Bud Truitt has seen the world in his efforts to spread the word of God over the better half of the last decade. This delinquent-turned-preacher has established 17 churches from Massachusetts to Delaware, including Bethel Tabernacle Church of God on Omar Road in Frankford. He has traveled to Florida and California, and nine other countries around the world, but is proud to call Sussex County his home.
Though it may be hard to believe for those who know him now, Truitt was not always the church-going type. In fact, as he recalled, he was once quite the opposite: a naïve and ornery young man. Shortly after graduating from Lord Baltimore High School in 1945, Truitt served for a short period of time in the U.S. Navy. Upon his return, he described himself as a troublemaker.
“I’d be out late at night, getting into trouble” he said — crashing cars, running over mailboxes.
Mabel Fordham, who helped her husband, Harold, teach services at St. George’s Church, watched as Truitt caused mischief and mayhem, and decided to do something.
“She saw the darker side of my life,” said Truitt, “and she had a challenge — she was going after me.” Fordham began asking Truitt for help with simple tasks, and would periodically discuss religion with him. “She was a sly and wise woman,” he said. “In the end, she converted me to a Christian.”
From there, Truitt began attending church regularly, and grew kinder toward and more active in the community. It wouldn’t be long before Truitt would share his knowledge with those closest to him.
“My father was a hard-working man,” said Truitt, “but every Friday, he’d stop in to the liquor store and come home drunk. I can remember, one day, sitting at the table, and he stumbled in and said, ‘Bud, come in here and introduce me to that man you call God.’ He had seen the radical change I went through in my life.”
Truitt convinced his father to start going to church and read scriptures until he changed around the way he lived. Eventually, he also spread what he learned, to his daughter and son-in-law. And Bud Truitt continued influencing others in and outside of church.
Truitt decided to further his education while honoring God. He studied theology, earning his bachelor’s degree from Ridgedale Baptist Church School of Fine Arts in Chattanooga, Tenn., his master’s at Chesapeake Bible College in Queenstown, Md., and his doctorate in Divinity at American Bible College in Kansas City, Mo.
After college, Truitt continued helping others as an evangelist. He has trained and mentored ministers in churches across New England, including several in the Boston area, and in Florida and California before settling back down in Millville.
For the past five years, Bud has served as president of the Southeast Sussex County Ministerium, an association of local ministers that Truitt initially established. The group meets monthly and works closely with the Atlantic Community Thrift Shop and the Pyle Center to help the community.
He has spent the greater part of his time as minister at Bethel Tabernacle, the very church that he helped to establish. Although he retired in 2002, and Dennis Millner was appointed pastor of Bethel Tabernacle, Truitt has returned there to give the Sunday evening service. “We wanted to boost Sunday-night service,” he said, “and, as it turns out, we’ve doubled the attendance.”
Though he remains active with church activities, Truitt is very much a family man. But, then again, with five sons and a daughter, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, he can’t really afford not to be. “There’s never a dull moment,” Truitt said with a laugh.
This Friday, Truitt will turn 80 years old, and family and friends are being urged to come celebrate. The event will be held Saturday, March 3, at the Bread of Life Coffee House at Bethel Tabernacle in Dagsboro, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
For more information, call Jeanine at 245-4518 or Quin at 537-5685.