Son of a Preacher Man: The Unknown Spurrier

Rev. J. Graham Spurrier, 1915-2000

“My dad was the most uncomplicated person I’ve ever known in the world. He believed the Bible from the front to the back. If the Bible said Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days then you know what? Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days. There was none of this stuff about how the story might have been exaggerated or interpreted differently over the years. My dad believed it exactly the way it was written. He kept things very simple.”

 

University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier’s Father, the Rev. J. Graham Spurrier, died in 2000 at the age of 85. He was a Presbyterian minister whose last years were in the Presbyterian Church in America. Mr. Spurrier was a graduate of Columbia Bible College and Columbia Theological Seminary. He served churches in Eudora, AR, St. Albans, WV, Miami Beach, FL, Athens, TN, Newport, TN, Johnson City, TN, Dillon, SC, and St. Petersburg, FL. He retired in 1979 and moved to Green Cove Springs, FL, where he died at his home.

He was married for almost 50 years, and had three children, two sons and a daughter. He baptized all eight of his grandchildren and seven is his eight great grandchildren. The baptism of the eighth was scheduled for later in the month is his death.

Following are some things about Graham Spurrier shared by Steve at the funeral and in an interview.

As a 145lb. Guard at Erskine College: He liked to tell people he wasn’t very good [in football], but he did get two letters in one season. The first letter was from the coach in midseason asking him, very politely, to please quit the team. The second came from the athletic director, saying he was going to get kicked out of school if he didn’t return all the socks and T-shirts.”

As a Tennis Player: “Uncle Bob used to tell me that when Dad missed an easy shot, he’d have a tendency to sometimes fling that racquet into the net or against the fence. So when I throw things …”

As a Moving Minister: “He moved around a bit. Ministers, sometimes when it’s not going really well in a church, you have got to move around. Just like coaches do.”

As a Preacher: “My dad was the most uncomplicated person I’ve ever known in the world. He believed the Bible from the front to the back. If the Bible said Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days then you know what? Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days. There was none of this stuff about how the story might have been exaggerated or interpreted differently over the years. My dad believed it exactly the way it was written. He kept things very simple.”

As a Babe Ruth Coach: “OK, how many of you boys believe that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game? Well, you can all put your hands down because I don’t believe in that statement. I believe it does matter if you win or lose, and we’re going to try and win. Anytime you keep score, you’re supposed to try and win.”

As a Father: “He was one of those dads who always thought I could do better, and he was right. He didn’t flatter me and pamper me and tell me how great I was as a kid. I could score 35 points in a youth league basketball game, and he’d talk about the free throw I missed or the careless foul I committed.”

As a Christian: “The way he approached life, there was never a chance of him ever being depressed. Because he was such a sincere Christian, his faith kept him happy. The last 15 or 20 years of his life, he would talk excitedly about dying and going to heaven. He’d always say, ‘I can’t wait to get to heaven.’ I can’t help but thinking that when he had trouble breathing that night a few weeks ago, he said to himself, ‘It’s time for me to move on out of here and get to a better place.’ ” And, “He was the most prepared person to leave this earth I have ever known. He looked forward to this day. He was looking forward to going to heaven, to going to a better place.”

As a Dad: “I just thank God that I was lucky enough to have a dad like my dad.”

On Losing Him: ”You sort of prepare for this day. When it happens, I guess, 50 years of memories flash by. I certainly feel very fortunate that I had my dad. He fought a good fight, ran a good race. Now, his mission on earth is done.”

Bill Smith is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church of America. He is a writer and contributor to a number of Reformed journals and resides in Jackson, MS. This article first appeared at his blog and is used with his permission.