The hand of Father Time has rested lightly upon this man. Lacking but three years, this white-haired patriarch has been an active minister for the allotted three score and ten of man's life.
When he was young, the city of Memphis was but a small trading-post. A man differing greatly from the general average of men, attaining great age, this revered man is well educated and is able to give worth-while information of long ago. Such a man is the Reverend W. M. Norment, familiarly known to thousands as the "Parson," "Uncle William," and no wonder.
As he walks the streets of Whiteville, Tenn., he is lovingly accosted by young men whose fathers he married. Rev. Norment estimates that in his whole career he has performed twelve hundred marriage ceremonies and about the same number of funerals. This nonogenarian has an inexhaustible fund of philosophy, humor, and pathos. During the interview, Miss Lula, one of his daughters, told this anecdote on her father: "In the year 1853, just after pa started preaching, his fifth sermon, to be exact, he stumbled and fell into the laps of some ladies. You see, the old-fashioned pulpit was like a platform some four feet high and had room enough upon it to accommodate a number of visiting clergymen, all of whom sat with the regular pastor. Well, near the end of his sermon, pa warmed up to his text, and, making gestures, stepped too far to one side, and tripping over a large Bible on the edge of the platform fell sprawling into the ladies' laps. Of course the congregation laughed, and that ended pa's sermon. He mounted the pulpit hurriedly and called on an elder to pray. And the benediction was soon pronounced, too."
There are few, if any, people living to-day who saw Gen. Andrew Jackson in the flesh. Since the death of Judge Nathan Green, of Lebanon, Tenn., a few years ago, Rev. Norment is the only survivor of that little group of students of Cumberland University, that in the spring of 1845 visited "Old Hickory" at his famous country home, the Hermitage, fifteen miles from Nashville. Hear Rev. Norment describe their visit: "Cumberland University is at Lebanon, about fifteen miles from the Hermitage. In the early spring of 1845 six of us Cumberland students decided we wished to meet General Jackson. One Saturday morning we packed our lunches and got in the stage coach, which went near the Hermitage on the way to Nashville. When we arrived, Andrew Jackson Donelson, adopted son of the General, met us and conducted us to the big east room where the General was sitting before the fire. It was a wood fire, and huge logs were burning. The fire-place was about five feet high. Mr. Donelson introduced us to the General as courteously as though we were distinguished guests, and without rising the hero of New Orleans shook hands. At once we saw that the famous man was very feeble. After this introduction, we all sat around the fire. The General puffed occasionally at a short stem silver pipe which he held in his left hand. In his right hand he held a long hickory cane. A Bible lay on the floor beside him. The General was very religious at this time, and when we told him who we were, some of us studying for the ministry, he leaned forward with his chin on his stick and exclaimed: 'A noble calling, young gentlemen!' He then advised us to make the most of our opportunities and become upright citizens. To tell the truth, we were rather disappointed because he did not tell us of battles and duels. Could this gentle religious old old gentleman be the man whose 'By-the-Eternal' had sounded in the halls of Congress, on the field of battle and dueling ground? Yet we sat looking at the living reality of our boyish dreams, an old man feeble and lonely, who spoke of his wife as 'that sainted woman,' and whose grave he daily visited. Up above the mantel-piece hung two long dueling pistols, mute witnesses of days gone by. And I think these pistols occupied most of our attention. We spent more than an hour talking with the General, and when we were ready to leave, he again shook hands and wished us happiness and health."
Rev. Norment introduced W. J. Bryan when he spoke in Whiteville several years ago, and Rev. Norment drew from the "Commoner" the exclamation: "This man of God, this Brother Norment, is one of the most wonderful men I've ever met. Why, events of seventy-five years ago are as fresh in his memory as though it were yesterday."
Rev. Norment knew James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson also. While still at school, word reached Cumberland University that General Jackson was dead. Only six weeks before he had shaken his hand.
Rev. Norment says he went tot he funeral and that the General's parrot, excited by the multitude and the wailing of the slaves, let loose perfect gusts of "cuss words." The Negro slaves of the General were horrified and awed at the bird's lack of reverence.
Rev. Norment is in his ninety-first year. He is a Royal Arch
Mason. Since 1858, or sixty-two years, he has been pastor of the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Whiteville, Tenn. At present
he preaches twice a month.
[The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 26, 1920, page 9]
The Rev. W. M. Norment, the oldest minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and holding the record of having been the continuous pastor of the same congregation--Whiteville, Tenn.--for almost three-quarters of a century, was on Friday, March 21, while the Madison Presbytery, of which he was a member, was in session at Ramer, Tenn., called to close a long, beautiful and useful life on the earth and go to join the hosts of the redeemed of the Lord in the mansions above. Word of his death reached us as we were ready to close the forms of the editorial department of this issue of The Cumberland Presbyterian.
While the announcement of his death will not be a surprise to those who have known Brother Norment for the last few years, it will, we are sure, carry sadness to their hearts. He was a great and good man, loving and lovable in spirit, true and loyal to every ideal of noble life. As a minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church he was uncompromisingly loyal to all of its interests, doctrines and traditions, and yet so broad and generous in his relations to all Christian people who came into association with him that all ever felt at home in his company.
Since an extended narrative of his life work will doubtless
be furnished to us for publication by someone who knew him more
intimately than we knew him, we shall not attempt to say more
now. May heaven's richest blessings be granted to his bereaved
son and daughters, and may their hearts feel constantly the saturating
influences of the Holy Spirit in whom their father delighted to
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 27, 1924, page 1]