Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Spiritual Legacy of Bessie Bullock Carroll (1901-1991)

This was written for the 2009 Carroll Family Reunion, July 25, 2009, Richmond, VA


Bessie Bullock Carroll (left) and her
sister Bell Bullock Johnson

Bessie Bullock Carroll was born on November 19, 1901 in Vance County, NC to Andrew Bullock (1862-1915) and Luvenia Jeffress Bullock (1864-1951). She and her nine siblings were born and raised in the Drewry area of the county.

Bessie was described as “a starch supporter and defender of the Gospel and a “real mother in Zion, the epitome of holiness, and stood for truth and righteousness” Undoubtedly she, as well as her five sisters (Bell, Mollie, Mima, Channie, and Nancy) were influenced by their mother Luvenia, who is most remembered for the way she entered church shouting “Holy!” and praising the Lord. (Read more on page 2) Bessie and all of her sisters are also remembered as women who loved and praised the Lord and they lived their lives dedicated unto him. During their adult years, the Bullock sisters delighted in seeing each other and praising the Lord together.

Bessie accepted Jesus as her personal savior at a young age. In a 1980 interview for a church newsletter, her sister Bell, who was known as a woman of strength, joy, and spiritual vitality, recalled her own salvation experience.

“I accepted Jesus as my savior as a young girl. My soul could not rest until I received God’s redeeming grace and I fasted all week while working in the fields until the Lord changed my life. After my salvation experience, God sanctified me and baptized me with his Holy Spirit.”

The six Bullock sisters and their brother John were active in church during their adult lives. I do not know anything about the spirituality or church affiliation of the other brothers, Andrew (who moved to Queens, NY), James (who was a barber), or Joseph, (the youngest who died at age 27 in 1932). Bessie and her sister Mollie were member of Saints Delight Holy Church in Drewry, NC; Nancy, Morning Star Holy Church in Vance County, NC; Channie, St. John Holy Church in Richmond, VA; Mima moved to Pennsylvania and I do not know the name of the church she attended; and Bell, Union Chapel Holy Church, Ridgeway, NC. John Bullock and his wife Lucinda were gospel singers who sang at churches in the Warren/Vance county region. I think they may have attended Burchette Chapel Church in Vance County.

Bessie was also a member of her mother’s church, Veanus Chapel House of Prayer, which was a log building built next to her mother’s house in Drewry. Bessie’s husband Alfred Carroll was a trustee of Veanus Chapel. After she moved to Elizabeth, NJ in 1958, she joined Guiding Star United Holy Church where she served as Adult Sunday School Teacher, Vice-President of Women’s Day, and member of the North New Jersey District Devotional Committee, Noon Day Prayer Leader, and Church Mother.

Bessie was known for her starworth testimony and song,

“I love Jesus, he’s my Savior
Storms are raging, he’s my shelter
Where he leads me, I will follow
I love Jesus and he loves me.”

Other favorite songs were “I’m Saved” and “To the Mount.” After her fiery testimony she would go forth in a dance of praise and thanksgiving. Her sisters are also remembered for their fiery testimonies and dancing and praising God.

In an interview in 1980, Grandma Bell summed up the mission and purpose of her life. Based on the way they lived their lives, this was also likely the mission and purpose for her mother and sisters.

"I don’t want my light to get dull, I want my light to shine bright so men can see the good works and glorify the Father. I ain’t got no bad works, but I want my light to shine bright. I let my light shine so that black and white can see Jesus in me."
Bessie Bullock Carroll and her family lived by precept and example and raised their children in the fear and nurturing of the Lord. Bessie loved her Pastor and her Church and served faithfully until her health failed. She died at the age of 89 in July 1991 at Elizabeth General Medical Center in New Jersey.


Sources: 1991 funeral program of Bessie Bullock Carroll, 1980 “Portrait: Mother Belle, (Voice of the World, Winter 1980), social security death index, oral history, marriage and death records, census, and obituaries


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