Ode to Eugene Howard Wade: A man of style, class and substance


Ode to Eugene Howard Wade:  A man of style, class and substance

KELLY GILFILLAN

A congregation of over 300 joined in “Celebrating a Wonderful Life” with the friends, family, students and co-workers of Eugene Howard Wade.

I attended the memorial for Mr. Eugene Howard Wade on Saturday with several of my classmates from Brentwood High School. The service was called “Celebrating a Wonderful Life” — and indeed it was.

Several members of the BHS Classes of ’83 and ’84 would like to ask for your interest level in forming a scholarship fund in honor of Eugene Howard Wade.

If you are interested, please email us your contact information to eugenewadescholarship@gmail.com

There were groups of people from different walks of Mr. Wade’s life represented at the celebration — classmates from his Pearl High Class of 1960 from Pearl High; his first students were represented by Willie Spencer Dickerson and her classmates from Natchez High School class of 1967. Students from Brentwood and Franklin High Schools from the 1970s and 80s joined faculty members from both of those high schools.

Members of the two churches Mr. Wade attended were present and representatives of the churches stood in reflection of him. As a young man, Mr. Wade attended and served at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church and in his final years he was at the Temple Church in West Nashville.

There was, of course, a lot of talk about the dress of Mr. Wade, whose three-piece red suit was mentioned several times.

Here are some of the reflections shared Saturday:

“It is rare to meet an individual who has all three – style, class and substance,” said Pastor E. Christopher Jackson of Pleasant Green Baptist Church.

“He had style and he was a man in a class by himself. The way he talked, the way he carried himself, and his demeanor. And when you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of a man of dignity. He had substance. The first time I met him was at a class [he taught], Teach the Teachers. I came away with so much just from listening to this man teach.”

Jackson shared about a conversation he had with Wade regarding how to live a life of substance.

“We were talking about people who act one way and do another. He said, ‘You know sometimes people’s audio does not match up with their video.'”

Former Ebenezer Baptist Church Pastor Elmore Talbott told the congregation that “Eugene Howard Wade was a phenomenal individual.

“Although his presence and his voice have been silenced by the wings of time, his preciousness will always reside in each heart he touched, especially those who had the opportunity to sit under his teaching.”

Many students who were blessed to have Mr. Wade as a teacher could easily picture him in front of the class when Talbott shared a memory of their mentor in the choir.

“Not only was he a very sagacious teacher, he was an excellent shouter,” said Talbott, now pastor of Mt. Zion Church in Tullahoma, Tennessee. “We would at Ebenezer do a ‘Eugene Wade encounter.’ Eugene Howard Wade would be in the choir in the front singing his tenor part. His head would hit his chest and he’d flash his head several times and then wave his hands in the air. He would take his hands and put them on his head and rub his head like this and we knew then he was about to shout. When Eugene Wade felt it, he would give it to you right then.”

“I would be remiss if I didn’t close this the way Eugene Wade would always contribute to a funeral with an old negro spiritual: ‘Walk together children. Don’t you get weary. There is a great encounter meeting in the Promised Land.’ I say today Eugene Howard Wade, you have done your best, you have blessed people innumerably and immeasurably and now it is time for you to take your rightful place in heaven at that great meeting.”

The Temple Praise Choir led the congregation in a rousing version of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” It preceded Mr. Wade’s favorite hymn, the rafter-shaking “Because of the Blood.”

Next came Willie Spencer Dickerson, now principal of Franklin High School and a former student and fellow faculty member with Mr. Wade.

“Those of you who know Mr. Wade know that if he asks you to do something, and so I am here and I know Wade well enough to know that he knew I needed a support system.”

Dickerson asked the Natchez High School Class of 1967 to stand.

“The beauty of that is they stood beside me when I gave our teacher a tribute and he was there and he was the one I was looking at,” Dickerson said. “I have paid tribute to Mr. Wade in the past and had the opportunity to honor him, but he was always sitting there.”

“I have known Wade for 50 years since I was 14-years-old. I was a sophomore in high school. You might ask me how that is relevant. Mr. Wade said on his first day working at Williamson County schools that he caught the Inner Urban Bus from Nashville to Franklin, walked over from Columbia Avenue and walked up to the front door and I opened it for him on his very first day of work. I don’t remember that, I was only 14-years-old. But he told that story so many times that now, yes I do remember.”

Dickerson continued her memory of Mr. Wade during those days at Natchez High.

“Mr. Wade became our advisor, our homeroom teacher. I took shorthand and typing from Mr. Wade. He worked for 50 years for Williamson County Schools and the thing he was most proud about was he never took a sick day. He worked two jobs. He worked as a switchboard operator. If technology had not caught up with him, he’d still have been working there.

“I have had been able to give a tribute to him in the past times but so have several of his other former students. He has been honored by his students. He’d been invited to their reunions, their weddings, and paid for him to be at their graduation because they wanted him there.”

Dickerson told the congregation about a student prank pulled on Mr. Wade on his 40th birthday at Brentwood High.

“Dean [Moyer] is sitting back there. He just popped into my office two weeks ago and we were swapping Mr. Wade stories. When Mr. Wade turned 40, his students put up signs that said, “Lordy, Lordy, Eugene’s 40.” The statute of limitations is probably over but they had to break into school to get those signs up. Tributes to Mr. Wade have been going for many years.”

Dickerson said Mr. Wade was known as a master teacher over the years.

“But with us, he was cool. He was good. He treated us with respect, and that it was okay to want to be better and we appreciated him.”

“I want to set the record straight on one of Mr. Wade’s stories. He had a love of German Shepherds, but he also had a love of cars. Mr. Wade had his first car, which was a Mustang. He was very active in school and attended a lot of extracurricular activities. He went to Columbia for a basketball game.

“He didn’t have the money for the game but he knew teachers would get in free. He told the gate worker that he was a teacher but he looked just like us. According to Mr. Wade, we walked by and were asked if he was a teacher. He says I walked by and said, ‘No, I don’t know him.’ But I will set the record straight – it was Barbara.”

Dickerson, who did not disclose “Barbara’s” last name, pointed to the crowded church Saturday.

“Look at all of these folks here. These are just a fraction of the people who were impacted by Mr. Wade. I will always be thankful for my time with Mr. Wade. I used to tell him that for someone who had not given birth to any child that he was a proud papa. I hope he is looking down on this congregation and he is full of joy and I hope that we will all get to the point that we can see the joy and be very thankful for all the things that Eugene Howard Wade did.”

Pastor Darrell Drumwright finished out the service with more praise for Wade.

“Mr. Wade was a man of excellence and I believe that was springing from the fact that he served an excellent God. He liked things to be right. He liked things to be in order and if they were not in order he was going to make sure you knew.”

“He had no problem telling you when you were right. But he was also such a good man that he wanted to see you do better. If he thought some things needed to be worked on, he would tell you to your face. He wasn’t somebody who was going to tell it to someone else.

“Mr. Eugene Howard Wade was one of the most giving persons. He had a heart of giving. He didn’t want any credit. Sometimes he would do little secret things and the only reason you knew it was him because his handwriting gave it away. But he loved doing things for others because in our church that is truly how you define joy.”

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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