian community respected him as a man of the Word and a man of his word. Bankers sealed their dealings with him in those days with a hand-shake knowing that Brother Marvin was as good as his word.
When the day of his departure from his labors and life here neared, the day he had so longed for on which he would see face to face His Savior, his wife and the hundreds he had pointed to Christ, a man, who as a child grew up in the neighborhood where Bro. Marvin lived, came by to visit him in the healthcare center from whence he would soon take his leave of absence to meet his Savior. The once young boy, neighbor of Bro. Marvin, now a man, shared that as a five-year old lad he would come to the woods adjacent to Bro. Marvin’s property where he would play. On one such occasion he heard an adult voice and, carefully tiptoeing closer to where the voice was coming from, he saw a tall, lean form of a man who was kneeling down beseeching God. It so impressed this young heart, he made it a point to come every day to hear this man of God, at a makeshift altar in the woods, crying out to God in prayer. It was a scene he would never forget, and in his words, it was the “highlight” of his childhood days. He would himself in time become a preacher and the early impression that Bro. Marvin made upon him never left him and so, a week before the passing of this man of God to glory, the once small child who had learned the power of prayer from a teacher that lived what he believed stopped by the nursing home to share the story with him.
In a small foot-hills town about 30 minutes from Wilkesboro, West Jefferson, when the news of Bro. Marvin’s homegoing reached the radio station in that western North Carolina community, the station’s regular programming was interrupted so that the announcement of this local legend ‘s final flight could be shared with its listeners.
Not many who are called to preach, especially in our day, will ever command that kind of respect of the population at large in which we minister. Not many of those who are pastors will lead and feed the same congregation for 55 years. Not many will live the consistent life that Bro. Marvin lived which elicited from people both saved and unsaved, universal respect for integrity and fidelity to one’s mission. But he did. And it has been my privilege since August of 1965, when at front of that white, steepled church in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain community of North Wilkesboro, NC, where one of Bro. Marvin’s three daughters, Ellen, covenanted with me in holy matrimony, to have had the unspeakable privilege of calling this good man my father-in-law. He set the bar high! Through no special credit to myself, I did have the opportunity of receiving a formal education. But though I may have had more facts crammed into the cranial space between my ears, Bro. Marvin, through a daily, authentic personal walk with God had more truth crammed into what we call “the heart,” where true wisdom is stored than this preacher ever hoped to have. On this Father’s Day week, I share this salute to my father-in-law, my mentor in faith matters, “Brother Marvin.” May his “tribe” increase!
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (I Cor. 4:1,2)