The things we recall from our childhood are sharp in a dull sort of way. They are sharp in the sense that the people, along with short interactive events involving them are as real as the person who is recalling them. However, the years have a way of dulling the senses concerning the events that surround the few particulars that are so clear. It is like looking through a telescope at some distant star, the focus at the center is so perfect, but fades as you look toward the edge of the looking glass. Such is the case with this writer’s memory of Harvey Dodd.
Home for my family has always been Haleyville, Alabama. Two congregations of the Church of Christ meet there, the uptown church on Ninth Avenue and the other, which meets in South Haleyville. The South Haleyville church was the center of our lives. The congregation was planted in the 1930s by Dossie Stone, Dr. R.H. Miller, and others in the community. One of the earliest converts was a young girl, Bernice Oden, who later married my grandfather, Paul Ralph Harp. Both he and his step-father, S.W. Turner, served as elders in the church there. In the early days of its existence, preachers such as G.L. Mann and Edsel Burleson would preach in a circuit for various congregations including South Haleyville. When H.P. Dodd came in 1951, it afforded the small group of believers the ability to have someone in the community who assisted in a more full-time capacity.
Harvey Peebles Dodd was born June 19, 1903 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He was the fifth of eight children born to John Benjamin and Minnie Smith Sanders Dodd of Smyrna, Tennessee. He attended David Lipscomb College and Middle Tennessee State University, where he received a teaching certificate. He taught several years in Mt. Pleasant, Maury County, Tennessee before moving to Florence, Alabama to assist in the planting of Mars Hill Christian School.
Singing was a large part of his life. As a young man he led singing in the congregations where he attended. He would travel around in middle Tennessee leading singing for various preachers during Gospel Meetings. Some making reports to the Gospel Advocate and the Apostolic Times of their successes in meeting work would mention that Harvey Dodd led the singing during their meetings.
While in Florence, Alabama he preached and occasionally filled in for churches in the area. In the mid to late 1940s he began preaching for the Shiloh church of Christ in the rural part of Lauderdale County. He was their first full-time preacher, and he assisted them in the establishment of regular Wednesday evening meetings as well as the regular Sunday meetings. Living in town, he had to catch a bus out to the country church. So, one of the members, Dunk Killen, purchased a car and gave it to brother Dodd in order to keep him from needing to ride the bus.
Upon his arrival in Haleyville, Winston County, in 1951, he already had several years under his belt as an educator and preacher. The building the church met in was about ten years old, and he lived next to the building in the old home place where the Mid Turner family lived for so many years.
He was such a strong influence in the area around South Haleyville. He filled various appointments in meeting work and other more regular appointments in smaller congregations in the outlying area. He labored and loved the church there, and he was loved in return. He helped to bury their dead, and he baptized their young. Some of those he baptized were most precious to this writer, for he baptized my father, Richard Harp, and his two sisters, Martha and Judy. He also married young couples there as a preacher occasionally does. One couple in particular that stands out are my parents, Richard and Dixie Harp, March 1, 1957. I came along in late May the following year.
Some of the young men in the congregation were encouraged to lead in singing and preaching. He conducted classes to teach men how to lead, and even to preach. Richard Harp was a teenager when H.P. Dodd asked him to preach for him while he was away on one occasion. Later, he asked him to fill appointments in the area. Other young men he influenced similarly were A.E. Swimms, Robert Martin, Hubert “Stubby” George, Bryan and David Howell, and others. All of these made preachers. Perhaps his influence on me at least planted seeds, about which I knew nothing during those days.
My earliest recollections of H.P. Dodd was that he was a confirmed bachelor. He did not marry until about three or four years before his death. He married Louise McAbee Combs, a widow, in 1965. She had been a young adult sweetheart that reunited with him a couple years after the passing of her first husband. The story is a unique one that most would find both romantic, and perhaps a little ridiculous. But, love is often that way. The story was told that they were engaged to be married when they were young. A sharp disagreement arose over a haircut she was proposing to get that strongly displeased him. They broke off their engagement and relationship. She went her way and he went his. She married, but he always held her in his heart. Finally, the two were re-united many years later.
A couple of things stand out in the memory of this writer that should be preserved. One thing of note is that when brother Dodd was at South Haleyville, he had two crows and a three-legged dog—oddities for certain. But it gets more intriguing because brother Dodd trained the crows to speak. They could say his last name as plainly as anyone could say it. As a small boy I recall going over to his house and into the back yard where the bird cage was hanging in a tree. There I would try to get the crows to speak while playing with his three-legged dog.
One summer Sunday morning when I was about four years old, the little church in South Haleyville was worshiping together as usual, but something happened that morning that was anything but usual. These were the days before central air conditioning in the southern United States. Thus, all the windows were opened to their fullest, and the funeral fans were waving at top speed. It was during one of those wonderful long-winded prayers by a well-meaning brother that those crows flew through a window, and up into the open rafters. Once perched up high, the crows proceeded to call out to their pious master, “DODD! DODD!” They would repeat it, “DODD! DODD!” The old brother who was praying never missed a beat, but kept his thoughts and his words directed toward the Almighty! There was at least one young man, and perhaps a few others whose thoughts went upward, but no higher than the rafters of that old church building. It has always been one of the most humorous church memories of my early life. After the prayer brother Dodd shewed the birds out and quickly returned to his duties for the morning.
In 1963, Harvey Dodd left the little church in South Haleyville and moved to Florence, South Carolina where he worked with a small struggling congregation on Gregg Avenue. Over the next five years he also helped to plant another work in Dillon, South Carolina. At the time, we were living in Lancaster, S.C. where my father preached, and I recall visiting brother Dodd occasionally.
In about June, 1968 he moved back to Alabama, where he preached for the Jones Chapel church of Christ in Cullman County. He was only there for several months when he began suffering with heart problems. He had three heart attacks over five weeks. Finally he breathed his last on Thursday, January 30, 1969. A funeral was conducted in Haleyville by W.C. Quillen, a long-time friend and fellow preacher. Then his body was taken to his home town of Smyrna, Tennessee where another service was conducted by Ira North. He was laid to rest in the Dodd family plot in Mapleview Cemetery.
After brother Dodd’s passing, Louise moved back to Nashville, where she attended the Madison church of Christ. She lived until 1989 when she passed from this life, and was buried next to her first husband in the Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee.
Thus, the life of Harvey Peebles Dodd! For years it has been my effort to find the grave of H.P. Dodd. Involvement from several people has been requested to find his burial location. Long distance phone calls have been made, and cemeteries have been walked through in hopes of finding him, to no avail. However, during the summer of 2012, it was the pleasure of your web editor to preach a one-day meeting for the Decatur Highway church of Christ north of Birmingham, Alabama. My good friend John McMath preaches there. Another couple, long known by the Harps is Bill and Joyce Prentice. Bill grew up in South Haleyville, living just next door to the Harps, and was one of my father’s best friends. They attended school and church together. Thus, many memories of days past came to be recalled with much joy including my efforts to find the grave of brother Dodd. Joyce said she would try her luck at finding brother Dodd’s burial information in some of her research. Within a few days I received a call from Bill and Joyce when she let me know she had found out that he was buried in Smyrna, Rutherford County, Tennessee. From that moment a trip to Rutherford County became essential. Finally, on December 21, 2012 my family was traveling to visit family in Arkansas when we had to make a stop in Mapleview Cemetery. What a joy it was to find the grave of this man who meant so much to my family over the years.
Harvey Dodd was not a nationally acclaimed preacher of the gospel. However, those that knew him appreciated his life and his commitment to the cause of Christ. My family will always be in his debt, and will recall with fondness his contributions to the kingdom of Christ. To this day a photo of H.P. Dodd sits upon a shelf in my father's office as a constant memory blessing.