Saying goodbye to Pastor W. C. Hunter

Bishop W.C. Hunter and wife Peggy in 2002

We have lost a larger-than-life local hero.  W. C. Hunter, who was bishop and pastor of Chattanooga’s World’s Church of the Living God (and overseer of several others throughout the Southeast) has passed away at the age of 80.  In June, he lost his wife of 64 years, Peggy, and soon afterward he faced some serious health issues.  Still, when I heard he had died, it was hard to believe.  Even when he was frail, he was stronger than ten men.

W. C. Hunter ad from 1975

The first time I saw his name was back in the 1970s.  Someone gave me a copy of his book, “The Secrets to a Happy Marriage.” I saved it, figuring I might need it some day.  Sure enough, it is full of good advice.

When I was hosting the Morning Show on Channel 12 in 1984, I got a phone call, as they say, out of the blue.  The 4th of July was coming up, and it was hard to get guests to come in that early on a summertime holiday.  On the other end of the phone was W. C. Hunter.  “Would you like for me to come on your show on the 4th of July with some barbecue, and my famous Lay Row Catch A Mellow sauce?”  Needless to say, I told him yes.  Thus began a friendship that enriched my life.

His barbecue segment was fantastic (and so was the food). As the show ended, he said, “Listen, if you know of any charities that could use some help, I’ll do a city-wide barbecue, right in the middle of downtown, and give ’em all the proceeds.”  I just happened to know of an organization in need.  Orange Grove Center, which serves intellectually disabled children and adults in Chattanooga, was facing severe budget cuts.  He toured the facility with me, and he fell in love with the young people there.

A few weeks later, we set up the barbecue operation in Miller Park, not knowing what to expect. We were overwhelmed.  It was a hot summer day, and the aroma engulfed downtown Chattanooga.  Every office worker in town must have shown up, and we were woefully unprepared.  The lines were long, and Rev. Hunter’s troops were feverishly trying to catch up. Still, we raised a few thousand dollars for Orange Grove, and the following Monday he called and said, “Let’s do it again.  This time we’ll be ready for ’em!”  We did it several more times, raising tens of thousands for Orange Grove.

Pastor Hunter (2nd from left) with his amazing barbecue crew in 2012

I have a blooper stashed away somewhere, and unfortunately, I can’t find it at the moment. Until I do, you’ll just have to take my word for it. We were shooting a promo for one of the Orange Grove barbecues.  Each of us was wearing a chef’s hat, although only one of us was qualified to do so. Anyway, it should have been an easy, 30-second shoot, but one of us kept blowing our lines. It was me, the “TV professional.”  After several failed takes, and a lot of laughs, he looked into the camera and said, “Now I know what them movie stars have to go through!” I pretended to remove the lid of the bottle of barbecue sauce I was holding, and started “chugging” it.  He unleashed that thunderous laugh of his.  He was a joy to be around.

As the years and decades have flown by, we remained great friends.  If he saw something on the news about a family in need, he would call me and find out how he could help.  He never sought attention for this.  He did it quietly, behind the scenes.

My sons adored him.  From the time they were little, they were in awe of his speaking ability, and the incredibly talented singers and musicians in his church.  Not to mention the fact that his congregation truly enjoyed going to church, and being a part of the service.  I’ve said many times, I wish all churches displayed such joy and enthusiasm.  Attending his annual anniversary celebrations each December was a highlight of our year. (Click below for a 1984 barbecue sauce commercial: Pastor Hunter at his best)

In 2011, I had just published my first book, and he heard about it on TV.  “Stop by my house one day,” he said. “Bring me one, I’d like to read it.”  One day on the way back from Cleveland, I called him and said, “I’m coming right by your exit, would today be a good time?” “Absolutely, come on by,” he replied.

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, and I figured I would drop in, hand him the book, give him a hug, and head on back to work.  No, that’s not how it works when you visit W. C. Hunter.  “Sit down, I’m gonna make you a big bowl of banana pudding to take home.”  I figured it might take a few minutes, but that was an offer I couldn’t turn down.

About thirty minutes later, the pudding was ready, or so I thought.  He dipped a spoon into it, and tasted a sampling.  “Wait, this ain’t no good, I forgot the tapioca!”  I told him I’m sure it was still delicious, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  “Sit back down, I’m gonna get it right this time.  It ain’t going home with you if it ain’t right!”

As I nervously watched the clock, I wondered how my bosses would react if I showed up fifteen minutes late for the news.  “Where have you been?” they would ask.  “Uh, well, I was at Pastor Hunter’s house, and he didn’t make the pudding like he wanted it the first time, so…” Thankfully that conversation never took place.  I did cut it close, but I made it to work with a few minutes to spare, with a huge bowl of perfect banana pudding.  He knew good food, and if it came from his kitchen, it was perfect.

World’s Church of the Living God

He was a big part of my life, and I sure will miss that smiling face, and that big laugh.  I’m a better person for knowing him, and I’m among many thousands who can say the same.  My parents started “courting” in that very same church building in the 1940s, when it was East Chattanooga Church of God.  Then and now, it was a special place, with the finest people I have been blessed to know.

In 2010, I was asked to speak at one of Bishop Hunter’s anniversary celebrations.  Here is a text of what I said that day:

One of my favorite singers from my childhood was Bill Withers, who had “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean On Me” and a lot of other great songs.  He also recorded a song called “Grandma’s Hands” which isn’t as well known, but it’s equally great. 

I thought of that song when thinking of a way to thank, and to honor Pastor Hunter.  My wife and I were enjoying one of his great meals a while back and she said, “He sure has done a lot of good with his hands.”  And that is so true.

He has big hands….and he needs them, because he has carried so many people with those hands during his time here on earth.

How many times has he looked you in the eyes, waving those hands, pointing those hands, giving direction with those hands?

Think of all the times he’s used those hands to comfort people in pain, holding their hands, praying with them, consoling them, reassuring them, soothing them. “You’re gonna be all right. You just need a helping hand.”

Then there’s the times he’s used those hands a little more forcefully.  Sometimes he’s used those hands to make a point, or issue a stern warning.  “You better get in line, young man, (or young lady).”  Sometimes those hands got the message across, along with a facial expression.  You’ve all seen that face.

How many times have you seen those big hands reach toward heaven when he sings?  Or when he claps those hands in rhythm with the music? By the way, I knew he was a great speaker for several years, but it wasn’t until I visited this church that I heard him sing.  Man, he can sing.  But I’m supposed to be talking about his hands right now…so I’ll get back on subject.

I know there have been times when he’s used those hands to hold his head in despair…to scratch his head and ask himself, “What am I going to do?  How am I going to fix this?”  But he pulls himself up, gets busy and puts those hands right back to work.  Often he’ll ask for a helping hand.  It takes a big man to do that.  Some won’t.  He knows he can’t do it all himself, and he’s the first to share credit.  I complimented him on the great work on the church’s TV broadcast: the taping, the camera work, the editing.  He used that hand to point at Eugene Arnold, and said, “That’s him David, that’s all him.”

He probably doesn’t like to admit it, but I’m sure there are times when his hands don’t feel as good as they used to.  Those have been busy hands.  You stay on earth 74 years, and the aches and pains start to creep in. Sometimes those big hands start to swell, getting bigger than they’re supposed to. But still, the hands keep cooking, and clapping, and praying and comforting.

And a little pain won’t keep him those hands from cradling the face of a baby, or a teenager in need of some encouragement…or the love of his life, Mother Peggy.

It takes some big hands to lift you up when you fall, to wipe away your tears, to pull you back into life when you’re at your lowest point, to give you a hug when you’ve been deceived, or lost a job, or even lost a loved one…to get you back on your feet when it seems like no one cares. 

The last lines of that Bill Withers song are “I don’t have Grandma anymore.  If I get to heaven, I’ll look for Grandma’s Hands.”

I feel blessed to have known Pastor Hunter for the past 25 years, and always feel honored to spend some time with him, his family, and his church family.  I’ve seen first-hand so many of the good works he’s accomplished with his hands…

So Pastor Hunter, I want you to know that you are admired, and appreciated, and will always be a part of us.

Whenever a loved one passes away, I often wonder if they know how much they were loved. Today I have no doubt that W.C. Hunter knew he was loved.  And we know he loved us.  Thanks to his strong influence, his good works will live on forever through those he served.

Here is a video story I did on his 50th anniversary in 2014:

Here is the obituary information:

Bishop W. C. Hunter, 80, departed this earthly life, Sunday, December 11, 2016.  Born May 29, 1936 to the late Charles and Rosetta Parmes Hunter in Chattanooga, TN. He began his journey by starting bible classes with his kids and the neighbor’s kids.  After a while the adults began to join.   From this his ministry grew.  God blessed W. C. Hunter who became the founder and general overseer of The World’s Church of the Living God in Chattanooga, TN; Clanton, AL; Port St. Lucie, FL; Summerville, GA; Nashville, TN; and Atlanta, GA.  Bishop W. C.  Hunter was also known “Hunter” because of his culinary and entrepreneur skills.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Claudine “Peggy” Hunter; grandson, LaVagas Grundy; granddaughter, Melanie Hunter; adopted sons, Kirby and Reginald Marshall; and mother-in-law, Beatrice Swift.

Survivors include two sons, Charles (Latoya) Hunter, IV and Raymond Hunter; daughters, Claudia and Janice Hunter; adopted children; Robin Angel, Roberta Marshall, Jacqueline Fountain, Jimmy Allgood; brothers, Raymond, Doyle, Billy, and Bobby Hunter; sisters, Betty Rose Allgood-Patterson, Bobbe Harris, Emmagean Suttles, Mary Ann Hunter Graham, Caroletta Hunter-Cummings; twenty-two grandchildren; twenty-four great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; special friends, Dr. Tiundra Love, Dr. Nicole Harrington, David Fairbanks, Officer Ernest Craw, Commissioner John P. Franklin, Sr.; Dr. Don Franklin; David Carroll;  Dr. Terry Melvin; a host of other relatives and friends.

The funeral service will be held Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 11 AM at Memorial Auditorium.  Visitation will begin at 9 AM until time of service.  Interment – Hamilton Memorial Gardens.

About David Carroll

David Carroll is a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, and has anchored the evening news on WRCB-TV since 1987. He is the author of "Chattanooga Radio & Television" published by Arcadia.

58 thoughts on “Saying goodbye to Pastor W. C. Hunter

  1. Andrea Perry

    Just when I thought I was through crying, I read your blog about my pastor, and the tears flowed again. But so did the laughter. Thank you, David for this beautiful tribute to a truly amazing individual. I miss him more than my heart can express, but my life has forever been changed because I met W. C. Hunter. God bless you, my friend.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Mc Millian

      To have read the memories you just brought back so much joy and remembering our carrying Pastor, Koheleth
      He will surely be missed as well as his Beloved Wife
      Thank you the remembrance

      Reply
    2. Gloria A.Carr

      Amen amen so very true every word thanks again David Carroll for that great tribute I’m so very overwhelmed very sad but very grateful to thank the Lord for the opportunity not only to be a part of the ministry Bishop WC Hunter in the world’s Church of the Living God but also a part of his family thank the Lord for his teaching his love the only father I ever knew when I first got saved because I never knew my biological father words cannot express the love you shown to me and my family from day one over 45 years ago in February 1972 there was an incident in my home and it landed me in the hospital unconscious when I came to pastor WC. Hunter was standing over me saying you are right my daughter you going to be just fine and he said God has something good for you it was a Sunday morning and he said for me to come to church God has something great for you never knew that that day I would be saved in that day change my life forever the beginning of real life I gave my life and I remember so well that day when Pastor Hunter call for lost souls and asked if anyone wanted to be saved to come up here right now and God will save you and I remember trying to get up out of my seat and I couldn’t move and praise the Lord God sent at that time sister Jean McGregor and she took me by my hand and woke me up twice to put it and then a prophecy came through and said you have been running for me for a long time my daughter but he got me now I’m forever grateful for that love of a father he showed me even before I was saved and he taught me something and it has been instilled in me every since he said for I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me and I always remember the teaching and love he showed me how to be a good mother to my children and how to be a real lady how to carry myself and Exedra so I will truly miss and love you daddy and mama Peggy Hunter who also taught me how to be a real lady and how to respect and honor my husband such a wise woman very intelligent full of knowledge thank God for allowing her to share some of it with me and with us but we will never forget either of you I love both of you so very much love you forever sister Gloria Lindsey AKA Angel

      Reply
    3. Ruth Thomas

      I was saved by the teaching of God’s Word through Pastor Hunter. I loved and still love him very much. Ruth Thomas

      Reply
  2. Bridget

    I can’t stop the tears. Throughout they are mixed with sadness and joy. Bishop Hunter was greatly loved and thank you, Mr. Carroll, for loving him too.

    Reply
    1. Louise Bell

      Amen! Reading this post and comments had me in tears, but happy tears! I remember when Bishop first did his advertising in Miller Park. One day, I got off work and stop by there to visited a bus driver. I think his name was Eugene. I’m not for sure, but anyway he came up to me and told me to taste the BBQ and the sauce! I tell you that was the best tasting sauce that were on the market. Also, I remember him marrying my friend and her husband! Her name was Deborah Moore, I tell you the feeling that you got when you visit his church was awasome! RIP to Bishop and his wife!

      Reply
  3. Joy

    Ever memory I see of my Beloved Bishop makes my heart ache! He will be Greatly missed and his Legacy will live on!
    Thank you David Carroll

    Reply
  4. Margie Littell

    I had no idea that He had died…I watched him faithfully every Sunday. God will take good care of this good man.

    Reply
  5. Scottie L Smith Sr.

    I have a jacket that he gave me several years ago. We were at a outing one New Years day when I mentioned that the jacket he was wearing was unusual,and very beautiful. He said he had just bought it on a trip out of town. He then pulled it off and put it on me. Right then and there, he gave me this jacket which I later researched and found out it was very very expensive. Things meant nothing to him. He used things and never let things use him. It was easy for him to give away something that others would cherish and keep for themselves. Another “life’s lesson” learned, just being around him. One of so many. That was him though, always teaching.

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  6. Deidra Lindsey

    That was absolutely beautiful!!!! Thanks so much for sharing this. My pastor was truly a blessing in me and my families life. Without his teaching I don’t know how I would have turned out.. So thankful for the wisdom and unconditional love he has always showed me and my family. I will truly take his teaching with me throughout the rest of my life.. RIH Pastor Hunter you will forever be remembered.

    Reply
  7. Kelli Darden Jones

    My heart still hurts just knowing Pastor Hunter has taken his wings. He had a heart of gold a true man of God. My grandfather and entire family loved him and he so very kind to me. I know he is happy now with our Savior and Mrs. Hunter. Rest on you fought a good fight!

    Reply
  8. Cheeyl Thomas

    Beautiful..that’s our Pastor! Such a loving man who can never be replaced. May he rest peacefully in our Savior’s arms ❤..

    Reply
  9. Annetta

    That was a very touching and heartfelt tribute to Pastor Hunter. He was a great man and his memories will live on forever. Thank You David Carroll

    Reply
  10. Willie Mae Walker

    Thank you David Carroll for your kind words, our Pastor will be truly missed. Rest in heavenly peace our beloved Bishop W.C.Hunter.

    Reply
  11. Eugene Arnold

    Thank you David that was just beautiful!!! Bishop W C Hunter touch so many lives. Yes he’s going to be missed and never forgotten!!!!

    Reply
  12. creighton coffey

    I am overwhelmed with the words on Pastor Hunter’s life.
    He opened my eyes in the glory of the lord.
    I will miss his bible teachings. rip

    Reply
  13. Judie Brown

    Thank you David Carroll, for this wonderful words for our beloved mentor,
    Bishop, father, grandfather. I was blessed to be under Bishop Hunters ministry since the age of 15. I am now 56, and I can’t imagine what my life would have been without him introducing me to the Word of God and guiding my family. I have always admired your and Bishop Hunters bond, and was there the day you spoke about his hands. Then and now it moved me.
    Thank you again for a wonderful tribute!

    Reply
  14. Dwight Swindle

    Thank you, Mr. Carroll, for this tribute of Bishop Hunter. Scripture expresses my feelings better than my own words can “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him…wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

    Reply
  15. machelle

    Thank you, Mr. Carroll! Bishop touched a great deal many lives that transcended the lines of race, culture, age and religion. Thank you for being our friend!

    Reply
  16. Carline Swindle

    Thank you Mr. David Carroll. This was a wonderful article. RIP Bishop W.C. Hunter your legacy will live forever.

    Reply
  17. Dianna

    Thank you David for such an awesome tribute to our beloved BISHOP … He was so loved by many … I had tears reading. About my Bishop but your so write his Hands touched many … He will be missed ??? for his family and ⛪ family

    Reply
  18. Mario Bradford

    The most wonderful man I have ever known… helped so many people throughout his journey in life. I am so proud to say you were my friend, my mentor, my inspiration. I love you so much and will miss you and grandmother. Your loving grandson, Mario J. Bradford.

    Reply
  19. Sgt. Cherilyn Bryant

    Truely a man of God. His legacy will live on because of the wisdom he gave us and the things he spoke into our lives we will cherish and carry on. Through us he will continue to live.

    Reply
  20. Phillip Moss

    Thank you so much sir. I was actually one of the barbecue crew members in the photo in this tribute. I had the distinct opportunties and privilege to work closely with Bishop Hunter. He will be greatly missed!

    Reply
  21. Charlene W McMichael

    Thank you Mr.Carroll for sharing, I remember your first visit with us.Our Bishop always smiled when he spoke of you. RIP Bishop W.C. Hunter we love you dearly.

    Reply
  22. LaTefa Terry

    Thanks David Carroll for such an amazing tribute to our beloved Bishop! His life and the teaching of the word of God has blessed my life and so many others. Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt testimony. His legacy will continue through the lives of so many of us. I am forever grateful to have been a protégé. Bishop Hunter is truly missed and will never be forgotten!

    Reply
  23. Antoine

    Bishop W.C. Hunter will be greatly missed. He was an extraordinary man who blessed soooo many people with his teachings and his philanthropy work throughout the city of Chattanooga. His famous saying was “train up a child in the way he should go and as they grow old they’ll never depart from it” Thank you Pastor Hunter for training us. We will NEVER depart from your teachings. Well done thou good and faithful servant!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  24. Jameca West

    Absolutely Beautiful Tribute… Thank you so much for your loving words. Our Pastor will be missed greatly.. Again Thank Mr. Carroll.

    Reply
  25. Rita Lorraine Hubbard

    Thanks so much Mr. Carroll. What a beautiful tribute and lasting memory you’ve given us. It was so wonderful seeing you be a part of the celebration each year. Bishop Hunter loved you just as much as you loved him. He will truly be missed, but the wisdom and kindness he shared with us will live on. Thanks again!

    Reply
  26. Carol King

    Bishop Hunter was truly a man of God. That is what I loved about him. I remember many years ago his prophecies about the world events and many laughed, but they came to pass. I also remember the power of God being on him so heavily until I passed completely out that is when and where I first believed. Although I was a babe in Christ when I was with him, I knew that his ministry was real. Sadly I made some wrong decisions following my heart and my life went to almost nothing, The Bishop was always sadden when sheep fell along the wayside. After many years of trying to pull myself together, I finally made it. The Bishop visited me on my new job and all I could see was a big smile. He was always happy to someone get up out the gutter. I visited his church from time to time and I always enjoyed the service. It was like going back home where I first believed. I joined the church that my family are in and today I live for the Lord. I know that the Bishop is proud of me ; I loved him as my earthly father. I will see him again and I know his crown will be awaiting for him. Glory Hallelujah!

    Reply
  27. Luther Daniel IV

    Thank you very very much Mr. David Carroll. He was a wonderfully great man. Your tribute captured that!! He loved and cared for people. He touched and influenced so many lives just like God meant for him to. There will never be another man like him! True man of God! We thank God for the times we shared with him! Thanks again for your beautiful tribute!!

    Reply
  28. Mary

    Thanks for writing such a beautiful tribute about the servant of God, Bishop Hunter. He was truly a Man of God, who loved God’s people. I thank God for my overseer and his wife. They were one of a kind. You could see their love for each other and the saints of God. He had a big heart. His teaching was the word of God and how we should walk before God.
    He will be missed. But he finished the course God set before him without fear or recourse. May he rest in peace.

    Reply
  29. Heather Eldridge

    Thanks David Carroll for a wonderful tribute. My pastor Bishop Hunter will truly be missed. He truly touched so my people lives and had the biggest heart unconditional love for all.

    Reply
  30. Stephanie Powell

    Thank you for such an awesome tribute to our Beloved Bishop W.C. Hunter. He was truly a remarkable man and will be greatly missed.
    We love you always Bishop,
    Pastor Eddie Powell and Family

    Reply
  31. Charles Hunter IV

    Thank you so very much my friend, for the loving and kind memories you shared, about the times with my father. It touched me greatly, and give me comfort to know so many people loved him. Thank you again!

    Reply
  32. Roman knight

    Haven’t lived in Chattanooga since 2007 but bishop will always be my bishop reading this brought peace to me although he’s gone his legacy will never die. Forever greatful our Lord gave us a great teacher and mentor

    Reply
  33. Teresa Bak

    What a Beautiful and Heartfelt Tribute, Jesus met him at The Gate and said, Well Done Thy Good and Faithful Servant.
    I did not have the Pleasure to meet Bishop Hunter, but I was Blessed reading about his faithful life. God Bless all who Knew and loved him.

    Reply
  34. Zephanie

    Thank you so very much for this heartfelt tribute David Carroll!
    Oh how I’m gonna miss my pastor! God used him to change my life from a small girl!!! Because of him, I was introduced to my heavenly Father! There will never be another man like him. His legacy will for sure live on!

    Reply
  35. Fenesa Russell

    What a beautiful, sincere and spot on tribute. Speaking on behalf of the younger generation Pastor Hunter was always relatable. He encompassed a special love for young people one filled with the most honorable intentions with goal to teach us about Jesus and providing us with the knowledge to survive in this world. He always encougaed us to advance our education and be of Service to others. I too remain forever grateful to have known such a magnificent man. Thank you for writing this article so others may be privaliged to know what a treasure Chattanooga has loss.

    Reply
  36. Debra Cooper

    David, you are a talented writer. I didn’t know this pastor, but after reading your tribute, I surely wish I had.

    Reply
  37. Samaria White

    Thank you Mr Carroll. If an individual didn’t know what type of person that our Pastor was now they know. You gave so many beautiful examples of who he was and what he taught and shared with so many others. He will be missed but never forgotten.

    Reply
  38. William H. Orange

    David I don’t know you but I did know Bishop Hunter he was my Bishop for years, I see you knew him very well and I agree with everything you said about him. He was an inspiration to me the very first time I heard him speak, as you said he was always ready to help the needed and lend a helping hand. I have always admired him he will be truly missed. My condolences to The Hunter Family. I pray that Almighty God will cover your family with His Spirit of Consolation during this time of bereavement.

    Reply

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