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Black History Month Paul Sanders helped many people along the way — not just a few

Black History Month Paul Sanders helped many people along the way — not just a few
In recognition of Black History Month, the following tribute is offered for a highly-respected citizen of  Obion County.
Special to The Messenger
Elder Paul E. Sanders, son of the late Elder Dalton and Bertha (Alexander) Sanders, was born Sept. 3,1926, in Union City. He was very active in all of the school activities, especially enjoying basketball at the former Miles High School in Union City.
After graduating, he joined the U.S. Air Force to serve his country in the fall of 1945. Finishing his tour of duty, he proceeded to continue his education by entering Gupton Jones Mortuary Science College in Nashville. Brother Paul, as he was known to most, became a licensed embalmer and funeral director in 1950. He worked at the former Beard’s Funeral Home in Union City, which was owned by his sister, Pearl Beard.
Several other companies that have disappeared from the horizon of Union City are included in his work history. Those include working at the former Brown Shoe Co., the former Reelfoot Packing Co., as custodian at Union City High School and at the former Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant. In between, he picked cotton and could easily pick 400 pounds a day or “pull” 700 pounds a day.
In the 1960s, with the town being segregated, minorities were not allowed to swim in the local public pool. Brother Paul took time out of his busy schedule to build a recreational center so the black youth, both male and female, would have somewhere to go and be supervised. The Recreation Center was equipped with a ping pong table, pinball games, vending machines, card games, a jukebox, a dining area, fast food, soft drinks, milk shakes and ice cream cones.
He later built a swimming pool where just a small fee of 25 cents to 50 cents was charged. There was always a lifeguard on duty, someone like Joe Harris, the first licensed lifeguard, along with Billy Easley and Anthony Clark.
Seeing there was a need for public transportation, Brother Paul added a taxi cab for the city, with its headquarters at The Recreation Center. When giving cab rides, he was courteous to the people and would carry their groceries or packages from the cab to the porch.
Another one of his many endeavors was being a local Boy Scout master. Young men in this organization look forward to the spirituality, songs, marching, camping and other activities. The young lads had a chance to learn discipline, respect for God, respect for themselves, their elders and one another.
He taught them what the word “JOY” meant: Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last. They learned to play well and work hard together.
The list goes on. Having skills in carpentry, he was able to provide low cost rental property for people that could not afford to own their homes. Being a minister allowed him to perform numerous marriages for the members of the community. Days off from work allowed time to go and pray with people that were incarcerated. He provided his own personal van to transport people needing a ride to church. When someone needed a hand, he was the “go to” person.
Brother Paul was not alone in these ventures. As the saying goes, “behind every great man is a woman.”
He had a 60-plus year marriage to the former Martha Bradford, who came from Wingo, Ky. Even though she worked fulltime as a nurse, together they still always had time to raise Greta, Angela, Douglas and Paula.
Brother Paul was a life-long member of Greater Bethel Church of God in Christ, and God also accompanied him on this journey.
In his final years, dementia took its toll on the body of Brother Paul. The body finally succumbed on Dec. 24, 2011. Relatives, friends and ministers came together to remember Brother Paul on going to his heavenly home.
Many ministers tried to imitate his unique style of moving with the spirit within (shouting or dancing). He is the one original, but all will continue to take joy in imitating the best. His spirit will live on in heaven and in all the ones that were fortunate to have known him.
“If I can help somebody along the way, then my living will not be in vain.”
He did not just help just one, he helped many, so his living was not in vain. His theme song of “Glory, Glory,” his great deeds and his constant and infectious smile will forever live on.
Editor’s note: Mrs. M.B. Sanders and Douglas E. Sanders contributed their memories to this article.
Published in The Messenger 2.29.12