Saturday, September 03, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 4

U. S. and Vivienne Newton Gray Sail for Liberia, Sept. 8, 1948

Two of the most distinguished missionaries Texas Methodism ever produced sailed from New Orleans on September 8, 1948. The missionary couple, U. S. and Vivienne N. Gray, was on the way to Liberia where God would abundantly bless their efforts.

Ulysses Samuel Gray was born in Pin Oak, Robertson County, in 1913. He received a call to the ministry at the age of 11 and was licensed to preach at the age of 13. He attended Wiley College and then transferred to Clark University and Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He received his divinity degree in May, 1948, and the following September, he and Mrs. Gray left New Orleans for Liberia.

The missionary couple threw themselves into the task at hand. They built Gbarnga Methodist Mission in Gbarnga. The mission eventually included a church, school, homes both on the mission and in town, and the first indoor gymnasium in the country. They brought electricity and a sewer system to the interior. They planted trees and raised livestock. They also raised a generation of church and civic leaders whose influence in Liberia was immense.

Public recognition of U. S. and Vivienne Newton Gray came. Schools were named for them. President William Tolbert, Jr., awarded them the Liberian Star, the highest honor awarded to civilians. Trinity UMC in Houston honored Vivienne Gray in a stained glass window which may be seen at

Many Texas Methodists felt a special relationship with the U. S. and Vivienne. When the couple toured Texas churches in a ministry of mission interpretation, church members felt an instant connection with the work in Liberia. Gbarnga became a “can’t miss” destination for Texans on mission tours. Scores of Texas Methodists visited U. S. and Vivienne in Liberia and were given warm hospitality and came away inspired by the mission work.

After retiring from the foreign mission field, the Grays moved to Marshall where U. S. was Dean of Men at Wiley College. Vivienne died in 1988, and U. S. in 2009.


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