Lawrence Pryor Perry ~ Biography
LAWRENCE PRYOR PERRY (1921-1989) was the son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. He was a prolific preacher who was a beloved colleague of many other clergypersons. Lawrence and his wife Artelia were the father of 16 children, who taught their children to love God, to maintain a strong work ethic, and to educate themselves to contribute to society and their own families. His children thus developed as dedicated members of their religious communities and highly contributing citizens.
Lawrence graduated from Hillside High School in 1940, having been an outstanding player on the unbeaten Hillside Hornet football team. He then attended North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) for two years, continuing to be a star football player—an athlete who was known to be able to “beat other athletes at their own game.” In 1942, he married Artelia Belle Marsh, the daughter of Isaiah H. Marsh, who as Preacher’s Steward, occupied the lead lay position in St. Mark Church. Soon afterwards, Lawrence and Artelia began their family while living in Chester, PA as Lawrence worked for Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company as a 1st class welder building tankers during World War II. Later, he himself served in War as a soldier in the U.S. Army. After service, he was as an insurance salesman with the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company for six years and served as a dedicated worker with the psychiatric nursing service at the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital for 23 years.
He remained an active member of St. Mark until his ordination into the ministry in 1958. He pastored for 19 years in the Central North Carolina Conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev. Perry’s most noted service was his pastorate of Grace A.M.E. Zion in Raleigh. In 1962, the presiding bishop appointed Lawrence to Grace Church after the long-term minister decided to begin another church outside of the Zion denomination and took almost all the members with her to the new church. As a result of his leadership, a congregation was reestablished and the building was totally renovated. Today, a large congregation and the same building stand as a testament to his work.
Serving as an energetic pastor and a working in a fulltime secular job, Lawrence provided for the 16 children born to him and Artelia, his wife of 47 years. The legacy that Lawrence Perry left his children is a strong one: the dignity of a good name, an indefatigable work ethic, obedience in doing the work laid to one’s hand without apology or fear, a commitment to family, the genius of making ends meet when the needs and resources are worlds apart, the unsullied enjoyment of competitive sport, —but most importantly of all: the love of the almighty God and the “godly grief [which] produces a repentance that leads to salvation...”
(2 Corinthians 7:10).
On Sunday morning, June 4, 1989, Lawrence died after 12 years of serious illness. During his illness, he never ceased to delight in the prayers, Scriptures, and songs uttered in the name of the living God. On the day of the week that had given him such joy and fulfillment throughout his life, he died quietly and peacefully at his home as he slipped away to his rest.