A Pastor Leader: R. Leonard Carroll

R. Leonard Carroll
R. Leonard Carroll

AMON LEONARD CARROLL Sr. served as the general overseer of the Church of God from 1970 to 1972. Carroll preached at the South Carolina State Prayer Conference on January26, 1972, and then returned to his home in Cleveland, Tennessee. He felt tired and went to bed. During the night he suffered a massive heart attack and died, becoming the second general overseer to die in office.

Carroll was born in Franklin County, Georgia, on October 3, 1920. His father was killed when Carroll was 2 years old, and his mother moved to Greenville, South Carolina. As a teen he started attending a Baptist church and was saved when he was 14.

As a premed student at Furman University in Greenville, Carroll was placed in a class full of ministerial students where he was the only non-minister major. One day, the professor stated the blood of Jesus Christ was a myth, and many of the ministerial students agreed. This shook Carroll.

That evening he and his mother were standing in the kitchen next to a wood-burning stove. She noticed he was preoccupied and asked him about it. At first he ignored her, but her penetrating eyes provoked a response. He explained what happened in class.

They knelt down by the big wood box, and she prayed for him, asking God to “tie the professor’s tongue. . . . Let it cleave to the roof of his mouth.”

The next day, Carroll was called by the professor to respond in class to the previous day’s discussion. He stood and said, “I believe in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It has washed me and has made me clean.”

The professor was startled. When he tried to react, his tongue lay in his mouth like a slab of stone. God had answered prayer, and Carroll was convinced of the power of Christ’s blood.

Carroll graduated from Furman University and later earned his master’s and doctor of education degrees from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Carroll was the first Church of God general overseer to earn a doctor’s degree. At the age of 31, he was appointed as president of Lee College.

Dr. Carroll served as a pastor for 17 years and was serving as pastor of Lenoir City, Tennessee, when he was elected as a member of the Executive Committee. While pastoring Lenoir City, he was preparing a sermon. A knock came on his door, and it was his son, who wanted to talk.

Leonard Jr. said, “Dad, I’m going off to school tomorrow, and I just could not get out of this house until I told you a few things.” His chin began to quiver, and he continued: “Have I ever made you think I wasn’t proud that you are my dad? Have I ever stuck my feet under your table and made you think I was not thankful for the food that was prepared for me—and for all you have done for me?”

“Son,” Carroll said, “Stand up.” Carroll hugged his son, kissed him, and said, “Son, whatever you do, don’t ever think you are not part of me. If there is anyone who I want to see do better than me, it is you.” (Leonard Jr., the Carrolls’ only child, is a successful surgeon.)

They prayed together, cried, and laughed. As Junior walked down the hall, he said, “I just had to be sure.”

Carroll closed the door to his study, took the Bible, and laid it on the floor. He knelt down beside the Bible and asked the Lord the same questions his son had asked. Christ assured him that He was pleased with the ministry of His child.

This article is excerpted from Called to Serve: Biographies of Church of God General Overseers (Pathway Press, 2014). Doug LeRoy, retired, is the former director of Church of God World Missions.