The Influence of Chunky Harvey

Dr. Raymond Francis Harvey

There are some men whom God sent into my life at certain critical periods who have influenced me greatly. One of those men Bill Gothard was speaking at a conference about the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at a time when my heart was open to Him and both Cathy and I were saved. Another influential man was my brother Berry Lee (Bubba) who was the first man to offer encouragement to me as a mentor, and I sat at his feet to learn from 1977 until his departure to heaven in 2009. Not long after Cathy and I were saved a guest preacher was invited to preach at the First Baptist Chuch in El Dorado, and he preached a series of sermons which moved me, girded my spirit and strengthened my faith. I had been dealing with some personal issues of doubt and frustration in my Christian walk, and his messages spoke to my need. His name is Reverend Raymond Francis Harvey, affectionately known as Chunky to his friends. I had not met Reverend Harvey nor had I heard of him when Dr. Don Harbuck, our pastor invited him to our church. He and Dr. Harbuck had been friends and colleagues for years, and they preached in each other’s church on special occasions.

Reverend Harvey was the Senior Pastor of Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in Tuskegee, Alabama and served that congregation for over 36 years. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He continued post-graduate studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, Princeton Seminary and Oxford University in Oxford, England. He received an honorary Doctorate from Birmingham Baptist Bible College. His wife Lillian (Dr. Lillian Holland Harvey) had a distinguished career for almost 30 years as the Dean of the School of Nursing at Tuskegee Institute (University) in Alabama.

Doctor Harvey spent most of his professional life serving in Tuskegee, Alabama where he was the Active Chaplain at Tuskegee Institute for several years prior to being called to Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in 1955. The early years of his pastorate marked some of the most turbulent times in the civil rights struggles in the nation and specifically in Alabama. He led his church and community with dignity and honor in peaceful dissent to the shameful and hurtful practices of segregation, and saw the fruit born nation-wide with the signing of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964, 1965 and 1968.

I was curious when Dr. Harbuck first announced the coming of Dr. Harvey to our church and said his was known as ChunkyI was certain only his closest friends would use that name in addressing such a prominent pastor, and over the next several years after having met him and exchanged calls and letters, I could never bring myself to use that term when speaking to him. I never asked him the origin of the nickname, but  suspect he had it since childhood or early adulthood.

The messages Dr. Harvey preached over the first three day meeting in El Dorado were entitled Not What, But Whom and he used the poem by that title written by John Oxenham to frame his sermons. His preaching was Christ-centered, topical, and he spoke with an accent he must have acquired in Oxford, England. I could not detect any hint of an Alabama accent except on rare occasion when emphasizing a particular point, he would use the dialect of an Alabama Black. His overall style of preaching was fascinating to me, and I listened intently while taking notes. I wrote down the words of the poem and had them printed and framed, and it has been hanging in my office since. When Dr. Harvey returned home I wrote him several letters expressing my gratitude for his timely messages to me and how they had ministered to a specific need I had at the time. I received a short but beautifully written note from him.

Dr. Harvey returned to First Baptist about a year later in December 1982, and I was able to spend a little time with him in Dr. Harbuck’s office. I gave him a copy of the poem I had framed and again voiced my gratitude to him for ministering to me. The messages he preached on this visit were entitled The Strength to Endure, and were framed by a quotation from Howard Cooke Phillips, an American Baptist pastor. I have these messages on audio tape and occasionally listen to them recalling the power of his preaching.

The last time I heard from him was the following spring on the evening before Easter Sunday. I was sitting in my comfortable bedroom chair when the phone rang. Upon answering the deep resonating voice on the other end said, “Dr. Moore, this is Chunky Harvey!” He said he had been reading again the framed poem I had given him and wanted to know how I was doing. We had a wonderful visit for about ten minutes with his telling me among other things, about his wife’s ministry as Nursing Director at Tuskegee and about his son, Dr. Paul Harvey who was an internal medicine specialist in Michigan.

When Dr. Harvey died in 1992 at the age of 74 I was not aware of his departure until I received a note from his son. He said he had been reading some of his father’s correspondence and noted several letters from me. He thought I might enjoy having a copy of the poem entitled The Long Road Home read at his father’s funeral along with a copy of the funeral service bulletin. I loved the poem so much I had it framed, and it hangs in our bedroom. The two poems I have framed remind me of my friend Chunky Harvey and how he blessed and impacted my life.

Dr. John

Not what but Whom I do believe,

That in my darkest hour of need

Hath comfort that no mortal creed to mortal man may give.

Not what but Whom!

For Christ is more than all the creeds,

And His full life of gentle deeds

Shall all the creeds outlive.

Not what I do believe but Whom!

Who walks beside me in the gloom?

Who shares the burden wearisome?

Who all the dim way doth illume,

And bids me look beyond the tomb

The larger life to live?

Not what I do believe but Whom?

Not what but Whom?

By John Oxenham


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