History of the Restoration Movement

J. Pettey Ezell


J. Pettey Ezell, Hall, 1934
Passing Of J. Pettey Ezell, Srygley
G.A. May 24, 1934, Long
Wallace Feels Loss
J. Pettey Ezell Mourned, Allen
Zeal And Courage, Overby
He Was My Friend, Hines
Signature of J. Pettey Ezell
Directions & Grave Pictures


The untimely going of J. Pettey Ezell shocked and grieved every heart that knew him. That he was a man who loved Christ and his teaching could not be doubted by those who knew him best. He was exceedingly firm in his convictions, and his preaching was always plain, simple, and practical. Aliens easily learned what to do to be saved and Christians as easily learned the duties and responsibilities that rest upon them under his teaching."


One expression of the apostle Paul in speaking of his own life's work, reminds me of Brother Ezell as it does of but few other men. Paul speaks of his being "in labors more abundantly." He also speaks of striving to build where other men had not labored. Such was the life of Brother Ezell. From the first time I ever met him until the last he was interested in his friends. He had left a meeting to run out to baptize a friend when the end came. During his stay with the church at Cookeville, that lasted about five years, a part of which time he had the saintly Will Oakley as his co laborer, more than twenty congregations were established in the county. He so labored at Decatur, Ala.

We need more such men. Being content to labor and live on congregations built up by others is not the divine plan. It is all right to live with a congregation that is well established; but if you carry out the will of Christ, who is the head of the church, from that congregation God's word will be sounded out. So it was wherever Brother Ezell labored.

He had in him a heart of kindness. I do not think I have ever enjoyed a short visit with any one more than the short one I had with Brother Ezell on Monday morning before this terrible tragedy took place. While he asked about the work at Russell Street, he was wanting to know about Mrs. Hall's health; that of Mary, our daughte-in-law; and of Sam Thomas, Phil's only child that he left with us when he slipped away about four years ago.

Sister Ezell and the children made Russell Street their home church for a number of months in the early part of my work with this congregation. No man has ever had a sweeter and better family than Brother Ezell. God bless them as they endeavor to struggle on without him, is my prayer.

- S.H. Hall, Gospel Advocate, Under The Column Mutual Edification, June 7, 1934

Back To Top



May 17, 1934

Brother Ezell was instantly killed in an accident near Cookeville, Tenn., in the afternoon of May 10, 1934. At the time he was in a meeting in this city, but was called to Crossville to baptize a sick man, and was returning to Nashville when the accident happened. The bus had passed through Cookeville when a sudden shower of rain came up, which blinded the driver, and in an effort to stop the bus it slid on the highway and plunged over into a ditch and partly overturned. When the bus began to slide, Brother Ezell quickly arose to his feet, and was instantly killed. Several others were injured, but he was the only passenger who lost his life.

It was a great shock to his family and his many friends all over the country. He was in the strength of manhood, and was better prepared for preaching than he had ever been before. He was an industrious, diligent student of the word, and had been on the go preaching for twenty years. He believed the Bible, and he preached it to others without compromise. He preached what the Bible said more than what it meant. He was as free from speculation as any man I knew. He opposed all speculative theories on Revelation, and did all that he could to prevent division in the churches over these speculative questions. A brother who knew him well said of him that if there was a brother among us who would die for his faith, it was Brother Ezell.

He loved his friends and he loved humanity, but he would not compromise the truth for friend or foe. He stood for the right and for his convictions, and took the consequences. He suffered much on account of those who would not stand with him. His sincerity caused him to worry, perhaps, too much over what he considered the weakness of others. Had he lived, he might have suffered more over such disappointments.

He left a wife and four children, two boys and two girls—to mourn over his sudden passing. The funeral services were held in the church house in Murfreesboro in the presence of a very large audience. He had many friends and admirers, and a great number of these were present at that service. His good wife had not realized fully what had happened. The children were dazed over the conditions, and the audience could hardly understand what had happened.

While we all sympathize with his wife and his children, I am of the opinion that children are generally better off to be left without a father than without a mother. True, Sister Ezell will think that she will not be able to bear the entire responsibility of the family, but she will have help and sympathy to assist in rearing her children. There may have been many hardships, disappointments, and sufferings before Brother Ezell that he will not have to bear now.

Some of the speakers at the funeral said that they would not call him back if they could, but I said that I would call him back if I could. I felt that I needed him, that his family needed him, that the church needed him, and that the world needed him. I am confident that he is better off where he is, but we would all be better off had he remained with us. God's will, not mine, be done. It is easy for me to weep with his family and his friends over his passing, because I feel that I have sustained a personal loss which cannot be supplied. So many of my dearest friends have left for the other side that I feel lonesome. "Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."


J. Pettey Ezell, Murfreesboro, Tenn., was killed instantly Thursday afternoon, May 10, in a bus accident near Cookeville, Tenn. He was conducting a meeting in Nashville, and was returning here for the night service at the time of the tragedy, having been called to Crossville, Tenn., to baptize a patient in a hospital. Funeral services were conducted at Murfreesboro on Friday. Brother Ezell had resigned to enter evangelistic work on January 1, after having served the Murfreesboro congregation for five years. Previously he had preached for the Central Church, Nashville, and later at Hopkinsville, Ky. He came to Nashville from Cookeville, Tenn., where he had labored with the church for five years; and prior to that he had spent several years at Decatur, Alabama. Brother Ezell was for several years a member of the board of directors of David Lipscomb College.

Brother Ezell was reared in Alabama. His wife was formerly Miss Dawn Potter, of Bowling Green, Ky. She and two sons, Kenneth and Frederick, and two daughters, Misses Elizabeth and Charlotte, survive. Interment was at Bowling Green, Ky.

Back To Top

Gospel Advocate May 24, 1934, page 508

The esteem in which J. Pettey Ezell, killed in a bus accident near Cookeville, Tenn., on May 10, was held by his fellow preachers and the brotherhood in general, is being reflected by memorial services and many expressions both public and private. There were probably fifty preachers among the large crowd that gathered for the funeral services at Murfreesboro the following day. A few expressions are given below:

B. C. Goodpasture, Atlanta, Ga., writes: "I am greatly grieved at the tragic and untimely death of Brother Ezell. In his passing the brotherhood sustains a distinct loss."

Back To Top

Wallace Feels Loss

The news of the tragic passing of J. Pettey Ezell on May 10 cast a shadow over the meeting that was being conducted at Colorado, Texas, twelve hundred miles away, by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Immediately upon receipt of the news of the fatal accident in the Gospel Advocate office, a friend posted a letter by air mail to Brother Wallace, knowing the bond of affection which had grown up between these two men. The letter was delivered to Brother Wallace at a night service. The singing was beginning as he read the message. He was deeply affected by the news. After trying to describe the effect of the shock, Brother Wallace in a letter writes: "I tried to gather myself up but could not. The songs took a special significance. Brother Doran was singing `Have Thine Own Way, Lord,' and followed it with 'Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?' I could not attempt to preach. J. D. Harvey read your letter to the people and dismissed them. I cannot seem to recover. I loved Ezell; he loved me. I feel his loss. He was considered extreme in his zeal for the truth on some important issues. But he was right, and we can ill afford to give him up."

With Him In Debates

My wife and I took a hard cry when we received the sad news of Brother Ezell's sudden death. We loved him dearly. I have heard him preach. We were together during the Jones-Wallace debate in Moundsville, and compared notes. Much of the time we sat side by side during the Winchester debate of Neal and Wallace. We visited in his home in Murfreesboro last December. I preached there, and am sure I was very cordially received by the brethren-on his account. Though all were good to us, none were more hospitable and kind in all the "South land" than was he and his noble family. I am sad beyond expression, but the Lord knows best. God, be gracious to his dear ones. -Thaddeus S. Hutson.

How He Impressed Me

My heart was pierced as with an arrow, and my tongue rendered speechless when I looked upon the picture and read of the untimely death of our good brother, Pettey Ezell. I realize that the brotherhood of gospel preachers and the church, and also many people out of the church, have suffered a great loss. How far-reaching this loss, none can tell. It is greater to his family than any one else. It was my good fortune to first meet Brother Ezell in the home of John T. Lewis at Birmingham, Ala., in 1915. He preached for us that night at West End on "The Church, the Body of Christ." The next time I heard him was at Central Church in Nashville, when he gave a series of sermons on "The Good Confession." Then in 1927 he came to Detroit and gave a series of sound and strong gospel sermons at Plum Street Church. In his work as a preacher and his daily life in his home and in public he impressed me as a man of deep convictions. He seemed to have his whole heart set on pleasing God and doing all he could to save his fellow men. Like Paul, he had his face set toward heaven, and he fought the battles for truth and right bravely. When I think of him, I think of these words: "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." He told me once of the great joy and help he received in gathering his little family about him at bedtime for prayer and thanksgiving. This was the natural outburst of his deep spirituality, and showed his devotion to God and his loftiness of thought and character.

-W. S. Long, G.A. May 24, 1934

Back To Top

June 14, 1934



I received a letter from Nashville before the Gospel Advocate came telling me about the death of J. Pettey Ezell. The news has been a shock to me, and it is hard for me to realize that Brother Ezell has gone. I do not know a man in the brotherhood that I held in higher esteem than J. Pettey Ezell. It sometimes happens that the closer acquaintance you have with one the less you think of him, but with Brother Ezell it was just the other way: the better acquainted you became with him the better you liked him.

I have been in his home a number of times, and I always felt that I was made better by having done so. Brother Ezell will be missed not only by his family, but by the entire brotherhood within the circle of his acquaintance. He never left any one in doubt on any question that is disturbing the brotherhood, and I believe that he came as near practicing what he preached as any man I ever met. I truly loved Brother Ezell, and my heart is full of sympathy for his good wife and children; but be brave, Sister Dawn, for God has special promises for the widow and orphan, and he will never forsake you.

Back To Top


In the sudden passing of J. Pettey Ezell the cause of Christ has sustained a loss that is keenly felt by all lovers of the gospel. His love for the Lord, his devotion to the church, his faithfulness to the Book, and his uncompromising loyalty to all that is good were the great factors that formed his noble character.

Zeal was one of Brother Ezell's marked attributes. This fire within was always burning with earnestness, and ever stimulating to vigorous activity. To those who knew him best and kept in touch with his work it must be evident that he chose to ride the turbulent sea of zealousness-in constant motion. Yet he never blindly encroached upon the rights of others. It was zeal "according to knowledge." His knowledge curbed it, and his wisdom bridled it. Certainly his "zeal hath stirred up very many" of the saints to nobler deeds. Peter asked: "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?" (1 Pet. 3: 13.) Possibly his success as an evangelist, and especially in located work, was due largely to his fervency of life. Apollos like, he was "fervent in spirit," "serving the Lord." This was why he surpassed many others of equal ability. The winner ever gives himself to his work-soul and body.

Courage, too, was a distinct mark of Brother Ezell's Christian life. Maybe "virtue" is the better word, for it signifies manly strength or courage–from vir, a "man," a "hero." Virtue is goodness that is victorious through trials and conflicts. When once Brother Ezell was fully convinced that God had "spoken" an any subject, he was resolutely minded to pursue that revealed course. The counsel of close friends, the ties of near relatives, and the influence of the leading men could not change his course nor deter his actions. Truly in early life lie heeded the exhortation of the apostle: "In your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge." His strong conviction that God's word is always right armed him with untold power for conflict with friend or foe. It is safe to say that he memorized, at the request of James A. Harding, his teacher in Potter Bible College, Joshua 1:5-9: "Be strong and of a good courage. . . . Only be thou strong and very courageous. . . Have not I commanded thee? For Jehovah thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

The statement is ventured: Had Brother Ezell had warning, just before his sudden departure, of what was soon to be, he could have quoted with calmness: "We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5: 8.)

May the Lord richly bless Brother Ezell's companion and those sweet children, and may he teach all, with them, the most difficult lesson, "The will of the Lord be done," are the wishes of a fellow student in Potter Bible College.

Back To Top


Pettey and Jake-just two green country boys, one from Alabama and the other from the hills of old Kentucky-met for the first time in Potter Bible College, Bowling Green, Ky.; I think it was in the year 1910. Our days in the dear old P. B. C. were days of joy and gladness, sorrow and sadness. We began preaching about the same time-twenty-four years ago. We sat at the feet of that prince of men, J. A. Harding, and drank in the blessed truths of the sacred Book as he gave them out to us; therefore, when we left that institution we carried his stamp; hence, the reason for us believing and preaching the same things. It was at Potter Bible College that Pettey met Miss Dawn Potter, who afterwards became his wife. A finer girl never lived than Miss Dawn Potter. Pettey and I traveled along the same road, which at times was mighty rough, but he never complained about his lot nor compromised the truth to make things more pleasant. Pettey was industrious, studious, faithful, and courageous in his work. He was true, faithful, honest, and godly in his living. J. Pettey Ezell was just the type of man that the churches of Christ and the world need today, and why he should be taken is beyond our puny minds to find out, for he was right in the bloom of usefulness he was at his best. The churches of Christ will miss him, his dear wife and children will miss him, and oh how I shall miss him! Thanks be to God, I gave him flowers while he lived; but today I pause to drop a tear on his grave and send to his spirit, which is in the beautiful garden of God, this message: You did well, my brother; you fought a good fight; you died in battle, but you won the victory and the crown is yours. I shall carry on in Jesus' name against your enemies and mine and meet you at the gate by and by.

Upon my return from Canada-July, 1933-I met Pettey. It was in the Gospel Advocate office. With hat in hand, with the other hand extended, and a smile upon his face, Pettey said, "Hello, Brother Jakel" in his usual manner. I was in a hurry to board the train for Texas, so Pettey said: "I'll be your redcap today and carry your baggage to the station." We talked of old times, the problems of the churches, his family and mine; we felt the thrill of love as at the train steps we clasped hands and said: "Good-by, Pettey; "Good-by, Jake." He went to his home in Tennessee as I sped to mine in Texas; but little did I think that that would be our last "good-by," but, alas, 'twas so.

Grieve, dear wife and companion; grieve, dear children. I would not dry your eyes if I could, for I know how lonely it will be for you here with a dark cloud hiding the sunbeam which meant so much to your home. I grieve with you. The world may not care, but Jesus does, and he alone can give you strength to carry on. A book has been written, read, and now it is closed to be opened at the judgment.

Back To Top

Signature of J. Pettey Ezell
Courtesy of Terry J. Gardner, 04.2010

Directions To The Grave Of J. Pettey Ezell

From I-65 at Bowling Green, Kentucky take Exit 26 (Hwy. 234). Go west on Hwy. 234 (Fairview Avenue) for about 2.0 miles. Enter the main entrance to the Fairview Cemetery on your right (north side of street). Ezell's marker is in Section D, about 2/3's of the way back in the cemetery on the east side. Section D is circular in shape. Stand at the Section D sign (on the south-west side of Section D) and see the large pecan tree in the middle of section D. To its right and farther back is a small maple tree. Ezell's marker is the third marker to the right (south) of the maple tree. It is about 50 feet east of the pecan tree. It is light gray in color, about 2 1/2 feet high and 4 feet wide. Cemetery 1 - Section D - Lot 84

GPS Coordinates
Grave Facing South
Accuracy to 17ft.

View Larger Map

Your Web Editor, Scott Harp, May 21, 2012
Photo by Tom L. Childers

Back To Top

Photos Taken May 29, 2007
Visited again May 21, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp

History Home

History Index Page