Dr. Grayson L. Tucker Jr., 88, a distinguished alumnus of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, who served for 22 years at his alma mater as a faculty member, in field education and dean, died Friday, Jan. 11 in Louisville, KY.
Tucker (BD '52; ThM '56), who served at Louisville Seminary from 1966 until his retirement in 1988, was Professor Emeritus of Church Administration and Evangelism and Harrison Ray Anderson Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministry. He served for 10 years as Director of Field Education and seven years as Academic Dean, all while teaching classes in church administration and evangelism.
"He was a person of great commitment to justice. He had a great love for the church and a deep care for students and the enterprise of theological education," said Kathryn Johnson, Paul Tudor Jones Professor of Church History and Professor of Historical Theology at Louisville Seminary.
"He was really a remarkable person of extraordinary conviction and integrity," said David Hester, who currently serves as the Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Ministry, as well as Professor of Christian Education and Director, Doctor of Ministry and Continuing Education. "He was one of the Seminary's 'utility players' called upon and able to do a seemingly endless variety of things."
Driven by a passion for justice, Tucker served as Executive Director of the Presbyterian Community Center (PCC), in Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood from 1962 to 1966 before serving at the Seminary. Tucker's first encounter with what became the PCC was in 1950 when he was a student at Louisville Seminary and serving his second field education assignment to Grace Mission, which offered classes at the community center. In 1962, while Tucker was serving as pastor for both Grace and Hope Presbyterian churches in Louisville, the two African-American churches combined and their community centers were merged to form the PCC. He was inducted into the PCC's Hall of Fame in 2007.
Tucker's tenure at Grace-Hope Presbyterian Church and the PCC occurred during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He played a key role in a march on Frankfort, KY at which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke. He was the only white pastor to participate in a hunger strike the last week of the legislative session that same year.
In later years, his commitment to justice focused on equality and inclusivity for gay, lesbians, and transgender persons. As an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) with expert knowledge of the church's Book of Order, he publicly opposed Amendment B, a constitutional provision in the PC(USA) which required that church officers live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness." The amendment effectively barred openly gay persons from ordination to ministry and has since been significantly modified.
Tucker was named Vice Moderator of the PC(USA) in 1984, having previously served as moderator of his presbytery and synod. He played a key role in persuading the denomination to locate its headquarters in Louisville. In September 2000, at his request as a matter of conscience, he was dismissed from the PC(USA). He subsequently became a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association and a member of the Thomas Jefferson Church of Louisville.
A native of Laurel, MS, Tucker served as a meteorologist in the U.S. Army Air Force before coming to Louisville Seminary. His first pastorate was at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Lexington, KY. He also served as pastor of Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville.
As a pioneer in the field of Congregational Studies, Dr. Tucker developed a church planning questionnaire and served as a consultant to many of the churches that used it. This innovative approach to understanding congregations was employed by more than 700 churches.
Tucker was a Diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and held a doctorate from Southern Baptist Seminary, also in Louisville. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1996.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine Breeden Tucker, who resides at the Episcopal Church Home, Louisville, KY; his sister Sarah Miller; his brother, Thornton Tucker; son, Cy Tucker; a daughter, Susan Saint-Lockhart; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service with reception will be held at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16. Neurath-Schoppenhorst, Market Street, is handling arrangements.
Memorial gifts may be made to the charity of the donor's choice.