Rev. William Hamilton McLeskey, known by all the older ministers of the Church as "Hamp," has laid down his load of life's efforts to enter a well-deserved rest from his labors. Death came at his home in the manse of Addison Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday evening at 10;30. Brother McLeskey had been in failing health for many years but just did not talk about it and did not let it worry him nor anyone else until it literally wore his body and vitality out. As a result he remained active until a few weeks ago when he was taken to the hospital here and later back to his home, never to recover. It was apparent to all his friends that he was worn out and that he could not recover and that the end would not be long off. It came quietly and peaceably on Wednesday night.
One can truthfully say that there was but one "Hamp McLeskey." He was unique in all ways. But he was a man who made his uniqueness a means of service to mankind rather than traits to make him odd or different from all other people. If one were enumerating his unique traits of character which were so thoroughly "Hamp McLeskey" that all the world was privileged to so recognize them, they would be:
He loved life and believed most definitely in it. It all had meaning which was rich and was real, so much so that none of it was wasted by him or was a thing that ever became boring. Nor did he have to dig down and search for meaning for life on the theory that he might be missing it. He just loved it and lived it daily as it came, and it came as a sort of original reality to him. It was a day of twenty-four hours, each set with sixth diamond minutes, and yet he was in no sense of the word the type of person who was busily scurrying here and there in a frantic effort to use each one of them lest some of them slip from him. They just did not slip from him. They were real just as he was real and just as all of life was real. As the clock ticked them up--not by, it also ticked up--not by--his own reality minute by minute.
He believed in God. One seldom meets any person who believed more devoutly and more naturally in God than did Brother McLeskey. God was as real to him as the air one breathes. He had to have God that way and never made any pretense about it or fuss over it. It was all very natural and was a part of life just as breathing is a part of life. He accepted God that way. And this naturally made him turn to God's Word for his direction of life. This characterized him in his trust in God and his reliance upon god's Word: "Turn to your Bible and find one of God's promises which applied to you and believe it." Such became food and medicine to him daily.
He was a philosopher. Brother McLeskey was always thinking something. His mind and whole life was built that way. While he could and did remember and relate much of past days in the Church, his mind was always taking hold of new ideas which flowed through his thinking freely and they became his tools. Coupled with that was a rich sense of humor which remained with him as long as he could talk. Often it was said of him, "You can't outsmart that Irishman."
He loved people and sought to tie them onto God through channels of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He was quick to sense human needs and reality of souls and was like a doctor in being there to administer to those needs. To him the outstanding "hospital" for the soul and for all of life's needs was the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Yet in no way was he repulsive to anyone in his work and faithfulness to his Church. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was his "ambulance" and his "hospital" and he just never turned anywhere else to bring relief in spiritual ways to the many, many souls to whom he ministered in his long life of service in the Church.
He was natural. Brother McLeskey's philosophy was that God had made him as he was and he accepted it at that. Here he was and you could accept him as he was or not. Your opinion did not change him one particle. He was planted in God's world and your thought of him affected him just about as little as your thought about a tree would change it. Yet in his love for people and friendship for them, he craved and accepted most reverently the friendship and love which others bestowed upon him. And he was as true to these friendships as life itself. Bestowing love upon him was somewhat like placing money in a bank--it was safe there and brought forth large dividends.
He did not tell his troubles to others but worked them out with his God. But few men suffer the pain and the physical handicaps Brother Hamp suffered. But you never knew about them except throught he lips of others. He bore them, not in resentment, but as belonging expecially to him and bore them somewhat as one wears his clothes without talking about them.
Brother McLeskey is gone but he has left his footprints upon the sands of time in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and where it serves. Those footprints will be there for eternity as if they were made in fresh cement. This long life of service which he rendered to the Church includes both pastorates and the publishing interests of the Church. For long years he was editor of our Sunday school literature and brought it through those trying years of 1906 up to a time when it was well established in the Church. Also for long years he was pastor of churches which found themselves in need of a shepherd who would do more than merely be a pastor. He was the kind of pioneer in all his Church work which made him go a way out int he desert where failure seemed guaranteed and there find a way to stake out a claim which became rich in realities to those whom he led there. His last bit of work on earth bore witness to that fact in what he did for Addison Avenue Church as its pastor in its time of need.
Funeral services were conducted by Rev. J. W. Stiles, editor of Sunday school literature, in the church where Brother McLeskey was retired pastor, and burial was in beautiful Woodlawn Cemetery, beside his preacher son, the late Rev. Jamie McLeskey, who also was an outstanding leader in our Church. (An obituary will appear later.)
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, September 5, 1946, pages 1, 14-15]
In our CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN of September 5, on the front page was a picture and an announcement of the passing of Rev. W. H. (Hamp) McLeskey. The article was beautiful and every word of it was true. A hero of faith, a loyal minister to the faith, a sound and capable expounder of our doctrines, an uncompromising defender of our Church policies has gone. God bless his memory.
He was a kinsman of mine by a peculiar coincident. Hamp had a brother--Rev. Ben McLeskey, also a loyal Cumberland Presbyterian minister, who had an only daughter, Minnie McLeskey. I had a brother who married this young lady.
The first McLeskey preacher I ever met was Uncle Joe McLeskey. He has passed on. Ben McLeskey has passed on. Hamp had a preacher son, Jamie, and he has passed on.--Only Hamilton, Hamp's son, and Jamie's son are left.
Hamp McLeskey never quit the fight as a minister, preaching till the very end. God blessed his labors and, as the Good Book says about Abel, "Though dead he yet speaketh," and as the years come and go the labors and the voice of Brother Hamp will be a blessing to those who follow after him.--G. G. Halliburton, Clifton, Tennessee.
[Source: Cumberland Presbyterian, October 24, 1946, page 15]
The history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, especially in West Tennessee, would be incomplete without mention of the McLeskey family, members of which have been so closely identified with it.
The Rev. William Hamilton McLeskey, himself the son of a preacher, the Rev. Jo McLeskey, Sr., of the Carolinas, came to Weakley County, Tennessee, January 1827, being at the time nineteen years of age, and was married to Miss Jemima Gilbert, July 24, 1828. In 1846 he was received under the care of the Hopewell Presbytery, and was ordained to the full work of the ministry in October, 1850. He was for many years a circuit rider, his circuit covering much of the territory between the Tennessee and the Mississippi Rivers, and it required a full month for him to make the trip round his circuit.
Four sons, Jo, Ben, Bob and Jim, and two daughters, one of whom, Mrs. E. M. Stolts, of Dyer, Tenn., is still living, grew to maturity in this family and their parents being ardent Cumberland Presbyterians, their children were, of course, trained up in the faith and doctrine.
Jo, (he was partial to this spelling of his given name,) was born January 23, 1832, near McKenzie, Tenn. He was received under the care of Hopewell Presbytery in 1855 and was ordained to the full work of the ministry in 1857. He was specially gifted in revival work and there are thousands in heaven and other thousands yet on earth who were born into the kingdom of Christ in his revival meetings. He was also pastor of many of the congregations of West Tennessee, his last work being Paducah, Ky.
Ben, the Rev. B.G. McLeskey, was born near Dresden, Tenn., attained to great distinction, being at the time of his death president of Trinity University in Texas.
Bob, the Rev. Robert Gilbert McLeskey, was born in Tennessee in 1877, was received under the care of presbytery and licensed to preach by Reuben Burrow in 1866, and was ordained to the full work of the ministry at Humboldt, Tenn., in October, 1867.
The Rev. Jo McLeskey was married to Miss Ellen Carter in June, 1858. Of the children born to this union, three, J. E. McLeskey, of Rives, Tenn., Mrs. W. H. Forbis, of Memphis, Tenn., and the Rev. W. H. McLeskey, of Clarksville, Tenn., are now living. His first wife having died while their children were quite young, he was united in marriage in December, 1879 to Mrs. Sallie Cooper. She, with three children, Mrs. D. A. Hipps, of Jackson, Miss Callie McLeskey, of Memphis, and Mr. Jo McLeskey, of Memphis survive him. He died at his home in Fulton, Ky., May 5, 1909, and was carried to Mt. Olive Cemetery, near Dyer, Tenn., where his funeral, attended by a large concourse of friends, was conducted by the Rev. J. A. McIlwain and others. From the time that he entered the ministry until within a few months of his death, he was preeminently a preacher. He preached his first sermon at Meridian camp ground in Weakley County, Tenn., from the text, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward," and his last sermon at Dyer, Tenn., only a short time before his death. His was an active life in the service of the church and he is said to have preached more funerals and married more couples than any other minister who ever lived in West Tennessee.
The Rev. William Hamilton (Hamp) McLeskey, the second son of the Rev. Jo McLeskey, Jr., is, and has been for the past four years, pastor of the strong and growing congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Clarksville, Tenn. To him and his wife, who was Miss Florence Meadows, three children have been born, two of whom, the Rev. James M. McLeskey and Hamilton, a five-year-old boy, are now living. He and one of the elders of his congregation, Judge W. B. Young, will be members of the General Assembly at Bowling Green, Ky.
The Rev. James M. McLeskey, for the past two and one-half years the pastor of the Arrington Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the city of Nashville, is the youngest of the McLeskey family to enter the ministry of the church. Though but a youth when he came from Bethel College to the pastorate of this congregation, he has been quite successful in his work and his outlook for the future is full of promise. He began work as a pastor in the church at the age of sixteen and has been constantly engaged in that kind of work, though, in common with all of the McLeskeys, he delights in revival as well as pastoral work.
Thus it will be seen that the history of the ministers of the McLeskey family covers a period greater than that of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In the pictures which appear upon this page, reading from top to bottom, the second, third, fourth and fifth generations are shown and we regret that the picture of the first generation is not available. Reading from left to right are three brothers of the third generation.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 8, 1913, page 290]