This is the story of the ministry of an old time southern preacher, Rev. Robert Crocker, and his wife, Pearlean D. Crocker.
By: Pearlean D. Crocker
Brother Robert Crocker was born February 24, 1907, in Neshoba County, near Philadelphia, Mississippi. In 1928, Brother D. L. Welch of Pensacola, Florida came to Neshoba County and preached a brush arbor meeting. Brother Crocker went to the altar, repented of his sins and was baptized in Jesus name, but did not receive the Holy Ghost at that time. Later on, a Brother Paul L. Williamson preached there and Brother Crocker received the Holy Ghost.
Soon, he began to feel he needed to tell others the wonderful news of the oneness of God, baptism in Jesus name, and the gift of the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues. Brother J. P. Crenshaw had received the Holy Ghost and was eager to work for the Lord too. They got together and began going from house to house having prayer meetings and praying with people who were seeking God. Brother Crenshaw played a violin and Brother Crocker picked a guitar. On Saturdays, they would go into town and have a street service. They would sing, and play music and read scriptures.
One weekend, they walked seven miles, carrying their instruments to a place they were supposed to meet a preacher for a service. When they got there and found out the preacher was not able to make it, they decided to go ahead with the service. They prayed and sang and decided that Brother Crocker would read the scripture and comment on it. He chose the second chapter of Acts. As he began to talk about the promise of the Holy Ghost, the anointing power fell on him. He said it felt like heaven reached down and kissed the earth and he was right in the smack! He then knew for sure that God was calling him to work in His vineyard.
He had no way to travel, but his brother, John Frank, and his wife Trudy had an old truck and they offered to take him wherever he wanted to go. So they started out on their way to Louisiana. Not long after they reached Louisiana, they had trouble with the old truck. It had quit running in front of a large farm house. The only thing they knew to do was pray and ask God to undertake. So they all started to pray. They lady of the house saw and heard them praying and went to see what was wrong. They explained to her their mission, what they preached and what the problem was. She told them she did not believe their message, but she would help them if she could. She told them to push the truck under her barn while they worked on it and she would give them food and shelter in her home. One of her neighbors saw them and came over to investigate. When they explained to him their problem, he told them he had a used motor that they could have. He helped them remove their old motor and put the other one in, and they were soon on their way, thanking and praising God for His goodness and His blessings. Brother Crocker preached wherever he got an opening. At one revival, they met a man and his wife who were from a community near Lucedale, Mississippi. The man was a trinity preacher, and was working on a job in Louisiana. Brother Crocker explained the oneness of God and baptism in Jesus name and gave them scriptures for it. They both were baptized in Jesus name. When the man’s job played out, he begged them to go home with him to preach this truth to his people. After seeking God’s will Brother Crocker agreed to go with them. They arrived at a place 12 miles from Lucedale at a community called Buzzard Roost. Brother Crocker preached from the front porch of a man known as Uncle Dave Davis. Many people came to the revival, some sought the Lord and received the Holy Ghost and were baptized in Jesus name. On Saturday afternoons they went to Lucedale for street services. Two men from the Mt. Pisgah community near Leakesville, Mississippi were in Lucedale that Saturday and heard the singing and preaching. After the service was over, they asked Brother Crocker if he would consider going to Mt. Pisgah to preach. He told them he would pray about it. He had a first cousin who lived at Mt. Pisgah, so in August of 1931 Brother Robert Crocker came to the Mt. Pisgah Community.
The first service he held in the Mt. Pisgah community was in the small Presbyterian Church that I had joined. So naturally I was there. I was, in fact, the church pianist. I was awed by their singing and preaching and the spirit I could feel. I had always had a desire to live for God, but had never heard of the Pentecostal or Holiness faith. My mother had always took me to church and taught me all she knew.
After that first service, however, the elders of the church said “No more Pentecostal services in the church,” so the next service was on a foggy, rainy night around a big bonfire. Many people stood around the fire in the misty rain and listened to Brother Crocker pick his guitar and sing and preach the Word of God. He said he felt he was in the perfect will of God. The interest was so great, he decided to stay on. Some of the men helped him build a brush arbor and he preached there until the weather turned too cool. Many people were converted. Some got together and got permission to use the school auditorium to have service in. I went every night. I was hearing something I’d never heard before. I started going to the altar, where there would be 75 to 80 people kneeling on the floor with tears streaming down their cheeks, asking God to fill them with the Holy Ghost. I saw Brother Crocker walk among them, laying his hand on their heads and praying for them and they would begin speaking in tongues and magnifying God. I received the Holy Ghost on October 16, 1931, and was baptized a few days later. About 100 souls were filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized in Jesus name. The revival went on every night for over six months.
Brother Crocker started coming by my house every evening before time for service and He and I would sing together. I played our old organ and he would pick his guitar. We would then walk to church together. We talked about the Lord and the work of the Lord. He asked me if I would like to work for the Lord. I told him that I had never given it a thought, but if God ever wanted to use me in His service, I’d be willing to obey Him.
In the winter of 1932 there was a flu epidemic in the community. Bro. Crocker went all over the community praying for people and God would touch them. He got the flu himself and was really sick, running a high fever. His fever was so high that at times he was delirious. He trusted God, however, and never even took an aspirin. On the tenth day he was feeling some better, and decided to get up for a drink of water. He was so weak that he passed out. When he came to, he was speaking in tongues and was completely healed. He was soon preaching again and praying for souls. The revival continued every night.
The pastor of another church in the community was so upset because they were losing so many members that he challenged Brother Crocker for a debate. Bro. Crocker accepted the challenge and contacted Bro. D. L. Welch of Pensacola, Florida, who said he would be glad to debate the pastor. Bro. Welch asked Bro. Earl Gamblin to be his moderator.
The other preacher, a Bro. Mathews, got a man they called “The Walking Bible” for his moderator. The debate was held at the challenger’s church. The topic of the debate was the Pentecostal doctrine: the oneness of God, Baptism in Jesus name, receiving the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues. Bro. Welch had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures, and soon had the man so badly tied up that he became angry. He brought a small bottle of poison and told Bro. Welch to drink it, and if he had what he claimed to have it would not hurt him. Bro. Welch looked the man in the eye and said, “Man, I knew you were wrong in what you’re teaching, but I didn’t think you would take the place of the devil. But I’m going to tell you the same thing my Lord told your pappy almost two thousand years ago, ‘Get behind me, Satan.’” The man became even more angry and told Bro. Welch, “We’ll just go out behind the church and fight it out. Bro. Welch answered him, “Man, I don’t fight. God took all the cat and dog out of me when He filled me with the Holy Ghost.”
One of the deacons of that church stood, and pointing his finger at Bro. Welch said, “This little man doesn’t fight, but if a fight is what you want, I’ll take his place. He was very displeased with his pastor’s behavior. That ended the debate. That deacon began coming to the Pentecostal services and later on received the Holy Ghost, was baptized in Jesus name and lived for God the rest of his life. Many were convinced of the Truth as a result of that debate.
One evening as Bro. Crocker and I were walking to church, he told me he loved me and wanted me to be his wife and helpmate in the work of the Lord. I was only seventeen years old, but I had fallen in love with Jesus and with Bro. Crocker. On April 27, 1933, we were married by my former pastor, Rev. R. M. Dixon.
Not many people had ways to travel in those days, so we went into the “highways and hedges” telling everyone we could about the love of Jesus and praying for them to be filled with His spirit.
By this time the congregation had grown considerably, so the men and Bro. Crocker decided to build a church building. They prayed and fasted for God to make a way and supply the need. They went to see a man who owned land near the school building. They told him they wanted to purchase enough land to put a church building on. He not only gave the land to the church, but also gave enough timber to be sawed into lumber to build a small building.
In the spring of 1934 Bro. Crocker felt led to go to the town of Lucedale and preach a revival. He got a Brother McNeal to come to Mt. Pisgah to take care of the church. He and a visiting preacher friend hitchhiked to Lucedale about 15 miles to see if they could find a place to preach. They met a man who owned a sawmill, and when they told him what they wanted to do, he told Bro. Crocker that he owned some lots on Mill Street in the city limits. It had lots of big pine trees on it. The man said he would furnish blocks and some lumber for seats and a Bible stand.
We rented a small house in town for $1.45 a week. We had a cotton mattress on the floor, a small table, two chairs, and a two burner kerosene stove. The day we moved into the house, we got down on our knees to pray and ask God’s blessings and to supply our needs. Some children were playing near the house and heard us praying. They ran across the street and told the lady who lived there that some new people had moved into the little house and they must be hungry, because they were praying for God to supply their needs. In a little while, we heard a knock on the door. When we opened the door, there was the lady with a large basket on her arm. She told us what the children had told her and she had brought milk, bread, butter, and some vegetables. She also told us she had a large garden and we were welcome to anything in it. We thanked her and told her why we were there. She went to church with us and received the Holy Ghost and was baptized in Jesus name.
Many of the town’s officials including the mayor came to the revival, as well as doctors, lawyers, and merchants. There were not enough seats and people stood or sat on the pine straw on the ground. God blessed and many souls found the Lord. The revival lasted several weeks.
Bro. Earl Gamblin contacted us and wanted us to help him and his wife in some revivals in Florida and Alabama. When we came back home, we preached revivals all around in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. We pastured a small church in Georgetown, Mississippi for one year before returning home to Mt. Pisgah.
In 1941, we decided to go back to Lucedale and help the group there to build a church building. We had bought seven and a half acres of land and we donated one acre for a church. It was about two miles out of town. We built a small building and started having services. All the people who had received the Holy Ghost in our first revival were still living for God. We built a small two bedroom house for our family, and in 1942 we moved to Lucedale. Several years later we got an opportunity to buy two large lots in town, so we sold the little church building and purchased the lots. Then we got an army tent and put it up and started having services. A neighbor was angry because we had purchased the lots and got a petition up and got some people to sign it. He carried it to the district attorney and told him we were disturbing the peace. The attorney asked him if we owned the property. He had to say that we did. The attorney told him, “Man, all I can say is buy you some earplugs, or go and join them.” The man who sold us the lots told us what had happened. He came to our services pretty regularly. He said he was asked why he came and he said he told them he felt something there that he did not feel in other churches.
We hired a man to help build the church building on the lots. The man said he was working one day and a fellow came by and stopped and told him that the church would never be built. The man replied, “Oh, yes, by the help of God and with Bro. Crocker’s prayers, the building will be finished.” In 1946, we moved into the building. We had lots of revivals. We were fasting and praying and having around-the-clock prayer meetings and one afternoon as we were sitting on our front porch, a truck pulling a camper trailer pulled into our driveway. Two men got out of the truck and introduced themselves as Bro. Frank Maggio and his nephew Bro. Mike Giarantano. They said they had prayed for God to show them where to go and He had said “Lucedale, Mississippi.”
Bro. Crocker always respected the ministry and he invited them in. We enjoyed listening to them talk as they both spoke with an Italian accent. We began a revival and 29 people received the Holy Ghost in that revival.
While pastoring in Lucedale, we started going to a small community called Cross Roads, about nine miles from Lucedale. Not many people had ways to travel back then, so we tried to take church to them. We had Sunday school every Sunday morning at our church and went to Cross Roads every Sunday afternoon and had Sunday school with them at 2 o’clock. Then back to the church for Sunday night service. Quite a few people were saved and they decided to build a church in that community. Bro. Crocker got Bro. Woodrow Page to go there and help them build a church building. The church is still going and a Bro. Dillon is the current pastor.
After that church was established, we started having services at a community called Midway. We went on Sunday afternoons and Thursday nights for services there. We also established a church there which is called Mt. Calvary and is now pastored by Bro. Myron Sims.
During our time in Lucedale, many times the Lord provided when we just didn’t see how we were going to make it financially. One such time, Brother Crocker went to a local service station to see if the owner would let him have gasoline on credit. While he was there a well dressed stranger drove up in a nice car, went into the store, bought a Coke, then got into his car and drove away. A few minutes later, he returned, walked up to Bro. Crocker and said, “You’re a preacher, aren’t you?” Brother Crocker replied “Yes, I am.” The man then told him, “The Lord told me to come back and give you this.” He then handed him a folded bill. Brother Crocker thanked him, and after the man left he looked at the bill, which he expected to be a small bill, and found that the man had given him a hundred dollars! This was a very large gift in those days. As always, the Lord was faithful to supply our need.
At Leakesville, Mississippi a group of people who had received the Holy Ghost at Mt. Pisgah got together and decided they wanted to build a church. They were having prayer meetings in each others homes. Bro. L. L. Pierce came to our house at Lucedale and asked Bro. Crocker to come to his house and set the church in order. Bro. Crocker, as Presbyter of the section, did so. He asked Bro. Damon Crawford and his wife, who were good evangelists, to go to Leakesville for a revival and help them build a church. They built a small block building, and thus the First United Pentecostal Church of Leakesville began.
We lived and pastored the church at Lucedale 12 years. There was a certain man who had moved there from somewhere else who began to sow discord among the people. Bro. Crocker tried talking to him and tried to reason with him, but he continued to cause problems. Bro. Crocker resigned as pastor of the church. He said he could not work where there was division among the people.
When Brother Pierce heard that Bro. Crocker had resigned the church at Lucedale, he came to our home and asked Bro. Crocker if he would consider going to Leakesville to pastor, since their pastor had resigned and gone. Brother Crocker told him he would pray about it and would go there for a service. We went to Leakesville for a mid-week service. The following week, we received a call from Bro. Pierce saying that Bro. Crocker had been elected pastor with a unanimous vote. We finished all our business in Lucedale and May 23, 1952 we moved to Leakesville. They had built a small parsonage, but it was not completed, just a shell. We borrowed money from the bank to finish the parsonage. The congregation was small at first. We got Bro. Edward Johnson to come preach a revival which lasted several weeks. God blessed in a mighty way and about 15 souls were filled with the Holy Ghost. The Lord continued to bless and we needed more room. There was not enough space on the property to add on to the building we were in, so we began to look for property to build a new building. A Mr. Ball sold us a large lot at the intersection of Highway 63 and Highway 57 in the city limits.
People in town wondered how such a small group of people could pay for a building like ours. When we purchased insurance coverage for the building, the lady who owned the insurance company told us someone had asked her that question and she told them, “Nobody knows but the Lord, Robert Crocker, and L. L. Pierce.
Brother Crocker worked three days a week as a door-to-door salesman and collector for L. B. Price Mercantile Co. and I went to work at Basila Mfg. Co. in the spring of 1953 to help take care of our family and send our children to school. Our oldest son was in college. We still owned our home in Lucedale, so we rented it out, which helped our finances a lot. Bro. Crocker put almost all the income he received from the church back into the building fund. The church was completed in 1956. We decided to sell our house in Lucedale and build a house in Leakesville. We purchased two lots on Lackey Street and hired Bro. James Barkley to help us build our house. We paid him by the hour and furnished him room and board. When it was completed, we moved from the parsonage into our new home. The church sold the parsonage and paid the proceeds on the new church building.
We had many wonderful revivals over the years and many young preachers preached their first revival for us. Our revivals usually lasted at least two or three weeks every night with lots of fasting and praying going on. Bro. Crocker would sometimes fast for several days at a time and has fasted up to seven days without food or water. He loved to help young preachers get started and encouraged them any way he could. Many young preachers came out of those works in Mt. Pisgah, Lucedale, Crossroads, Mt. Calvary and Leakesville. Many came to him for advice and asked for his prayers. He was one who could reprove or rebuke with kindness and gentleness that would get the job done without hard feelings. He loved the work of the Lord and the Word of God. He loved to preach the plan of salvation to all who would listen.
When Bro. Crocker’s health began to fail, he asked our son-in-law, Bro. Irvis Everette to assist him. Bro. Everette had felt his call to work for God. He was approved and elected as assistant pastor by the church. Bro. Everette still serves as pastor at Leakesville.
Bro. Crocker was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1982. He went home to be with Jesus, the One he loved the most, on June 12, 1984. I’m so thankful we held on to God’s unchanging hand through the good and the bad times we shared. It would take a book to tell of all the blessings and all the many things God provided for us during our years of working for Him.
Brother William Robert Crocker was ordained April 19, 1931 at Mansfield, LA in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. Record page 3 Certificate of Ordination was issued October 31, 1938 and reissued January 1, 1946 when the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Church Incorporated merged and became The United Pentecostal Church International. The Certificate of Ordination was signed by General Superintendent Howard Goss, Assistant Superintendent W. T. Witherspoon, General Secretary S. D. Chambers, and District Superintendent A. D. Gurley.
At that time, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee were combined. Brother Hansford, Brother Gurley, and Brother Crocker worked with a Brother Greer in Bemis, Tennessee. They traveled quite a lot trying to help young preachers establish churches. Brother Crocker helped Brother O. E. Lamb establish the first church on Ingalls Avenue in Pascagoula, MS. He helped Brother D. J. Whitten establish the first church on Wilson Avenue in Prichard, AL. When Mississippi became a district, it was divided into four sections. Brother Crocker was elected Presbyter of Section Four where he served for many years. After giving up that position, he was elected Sectional Secretary and served in that position many years. When the Ladies Auxiliary was organized in Section Four, Sister Roberta Goff was elected President and Sister Pearlean Crocker was elected Secretary.