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Rev. Earlie L. Leonard
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Earlie Lee Leonard, a dedicated community leader who served in numerous capacities in the county, passed away on May 8 at the age of 90.
A native of Coosa County who returned in adulthood, Leonard was a well-known stalwart member of Coosa County, spending his life in dedication to his community and fellow human beings. He served in multiple areas, from church to elections and more.
Leonard was born in the Hissop community on June 21, 1931, and he attended Hissop School and Coosa County Training School.
He went on to serve in the military, serving in the Army in the 7th and 3rd Infantry Divisions and in the 31st Infantry of combat as a sergeant during the Korean War. He was even in Korea when the Armistice Agreement was signed, ending the Korean War.
Leonard was well accomplished in the military, having received the Combat Infantry, Korean Service and National Defense medals.
Following his military career and completing his high school education, Leonard continued his education by receiving his degree in carpentry at Lawson State Community College, formerly Wenonah State Technical Institute, in Birmingham.
However, Leonard felt called into the ministry and went on to receive his bachelor of arts degree in 1981 and bachelor of theology degree in 1982 from Birmingham Baptist Bible College.
His carpentry training led him into a lifelong career in construction, beginning his career in Birmingham where he worked in both the commercial and residential sectors. After returning to Coosa County, he continued in that line of work in other cities across the state.
Later in his career Leonard opened his own business, building and renovating family residences and churches for community members for more than 50 years.
Leonard was a member of New Home Missionary Baptist Church in Coosa County, and his life demonstrated how important his Savior and church were to him.
He was a quartet singer, church clerk and crusader chief, and he also served as the superintendent of Sunday school for 12 years and as a deacon for 14 years.
After being licensed on January 20, 1974, and ordained on July 21, 1974, he served as pastor of Mt. Sinai-West. He was also called to pastor Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Equality in 1974 and Mount Zion Baptist Church in Central in 1975, serving until his passing this month.
Known to be a faithful servant of God, Leonard literally served until the day he died, preaching his last sermon the morning of his passing.
In addition to his service as a pastor, Leonard also served as a member of the Morning Star District Missionary Baptist Association. Upon announcing his passing, the district association referred to Leonard as a “gospel preaching giant.”
Throughout his tenure as a pastor he was the secretary of the association, congress teacher, vice moderator, and moderator of the district. After completing 24 years of service, he was given the title of moderator emeritus.
He also served as the chairperson of the Moderator’s Department for the Northeast District State Convention for more than 20 years.
In addition to his faith, Leonard’s community was also of the utmost importance to him and was another top priority in his life.
He served on the Coosa County Farmers and Civic Association Board, the Coosa County Chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference, the J.D. Thompson Alumni Association, American Legion Post 339, and the Cottage Grove Chapter Order of Eastern Star. Additionally, he was a dedicated Mason, functioning as a worshipful master for Lodge 274 and as a district deputy.
In other local civic capacities, Leonard served on the Coosa County Board of Equalization for 24 years from 1994 to 2018, eventually serving as the chief inspector.
“He was a very vital part of our board,” Revenue Commissioner Debra Lamberth said. “I appreciate the years I was able to work with him.”
Leonard also served as the Cottage Grove precinct poll inspector. While there is no record of poll workers prior to 2016 to record the full length of time Leonard served in that capacity, Judge of Probate Richard Dean remembers him fondly from his years of working the polls and the friendship they shared.
“I first met Mr. Earlie when he was working the polls many years before I became probate judge,” Dean recalled. “He was the type person to whom one was immediately drawn and genuinely made you feel like a life-long friend. Over the years, Mr. Earlie and I had many conversations ranging from just chatting about the weather to religion to societal values and just ‘stuff.’ His knowledge and insight was always helpful; his wisdom was amazing. There is no telling how many lives in which he truly made a difference. Coosa County has lost a leader and friend; he left a legacy of life by example and footsteps we all should strive to follow.”
Leonard leaves not only a legacy in the community through his many dedicated years of service, but also a legacy through his family.
He married Lillian Mitchell on December 19, 1954, and the couple had four children, Irvin, DeJarvis, Vanessa, and Melissa.
Leonard is survived by his wife of 67 years, their four children, four siblings, seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and numerous other relatives and friends.