Oral History Project
Interview with Dr. Jack and Carolyn Fleming
October 12, 2016 | 2:30pm
Recorded at the home of Jack and Carolyn Fleming
Transcribed by Jeb Hunt
Debra Tallman: I am going to start with “What originally brought you to First Church?
Carolyn Fleming: The people. Jack and I had visited around. Different churches, because he was a member of the Christian church, though I was a Methodist in Georgia, my hometown. So, anyway. We went to Methodist, the Methodist church and then Marjorie Hart and Margaret…help me…Margaret…Margaret…
Jack Fleming: Margaret…Margaret…
Carolyn Fleming: Come on Jack…I’ll come back to it.
Jack Fleming: Yeah. Yeah.
Carolyn Fleming: Everybody knows Margaret. She was a wonderful ex…what do you call…extroverted person.
Jack Fleming: Ambassador.
Carolyn Fleming: Anyway. They made the difference. And it shows you what people do because that helped us to decide which one of these wonderful churches we were going to join. And we joined right away and I’m trying to this if it was McKnight when we started. I can’t quite remember. Dan came later, I think. But all of the ministers were wonderful and Paul McKnight…
Jack Fleming: No… Paul Duffey!
Carolyn Fleming: Paul Duffey! Paul Duffey was a favorite of everybody, you know, and always had a wonderful smile and his sermons stayed with you. They were very moving and the delivery went along with it. You want to add to that Jack?
Jack Fleming: I’ve said that his wife would say “All the ladies are crazy about Paul, but I’ve got him!
Carolyn Fleming: (Laughing) I’ve thought about that many times and I apply it to Jack! It was the same thing! I got him!
Debra Tallman: So that kind of says why…
Jack Fleming: I got you!
Debra Tallman: …I know, you’ve got each other. (So that kind of says)…why you decided to stay at First Church and call it your home church.
Carolyn Fleming: Right.
Debra Tallman: What are some experiences or stories that have made a lasting impact on your life or the life of your family? (pause) Want me to read it again?
Carolyn Fleming: I’ve got it. So many, I’m trying to choose. Maybe just any ol’ Sunday would do, because they were all an important part of our growing up together with our children and the church was just part of our structure as a family. And I am grateful.
Jack Fleming: Right.
Debra Tallman: How has First Church changed over the years? Or has it?
Carolyn Fleming: Oh, I think it has. I can remember when we first joined there were still people who were torn by the racial conflicts and they weren’t all tolerant on one side or the other. So that changed and thank goodness. And I feel that our church led the way.
Jack Fleming: That was a prevailing problem…
Carolyn Fleming: Yes, and our ministers helped us become a tolerant, welcoming church. And that was not only church, but outside of church. And, thanks again.
Jack Fleming: Which was not true for all ministers at that time.
Carolyn Fleming: That’s right. It’s hard to realize that that happened that way.
Debra Tallman: Yeah, he is going to cut this part out, and just know that I can’t talk while you are talking, but I remember talking to J. B. Nichols and you know he was in Selma during…
Jack and Carolyn: Oh yeah…
Debra Tallman: …and then he came to our church and of course he felt so strong about it and, and it was tough because a lot of people, I think there was a rub for a while…
Jack Fleming: Yes…
Debra Tallman: I think…you know…Bishop Duffey didn’t have that slant and then when J. B. came it was difficult, so you are…and then Powers McLeod came and then it was totally different and we’ve had some really…Bob Dickerson…we’ve had some really amazing…
Carolyn Fleming: and Paul Duffey
Jack Fleming: Some amazing personalities.
Debra Tallman: They really were, weren’t they?
Jack Fleming: Yeah.
Jeb Hunt: Yeah, I just love.. That is exactly what we are trying to capture here too. Because we know the history but we don’t know how it has impacted and the social dynamics and so like I was smiling so big when I started to hear you say that because that’s what this is all about.
Carolyn Fleming: Absolutely. The minister was the public faith…face….of the church but it was the people in back of that mainly that we loved and felt close to.
Jack Fleming: I think J. B. loved a good fight anyway and so he was glad to take and put on the gloves and he was right, but it didn’t suit some people.
Carolyn Fleming: Well, J. B. was a fighter as was Powers McLeod, when fighters were necessary to get started. It’s been a long road and I feel like we’ve made great progress and I’m glad that I’ve lived to see it. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was very, very young and some very nice black person who was passing our house called to me and I crossed the highway to meet here and she said “I just want to give you something.” And she said, “Hold out your hand.” And I did. And she gave me a quarter. I should have saved that quarter but I have to admit that child-like, I spent it! But it’s…what she did staid with me all my life. And I’ve had very close relationships with a lot of people like her and they made my life better and Jack’s too.
Jack Fleming: Right.
Carolyn Fleming: One of them was Mary Brown who was a teacher and also came to help my mother cook for a party and she was a remarkable person. She was a woman of the year, I believe in Monroe County. So I had a lot of examples of people like that that gave me something to steer by.
Jack Fleming: She was one of the most impressive people we ever knew, I think.
Carolyn Fleming: Right.
Jack Fleming: Her name was Mary Brown.
Carolyn Fleming: Every time we went back to Forsyth, which was my home town, we would go out and see Mary in her house and she was a teacher when she wasn’t cooking and a really remarkable person and made a place in our life. And I remember that when her friends and family had a party for her in their fellowship hall, Jack got up and unannounced sang a song to Mary…(to Jack)…Do you remember what it was?
Jack Fleming: Yes…Ms. America.
Carolyn Fleming: Yea (laughing) And they loved it! And I was proud of him.
Debra Tallman: You two are a treasure. Alright, I got another one for you. How have the ministries of First Church impacted your life? Share with us one or two of the missions that held special interest for you.
Carolyn Fleming: I’ll have to think about that.
Debra Tallman: Alright.
Carolyn Fleming: (to Jack) You go first.
Debra Tallman: And if that is one you don’t want to answer, we will go on to….I mean, it’s not imperative that you answer every one. If it doesn’t click just say…
Jack Fleming: Well, I’ll gladly say…We’ve always felt close friendship with all the ministers there. I was thinking that there was one, maybe not…
Carolyn Fleming: (laughing) Don’t say that!
Jack Fleming: No, I mean, it wasn’t…it wasn’t that we didn’t like him, it was just that we didn’t have that same…
Carolyn Fleming: You mean you disagreed with him? That’s not the same thing.
Jack Fleming: Right. No, I’m saying we had a close feeling, a close…what’s the word…fellowship with all of them.
Carolyn Fleming: And each one had his own influence on us.
Debra Tallman: Do you have any favorite memories during worship time at First Church?
Carolyn Fleming: Let me think about that a minute.
Jack Fleming: Well. I always felt worship, what I was singing, and I often sang “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” I said it as a prayer. I felt very….deep fellowship with the people there.
Carolyn Fleming: And whenever I heard him sing I hope I sang his prayer with him, silently. But Jack does have a wonderful, sweet voice. And people have always warmed up to him and I was always beaming with pride whenever he sang, because he was my Jack!
Jack Fleming: Well, thank you!
Debra Tallman: Ok, how about the physical footprint of the church…has greatly changed over the last..
Jack Fleming: Oh yes…
Debra Tallman: …many, many years. Tell us some of your memories about our sanctuary and other church buildings as they’ve changed.
Carolyn Fleming: Well I think every improvement has been just that, an improvement. And made us wonder “how did we ever do without it?” And we look back and think, we’ll maybe we didn’t have as many people then but somehow the church keeps growing and keeps pace with its members, I believe. Even when it doesn’t have money it makes it.
Debra Tallman: What makes First Church unique?
Carolyn Fleming: The people. They change but I have very acute memories of some of the people who are no longer with us and they surely influenced our lives and I want to give special thanks for them. Older people who meant a great deal to us.
Jack Fleming: There is a phrase I’m trying to capture that I can’t quite put together right now but I’ll come back to it.
Debra Tallman: Ok. I’ll ask you again.
Jack Fleming: Ok.
Debra Tallman: Ok. Alright. And what does First Church mean to you?
Carolyn Fleming: Well, many things. It was a security, safety, but more than that it was always pointing to something higher than we could possibly reach but wanted to keep trying. And I always was proud of it for that.
Jack Fleming: Well, there was a camaraderie that was a one of…that manifested particularly in the get-togethers at Jan and Herb Hulbert’s house. That’s when there was just wonderful fellowship and everyone seemed to have a common purpose and just a warm feeling just to think about it.
Carolyn Fleming: I agree.
Debra Tallman: I like “the common purpose.” There was a purpose. And what would you say is your vision for First Church as we look to the future.
Carolyn Fleming: To continue with the feeling of mission and of it’s place in Pensacola and what it needs to keep doing. Pointing us to things that we might not reach at the same time but hope to by working on it. And I think… I give a lot of credit to our ministers and one that I do want to mention his name, not in place of or above any of the other ministers but he certainly was a special person and that is Paul Duffey, now we would call him Bishop. And he deserved to be. He was a really loving man. You saw it in his face…
Jack Fleming: And heard it in his voice…
Carolyn Fleming: And his voice…and his laugh. He was what we needed at that time.
Debra Tallman: Dr. Fleming I’m going to go back to that question when I asked you “What do you think is unique about First Church?”
Jack Fleming: I think the people who, some of whom we’ve cited and that…well it’s unique for us in that we had been in a very small church out in Washington state when I was in the service and I never quite experienced anything like that. The whole church was about as big as this room, but it was one of the most spiritual places I had ever been. And I was in the army at Camp Hanford where the atomic bomb was …what was…what did they have there…
Carolyn Fleming: Made?
Jack Fleming: Yeah.
Carolyn Fleming: Hanford.
Jack Fleming: At any rate it was a part of the defense and you had a consciousness of the seriousness of the world conflict there and we were all on the edge of seeing the civilization and it seemed like that was…it was participating in the world conflict and they had what they called the forward area where they…an atomic energy plant, up and down the river there, the Columbia River and it was our job to go out and we were stationed in the small town of Kennewick but periodically they always want the doctors to be with the troops who were stationed in these little towns…they were just checking over towns…there was a whole little area of small towns and when they moved in they just moved them out and move in…the city still had churches and schools which weren’t occupied because they just moved them out, but it was so visible to see how ominous the world situation was there.
Carolyn Fleming: And I’ll add to that…I never saw what Jack saw because we weren’t allowed out there, but it made a great impression on me and though of those people who were moved out of their homes and would never ever in their lifetime be able to go back and see it was something I wrestled with along time. We sort of lived on the edge, but I don’t think we were always daily aware of that.
Debra Tallman: Right. I’m sure you weren’t. That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that. Anything you want to add? Anything you want to say just spontaneously?
Carolyn Fleming: I can only say that I have lived a life that has meant a great deal to me and I wouldn’t change anything. I love my family and all that they have brought to us. And I love the memory of all the people I’ve met because they have become a part of me and I remember so much. Many of the conversations we had and how that affected me as I met people who came from different backgrounds and didn’t share my opinions. So, I’m thankful.
Jack Fleming: I think personified by such strong people as J. B. and…
Carolyn Fleming: Paul Duffey
Jack Fleming: Paul Duffey, of course, and the Hulberts.
Carolyn Fleming: And Johnny Hoefflin. Let’s say Johnny Hoefflin and Iris.
Jack Fleming: He was a strong personality and each one of them made a very deep impact in our lives. I’d say each of them was a special person.
Carolyn Fleming: And if they affected us you can imagine what they meant to the church. They were special people.
Debra Tallman: Well, and I dare say that they would say the same of you.
Carolyn Fleming: Oh, I don’t know.
Debra Tallman: That you…Carolyn, you did. You’ve made a huge impact on that church and you are generous time and giving to our church is so appreciated.
Carolyn Fleming: Well, I’m appreciative to Jack for being willing to change his church which was still here in Pensacola. He could have gone there, but he was willing to go with me to First Methodist, and he changed his membership and we were happy, together, and the family grew up in it.
Jack Fleming: Amen.