Celebrated Calling

-A A +A
By Brad Bowman

By Brad Bowman


The Rev. Dr. W. H. Goatley Sr.’s local civil rights and mission-ministry work in Eminence crosses paths with the nation’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Goatley grew up in the Jefferson County segregated school system as a graduate from Louisville Central High School. After attending the segregated Louisville Municipal College and then enrolling at the University of Louisville as desegregation began in the 1950s, Goatley witnessed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Duke McCall’s defiance of Kentucky’s segregation laws in 1951 as the president integrated campus and later hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak in 1961. Both events had a profound affect on Goatley’s life.

Goatley graduated from the seminary in 1956 and according to his wife Verlene Goatley, it was at the seminary, hearing the president’s message, Goatley made Eminence his place of service.

“The seminary president said, ‘I hope you find a place of service and come to know that to be God’s will for your life,’” Goatley said. “He found his place of service at Eminence First Baptist Church as pastor and loved being a part of this community.”

Rev. Goatley served as pastor beginning in 1958 and retired in 2003. He served as Pastor Emeritus until he died on Jan. 2, 2014.

Rev. Goatley shared during an interview last year his thoughts on civil rights in Eminence and hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in Frankfort in 1964 with the Henry County Local.

“His advice that day in Frankfort was that you have to love everybody and he meant it,” Goatley said. “Race made no difference. When we came back to Eminence it gave us the enthusiasm to make it a better place. I remember there were some of us that thought we needed to do constructive things by getting involved in this community. We had a council of churches and we also had a forum of pastors at the WSTL radio station where I got to know the pastors of different churches when I moved here. Eminence has become a better city because of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

While serving as pastor, Goatley made an impression on many lives and families in Eminence. Eminence city councilwoman LeeAnn Armstrong’s family was one of them.

“Reverend Goatley married myself and my husband, my son and his wife and baptized three of our children,” Armstrong said. “He was a remarkable man and holds a special place in my heart and my family.”

Armstrong said at the funeral service she could see Goatley’s influence on the community and a community of ministers.

“When you see approximately 52 pastors that have been touched somehow by him, it’s amazing,” Armstrong said. “When we first came back from Florida, Rev. Goatley asked if we were going to stay in Louisville and I felt they (sons) would be held back in a small community, we let them stay until school was out and Rev. Goatley asked us again if we had made a decision. He said ‘It’s not where you are, but what your plans are.’ We decided the same thing. We wanted our sons to be successful, be in church and be around family. It’s completely changed how the boys were raised.”

Wife Verlene met her husband while doing mission work from her home in Oklahoma. After her mission work, the couple married and worked as a team.

“He was always there to help everyone. I just worked alongside him. I did college scripture memory classes and challenged the people of the church to pray more,” Goatley said. “We went as a team. It was an encouragement to see over the 56 years of how he touched people’s lives all while praising God He’s always concerned for people and took time for his family and took time mostly for his people.”