Dr. Bill Perry, the beloved longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Statesboro, passed away Thursday. He was 80.
Dr. Perry served as pastor for Statesboro’s First Baptist Church from 1981-2004 and upon retirement, he became Pastor Emeritus of the church. Also, he served many other area churches and was at Twin City Baptist at the time of his death.
“Both our church and community have suffered a deep loss with the passing of Dr. Perry,” said current First Baptist Pastor Dr. John Waters, who succeeded Perry in 2004. “For more than two decades, he was not only a faithful pastor of this church but also a statesman in the community and an ambassador for Bulloch County.
“One of our primary buildings, the Perry Fellowship Hall, bears his name, but the legacy of Dr. Bill Perry is best measured in the hearts and lives of the people he touched. This community is richer, better and greater because of his faithful, selfless service.”
Perry was an active member of the Statesboro community, volunteering for numerous civic organizations and helping others whenever he could. He served on the board of the Bulloch County Chapter of the American Heart Association for 25 years, and he demonstrated his commitment by raising thousands of dollars for heart and stroke research through benefit walks from Statesboro to Tybee Island, St. Simon’s Island and Hilton Head Island.
As word spread of Dr. Perry’s passing Thursday, dozens of people posted tributes to him on Facebook.
“Dr. Bill Perry was one of the best men I have ever known,” posted Gail Hooks Greenway. “He preached the word of God, but more importantly he lived that message every day. His life was a great exemplar for all Christians to aspire.”
“If ever the phrase ‘our loss is heaven’s gain’ were true, it is true now with the passing of Dr. Bill Perry,” wrote Sharri Edenfield in her post. “It’s hard to fathom what Statesboro will be like without him. It feels like I’ve lost a member of my family, and I guess I have. We all have, regardless of whether you went to church with him, were in a civic club with him, or just ended up getting a cup of coffee the same place he did. He was like that. He made friends everywhere he went.”
Known by many for his charming sense of humor, Dr. Perry frequently shared jokes with close friends and would often post them to Facebook.
As an example, on August 28, he posted: “History says that Primitive Humans would beat the ground with clubs and scream. We call it golf.”
Humanitarian of the Year
In addition to his charitable efforts, Dr. Perry was known for helping wherever there was a need. His works did not go unnoticed in the community and in 2009, he was named the Statesboro Herald Humanitarian of the Year during the Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards Banquet.
In introducing Perry as the recipient of the honor, Raybon Anderson said:
“How do you take the measure of a man? He’s an avid golf enthusiast, he’s a man of wit and humor, a counselor to anyone in need of a sympathetic ear, he’s a supporter of causes great and small, he is always a friend to mankind and he is a man of God.”
And Dr. Perry was modest in accepting the award. “This is a community of giving people and there are so many who deserve this so much more than I,” he said. “I’m just an eccentric old man who does crazy things. Thank you so much. We love Statesboro so much and we’re honored to be here.”
When he arrived in Statesboro to become pastor at First Baptist in 2004, Dr. Waters recalled Dr. Perry’s generosity.
“To follow a pastor like Bill Perry was indeed a daunting task,” he said. “I was only 40 years old when I arrived in Statesboro to assume my role shortly after his retirement, but I received nothing but encouragement, support, and grace from him. Several times throughout the years, he would call me on Saturday before a milestone moment on Sunday to pray with me and cheer me on.”
Born in Florida
Perry was born in Live Oak, Fla., in 1941. He attended seminary at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he earned a Master of Theology degree in 1967, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1976.
Before coming to Statesboro, Dr. Perry served as pastor of churches in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as First Baptist churches in Pelham and Hawkinsville, Ga. He is a past chairman of the Baptist Village Trustees; chairman of the Board of the Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes; president of the Georgia Baptist Pastors Conference and a member of the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee.
Also, Dr. Perry served as president of the Rotary Club of Statesboro; on the Statesboro Regional Library Board, and the Board of Ogeechee Area Hospice.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret, of Statesboro, Georgia; his two daughters, Laura (Darrell) Myers of Grafton, Ohio; Gayla (John) Bennett of Gainesville, Georgia, and his three sisters, Janet Stainer of Tallahassee, Florida, Karen Capps of Raleigh, NC, and Sue (Don) Hunter of Live Oak, Florida. Bill was the proud grandfather of six grandchildren and two grand daughters-in-law: JD, Jamie, and Julianne Myers; and Drew (Olivia), Grant (Catelyn), and Jacob Whaley. He was an uncle to many nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his father Harvey, his mother Kathryn, his son Jon Bill, and his son-in-law Ken Whaley.
The family will receive visitors on Sunday, October 24, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the chapel of Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home in Statesboro.
Funeral services will be Monday, October 25, at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church Statesboro with Rev. Drew Whaley, Rev. Darrell Myers and Dr. John Waters officiating.
Dr. Perry will lie-in-state in the church sanctuary one hour prior to the service.
Interment will be in Eastside Cemetery in Statesboro.
Pallbearers will be his grandsons and sons-in-law.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Statesboro First Baptist Church Nursing Ministry, 108 North Main Street, Statesboro, Ga. 30458.