By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LIVINGSTON — Damon Corley will be 90 years old in November, but you would never know it by looking at him.
Still spry and active, Corley is not only the pastor of West Fentress Baptist Church in Jamestown, he also just recently accepted the role of associate moderator of Riverside Baptist Association, based in Livingston. He has been the moderator of the association before and would be in line for another term if elected in October.
“He has more energy than many of our young pastors,” observed Chris Ward, director of missions for Riverside Association.
While many people wait to be asked to serve, “Damon asks, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” Ward added.
Serving the Lord he loves dearly has been a way of life for Corley. After returning home from World War II and completing high school (he enrolled in the Navy at the age of 17 before graduating), Corley led music and was an active layman in his church. “I sensed the Lord calling me to preach, but I kept refusing,” he said.
Finally, Corley could refuse no longer. He was licensed into the ministry and preached his first sermon in 1956 while living in his native state of Oklahoma.
Corley began serving as pastor of a missions church in Oklahoma in 1957 and served another missions church later before moving to Tennessee in 1963 to become the pastor of Allons Baptist Church, Allons. And, except for a brief pastorate in Kentucky, he has been in Tennessee ever since, the state he now considers “home.”
Before he “retired” in 1990 Corley served several churches in addition to Allons Church — Gath Baptist, McMinnville; Mill Creek Baptist, Nashville; and First Baptist, Celina.
His retirement was short lived. “Retirement was a misnomer,” Ward observed. “He hasn’t stopped since.”
In the 26 years that have followed he has been pastor of four churches. Besides West Fentress he served as pastor at Colonial View Baptist Church, Cookeville; First Baptist Church, Gainesboro; and Hilham Baptist Mission, Hilham. He also returned to Allons Baptist Church again for an 18-month stint as interim pastor.
After two tenures at Allons, the church bestowed on him the title “pastor emeritus.” His second stint at the church also provided an opportunity for him to meet his wife Betty, whom he married in 2005. Corley’s first wife, Rhayma, died in 2001. They had been married 54 years.
Corley loves the denomination he has served faithfully for six decades. He has served on numerous committees in Baptist associations in both Tennessee and Kentucky and was a member of the Executive Board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Corley has been a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program in every church he has served. He knows missionaries from other denominations who have to raise support when they return home. “I’m proud that I can say that my church supports thousands of missionaries,” he said.
He noted that whenever he heard reports of souls saved on the missions field, he knew that his churches had a part in that because of their CP gifts. “I have led every church that I served as pastor to give through the Cooperative Program,” he affirmed.
“Damon has given his life for the causes of Christ and the convention,” Ward noted. “He’s a wonderful role model.”
Corley is quick to downplay anything he has accomplished. Though he knows of one year when 45 people were baptized under his ministry, he didn’t keep track. “I’ve enjoyed seeing souls saved. I told the Lord that I won’t keep the records. That’s up to others. … The Lord has blessed me.”
Ward said that philosophy pretty much sums up Damon Corley. “He stays in the background and gives the credit to the Lord.”
The Corley family plans to honor their dad near his 90th birthday (Nov. 23) with a celebration on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2-5 p.m. in the Chamber of Commerce meeting room in Livingston.