Rev. Luther Ray Stokes, 86 of Williston, Florida, retired long-time Evangelist and Minister of the United Methodist Church, received his final appointment into Christ's Kingdom Saturday, March 12th at the Lake City Veterans Administration Hospice Serenity Place. Preacher Stokes, a native of Homewood, Mississippi was born October 16, 1924 at the old home place in Scott County, Mississippi to the late Earnest and Ethel Stokes. Rev. Stokes, a Veteran of the United States Navy, served his country during WWII as a Pharmacist Mate in St. Albans, New York and San Bruno and Tadeen Camp Elliot, California before being honorably discharged on December 31, 1945. In 1945 Rev. Stokes, faithful to the call into ministry, enrolled at Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky where he graduated in 1950 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion. His life verse was proverbs 3:5-6.
While at Asbury he met and married his devoted wife, Clara Orander from Crumpler, West Virginia on August 4, 1948, who also graduated from Asbury in 1950. While attending school, Rev. Stokes served the student charge of Berry and Boyd in the Lexington District of the Methodist Church for five years. Rev. Stokes enrolled in Divinity School at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, graduating in 1954. It was during this time their first child Paula Jean was born Oct. 14, 1952.
In 1954 Rev. Stokes pastured the Vicco, Kentucky Methodist Church in the Barbourville District before accepting a call to return to the Tallahassee District of the Florida Conference in 1955 at Sopchoppy and Crawfordville. It was during his time at Vicco that his first son John Clare was born in Bluefield, West Virginia on January 30, 1955. When asked by Mrs. Macon Rudd what was his best achievement during his time in Sopchoppy, he wrote, "First and foremost, we claim as our greatest and most priceless achievement, a great host of dear and devoted friends. Not only among Methodist folk, but also from among the people of other churches."
In 1963 Rev. Stokes was called by the Florida Conference to pastor the Monticello United Methodist Church. During this time his second son Lewis Watson was born in Tallahassee on November 7, 1963. In 1965 Rev. Stokes was appointed alumni secretary and treasurer of the Alumni Association at Asbury College. He also served as the director of public relations and editor of the Asbury Alumnus bulletin. During this time Rev. Stokes preached the annual revival at Asbury College and evangelistic services throughout the Southeast. After two fulfilling years under the direction of his dear friend and President of Asbury College, Dr. ZT Johnson, Rev. Stokes returned to the Florida Conference appointment at The Williston First United Methodist Church in 1967.
During the ten years spent at First Methodist, the same theme continued, the people being his greatest treasure, spending time in visitation, hunting in Gulf Hammock and fishing. It was during this time the Whitehurst Memorial Chapel was built in honor of "Pappy" Whitehurst's wife Maggie. In 1977 Rev. Stokes bid a sad farewell to Williston and accepted the appointment to the Lake city First United Methodist Church. Rev. Stokes retired from the pastorate in 1979 but continued in the Florida Conference as an approved evangelist, forming the Luther R Stokes Evangelistic Association which continued until 1985. Rev. Stokes moved to his beloved farm with the 100 year old Cracker style house in Crawfordville, growing blueberries, grapes and making cane syrup called "Old Homewood" each Thanksgiving.
In 1991 wanting to be nearer to his family, Rev. Stokes moved to Williston. He continued to make his cane syrup, grow a garden and tend to his horse Shadow, pig Dixie alongside his faithful dog Rowdy. Brother Stokes was a life- long Mason of the Homewood Lodge in Mississippi.
Rev Stokes is survived by his former wife Clara (Lake City), daughter Paula Powers (Lake City) and sons John of Lake City (Melanie) and Lewis of Gainesville (Cindy), his sister Esther Irene (Joe) (Laurel, MS), sister-in-law Caroline Stokes (Maryland), his halve brothers William Clark of Brookhaven, MS (Rose), Jimmy Boykin of Petal, MS (Barbara), half-sister Mary Carol Watkins (Louisville, MS), granddaughters Allison Powers-Vendig (Dallas, TX), Jessica Wike Johnson (Yulee), a granddaughter Lyndsy, great grandsons Pearce Powers-Vendig and Nathaniel Stokes.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Earnest Curtis, James Marzell and sister Hazel Marie Wolf and a half brother Billy Ferrell.
Visitation for Rev. stokes was held on Friday, March 18, 2011 from 6:00-8:00 pm at Knauff Funeral Home-Williston. A graveside service was held on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm at Orange Hill Cemetery with Reverend Wes Smith, Judge Joe Smith and Reverend Will Clark. Arrangements are under the care of Knauff Funeral Home-Williston.