by Norm Miller
TOCCOA, Ga. (TMCNews)--He's a kingdom builder, James Horace Luther. He did not attend Truett-McConnell College. Neither did any of his relatives, who are as mystified as college officials regarding a generous gift from Luther's estate.
Executor Philip Gruber brought a letter dated May 7 to TMC president, Dr. Emir Caner, and with the letter came a check in excess of $90,000.
"This expression of Mr. Luther's generosity was completely unexpected," Caner told TMCNews. "We are exceedingly grateful for God's timely provision, and we are equally appreciative of a man so deeply committed to the Lord's work."
Gruber -- a long-time friend of Luther's -- met with Caner and Dr. Daniel Moosbrugger, vice president for institutional development, relating that the gift came not from a well-heeled businessman, but a shoe salesman.
For 33 years, Luther worked for a department store in Toccoa, Ga., as a shoe buyer, division manager and salesman.
The consummate churchman, Luther was a founding member of Grace Baptist Church in Toccoa, where he served in a variety of roles as deacon, Sunday school teacher, trustee, and choir member. Luther's wide-ranging commitment to God was reflected in his obituary, which noted he served as chaplain of the Toccoa Lions Club.
"Horace was a very devoted family man," Gruber noted. "And he never boasted about what he had or how God had blessed him. When I agreed to be the executor of his will, I had no clue about the extent of his financial status."
"God blessed Horace and gave him the ability to save money and then turn around and give it where there was a need," Gruber said. "Horace was frugal and yet at the same time, compassionate. He had a deep love for people, especially those who were suffering or enduring difficult times."
"Horace was also very devoted to his church," Gruber added. "He loved the Lord, and in his own way would tell other people they needed the Lord. He loved to sing praises to the Lord, too," Gruber continued. "Horace was a very kind hearted man who always had others on his mind."
Two Truett-McConnell employees recall Luther similarly: "As a child, I remember Mr. Luther fitting me in shoes at the Belk Department Store in downtown Toccoa. He was a tall, dark-haired man with a gentle disposition who always made you feel welcome when you came into the store," said Vicky Steele, director of institutional effectiveness for Truett-McConnell.
Gail DuVall, administrative assistant to Moosbrugger, said her family "always went to Belk to buy new shoes, and Mr. Luther treated us like we were his favorite customers. He always had a smile and kind word for everyone he met. He was humble, gracious and a true gentleman in every sense of the word."
Others who knew Luther posted their comments on a memorial web site in his honor. Some of their comments were:
-- "Mr. Luther is with Jesus and free from pain, and that we all rejoice in that," wrote Barbara Snyder.
-- "Horace Luther was a fine man and Toccoa will miss him. He was always a gentleman and was very patient with all the ladies who are ticky about shoes. Our loss is heaven's gain," wrote Bud and Linda Jarret.
-- "My heart is saddened because he was a mentor to me, and I always held him close in my heart all these years. I will treasure the many days working with him in the shoe department. He was an example of integrity, and of good, basic customer service," wrote Kendra Moon.
Caner said Luther's "Christian walk is a fine example to all believers, and especially to our students as the personification of one who lived a life pleasing to God, and who not only supported his church but was deeply involved in it.
"He epitomizes the reasons why I have an incredible love for laymen like him," Caner added. "He poured over the Scriptures, and the Scriptures poured into his life. Men like Mr. Luther -- they are the backbone of the church."
"Mr. Luther is an exemplary Christian in many regards," said Moosbrugger, who also oversees TMC's development office. "That he could do so much for the Lord's work on what would seem to be an average salary is astounding to me and an encouragement to us all. We remain humbled by what God did through Mr. Luther's life."
Preceded in death by his first wife Era, Luther is survived by his second wife Ruby Johnson Luther and other relatives.
James Horace Luther continued his life in an eternal way on August 7, 2011. He was 88.