The year 1918 was an eventful year. In the U.S., regular air-mail service was established between New York and Washington, D.C. Later that year an airmail route between Chicago and New York was begun which took 10 hours and five minutes on its maiden flight. Heavyweight boxing champ, Jack Dempsey, knocked out Carl Morris in 14 seconds. Around the world, a worldwide influenza epidemic struck that would claim nearly 22 million lives. Severe food shortages in Britain led to rationing. Germany surrendered, bringing a close to WWI. The new nations of Yugoslavia and Iceland are recognized. Back home, Daylight Saving Time is introduced. Knute Rockne is named head coach for Notre Dame; Billy Graham is born. Boston beats Chicago to win the World Series, and on December 6, in Greenfield, TN, Eugene Priestley was born, the second youngest of four children.
Eugene attended school in a three-room schoolhouse, but transferred his senior year to graduate in Sharon, TN. By the time he began attending high school, his transportation to and from school had been upgraded from horse and wagon to a Ford model T. Eugene took Latin as well as French and won a gold medal for typing. He had hoped to go to Freed Hardeman to train to become a preacher but was never able to do so. After a two-year stint at farming, he entered Roosevelt’s New Deal program called the National Youth Administration (NYA), which was part of the WPA. It provided work and education for those between the ages of 16 and 25. Through the NYA, Eugene was able to attend Bethel College in McKenzie, TN, helping to construct their gymnasium. He also earned $30 per month, which was applied to his tuition. A disagreement with a psychology professor (who was also head of the local draft board) was to result in Eugene’s enlistment in the US Army upon graduation in 1940. Eugene was attached to the US Army Air Corp., and during WWII was assigned to the protection of the Panama Canal. He was discharged in 1945.
After the war, he moved to Chicago and worked at several places, eventually becoming an investigator for a large insurance agency. His work was primarily with insurance companies. He married Dorothy Green in 1950 while still living in Chicago and it was in Chicago that their first son, John was born. Eugene and Dorothy had two boys, John and James, and twin daughters, Jean and Janice. Eugene transferred to Dallas but would eventually move to Houston, working with Farmers Insurance. He retired as an insurance agent with Farmers in 1989 at age 71. During the ‘70s Eugene and Dorothy were also co-owners with another partner in a restaurant in Pearland, located on Hwy 35 just south of FM 518 which was called the Star Dairyette (Jean and Janice have a lot of memories of working there).
Eugene was baptized into Christ at age 12 in Greenfield, TN, and has been faithful to the Lord from that time onward. He led Dorothy to the Lord soon after they met. They were faithful and active throughout their marriage. They were part of the MacGregor Park congregation before worshipping and serving at Sun Valley. Eugene served for many years as an elder at Sun Valley and then here at Pearland from 1999 until Dorothy’s passing in 2002. He and Woody Conditt were very actively involved in benevolence work with Hope Village for years. Eugene is noted around here for his promptness. Though he recently surrendered his driver’s license, he still gets to the building at least 30 minutes early for every service. He also listens to a Bible reading every night, and can’t remember when he wasn’t a daily Bible reader/listener. Eugene is proud of his children and especially proud of his three grandchildren; and we are proud to have Eugene as a part of our church family here at Pearland.