Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of two stories highlight a new exhibit of local authors at the Madison County Museum.
Thena Wilson Parrott now resides in the Edge community, just a bit west of the Brazos River. She grew up mostly in Madison and Brazos counties and graduated from Madisonville High School in 1968. She enjoyed a long career in nursing and as a nursing instructor and now calls herself retired. However, she hasn’t totally given it up, staying quite busy writing and teaching part-time. She has had numerous articles published in nursing journals and also co-authored portions and chapters of several professional tomes. As a sixth generation Texan, she is working on a book of her own family memories and history. She is also currently an editor/reviewer for two nursing journals and two book publishers. Most importantly for readers here, Thena edits “Museum Musings.” She and yours truly both benefitted from the teachings of Louise Knight and we speak the same language
Lucille McGill Bates (1913-2011) was born near North Zulch but her family moved to the Midway area when she was quite young. She married Brooks Bates in 1933, received a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1937, and got her master’s degree in Education from there in 1954. Mrs. Bates began her career teaching in Cobbs Creek School, went on to Dingerville and Elwood and other Madison County schools, and retired in 1971 after 33 years. Also in 1971, her book, entitled “Walter McGill – Preacher and Penman,” was published. The subject was Mrs. Bates’s paternal great-grandfather who was born Tennessee in 1807 and died in Limestone County, Texas, in 1878. He was one of the earliest serious writers in Tennessee, writing three books, two of which were published. Mrs. Bates loved history and worked hard getting both of our county history books done.
LeRoy Stanton (1925-2009) authored two books, “We Can be Better People” and “The Door of Hope — Good Gumption Guides for Happy Lives.” He was Methodist minister for 36 years, two of those in North Carolina and 34 in Texas, with nine of those latter here in Madisonville. In 1979, he attended a school of Dr. and Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale, and he was inspired by Dr. Peale to publish summaries of his sermons. The summaries were mailed to the congregation at no charge as missionary outreach. They became quite popular and the mailing list grew. Later Stanton compiled 25 of the Better People pamphlets into his book “We Can Be Better People.” Later he wrote his second book and dedicated it to his children, Cindy Stanton Carter, Marvin Stanton and Stacy Stanton Collard.
Much of Stanton’s popularity stemmed from the fact that he was plain-spoken, down to earth, and had a great sense of humor. Many, including me, called him simply LeRoy. He had a strong but unique southern drawl, and he stretched the word “love” into several syllables. He often told how he loved peanut butter, and many of us recall just how he said those two words. He enjoyed golf and once won a golf bet from Lynn (Spoon) Ratliff. As Spoon was about to pay him, LeRoy said, “I’ll give this to the Lord.” Spoon, who had been very sick, folded the money and put it back in his pocket and said "I'll just keep it then, ‘cause I'll probably be seeing Him before you will." LeRoy loved a good story like that.
LeRoy was quite concerned with young people and their salvation. He organized and wrote scripts for Better People Puppets to perform in the Methodist Church here. The original puppeteers were Sheri Ely, Linda Kitchen, Francis Stanton (his wife), Lana Wells and Cheryl Williams. How many of you remember the puppets?
Backing up, LeRoy was born in South Carolina and raised there in an orphan’s home. He never poor-mouthed, but had a wonderfully positive attitude about his childhood. He declared, “I am a lucky little boy who was born in a place called The Door of Hope and reared in an orphan home supported by folks who cared for the well-being of children. I hold fast to the belief that there is a door of hope for humanity, that we can be better people, and that there is room in God’s house for everyone.”
LeRoy also told that a Mrs. Rena, a teacher in the orphan home, sought to enrich young people’s lives through the use of poetry. She had students memorize the last verse of “The House by the Side of the Road,” by Sam Walter Foss, and it stuck with Stanton. He often quoted it to folks, saying “Let me live in my house by the side of the road where the race of men go by; they are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong, wise, foolish — so am I. Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat or hurl the cynic’s ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man.”
Though LeRoy seemed to be a simple country boy/man, he had traveled and seen much of the world. He dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Marines in 1941. He took part in the battles of Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa plus the occupation of Nagasaki, Japan. Following the war, he received a degree in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina. Soon afterwards he received a call into the ministry and obtained his divinity degree from Duke Divinity School.
When Stanton’s tenure in our Methodist church ended, he was transferred to minister elsewhere. When he retired, he came home to Madisonville where he had many friends. He loved sports and young people. Through the years, he coached girls’ softball and helped originate soccer and T-ball programs here. He was often seen at Lake Madison ball park trimming grass, liming baselines, picking up garbage and poisoning ants. He took the words “friend to man” seriously. He was elected Mayor here, serving May 7, 1994 to April 30, 1996.
LeRoy made a big difference in many lives including that of my daddy and therefore mine. I owe him. I can’t repay, so I’ll strive to follow his lead.
Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum curator Jane Day Reynolds welcomes your visits. Memorials or donations may be mailed to the Museum, P.O. Box 60, Madisonville, TX 77864.