BARNESVILLE — Horace Sheffield, 89, who rose to prominence last year when he graduated from Shorter University with his long-sought-after Bachelor’s Degree, passed away on Jan. 5. The retired Georgia Baptist pastor died at Brightmoor Hospice in Griffin.
Sheffield was featured in two stories on May 8, 2017 in The Index, one written by Web Content Editor Scott Barkley as a personal reflection on the senior citizen’s spunk and determination, and in a Shorter press release celebrating the awarding of his degree.
The University’s story detailed how Sheffield first enrolled at Shorter in 1961 but left without a diploma in 1965 because his daughters were soon to enter college. The former minister completed his journey on May 5 and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Studies – the first graduate of Shorter’s online degree program in that field.
“I didn’t care about having a diploma back then, but I’m getting my degree this time,” he noted in the story.
Determined to see it through
The Bremen native said he was inspired to complete his degree after reading a magazine article stating that senior citizens can often attend certain colleges and universities without paying tuition. He had left Shorter with 115 hours and came back determined to graduate. He said the Christian Studies faculty helped him to achieve his goal.
The former director of missions for Tugaloo Baptist Association preached his first sermon October 5, 1944 at the age of 15, was licensed to preach at 16, and ordained by First Baptist Church of Tallapoosa at 17. He pastored part-time at churches in neighboring areas of north Alabama and Georgia – Pleasant Hill, Edwardsville, New Harmony, Hopewell, Harmony Grove, Steadmon, and Hillcrest Baptist churches.
From 1976-1989 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church in Barnesville. He was involved in teaching Bible study courses and leadership training which led to traveling as a Growth Consultant with the Church Training Department of the Georgia Baptist Convention, now the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
At that time, he had more than 25 certificates – one for 500 hours of studies, which Convention leaders tagged him as having the equivalent of a PhD. He traveled on two mission trips to the Syracuse area of New York.
He also served as director of missions for the 56-church Tugaloo Association in Toccoa before retiring to Barnesville. He went on to be the part-time minister of the historic Fredonia Congregational Church for 12 years, and more recently as the Honorary Pastor Emeritus of Calvary Baptist Church.
A global story
The story of “Pop’s” graduation at the age of 88 became an Internet sensation – more than viral, the story has gone global. All the major television networks carried the story: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as Cox Media Group, USA Today, CNN.com, AOL, and New York Post. Radio stations nationwide – including Iowa, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, and North and South Carolina – also carried the story.
Front-page articles in the Barnesville Gazette and Rome News-Tribune lauched the coverage which quickly spread to newspapers statewide. In addition to The Index, other faith-based websites featured the story; a web search found links to international articles in Nigeria, Kenya, Italy, and Mexico.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice Godwin Sheffield; son, Jimmy Sheffield; brothers, Bill Sheffield, Wesley Sheffield and Harvey Sheffield.
He is survived by his daughters and son-in-law, Judy Sheffield Brock (Emory), Sheila Sheffield Milner; grandchildren, Patches Mongeon (Mike), Chris Brock (Charity), Jill Brazier (Rick), Jennifer Neal (Keith), Jeremy Worthy (Lacy); great-grandchildren, Dawson, Jacob, Brantley, Laura Grace, Bella, Lillie, Javon, Destiny, Garrett, Shiloh, Logan, Hannah, Meaghan, Mackenzie and Chloe; and extended family of nieces and nephews.
The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. today, Jan. 9, at Calvary Baptist Church with Reverend Alan Newman, Dr. Lee Woodall and Reverend Jim Sheffield officiating. Interment will follow at 3:30 p.m. in Hollywood Cemetery in Tallapoosa. Memorial contributions can be made to Calvary Baptist Church, 640 Rose Avenue, Barnesville, GA 30204.