From the basketball court to Army posts across the globe, the Rev. Harry O. Todd brings a lifetime of experience to the pulpit of Herndon United Methodist Church.
Starting Sunday, Todd will lead the church congregation as its newly-appointed pastor.
“It’s a nice little church,” he said. “We’ve been there a couple three of times meeting with the administrative people. We’re excited about it. The church has shrunk a great deal in the last two to three years, but the potential is great there. It’s a good environment for us and we’re very happy about being able to serve the Lord at that church.”
A history in sports, military Todd, 81, has not always been a minister.
The Earlington, Kentucky, native grew up on the basketball court at Earlington High School, where he set some records and made an impact on the sport.
The 6-foot-8 center averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds as a senior, and made first team all-state three consecutive years, according to kentuckybasketballcoaches.org. Todd is still the state’s boys basketball all-time leading scorer with 3,567 points from 1955-58, according to a January Courier Journal article.
In 1958, Todd shared Kentucky Mr. Basketball honors with Ralph Richardson.
After graduating from Earlington, Todd attended Western Kentucky University and led the Hilltoppers in rebounding from 1960-62. His accomplishments on the court resulted in him being named a member of the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
In 1962, Todd was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Bay of Pigs incident. He continued his military service, traveling all over the world. Near the end of his Army career; however, Todd was assigned to Fort Campbell. He served as the garrison command sergeant major from 1986 to 1991 under the leadership of Col. Tom Denney, the garrison commander.
In the late 1980s, Todd said he met on post with Hopkinsville representatives Anna Caryl Guffey and Penny Chewning to discuss a way to honor soldiers and their families. The end result of that conversation, he said, was the annual Christian County Salutes Fort Campbell Week.
After 30 years of military service, Todd retired from Fort Campbell in 1991 to live with his wife at Eddy Creek in Lyon County. He still continued to serve veterans as the president of the 101st Airborne Division Association until 1992. He was the first Vietnam-era soldier to hold that position.
“I’m very proud of that and proud to be a Screaming Eagle,” he said.
Starting his ministry
A few months after retiring from the Army, Todd moved to Cadiz and started a second career as the Trigg County Tourism director. He worked in that position until 1998, when he retired again.
At that time, he and his wife did not have a church home, but some of his college friends invited them to a Sunday school breakfast with members of Bethel United Methodist Church. The couple soon joined the church and he eventually became a certified lay speaker.
“I never envisioned early in my life me being in the ministry,” he said. “I have now for about 14 years and have been blessed, I think, in order to do the things that we do.”
In 2012, he was appointed to serve as pastor of a church in Livingston County with nine members. After serving there seven years, he requested a church closer to home after his wife’s health began to fail. Finding no other pastoral openings, Todd resigned his position last June with more than 70 people in the church membership.
This past year Todd has filled in for other pastors at area churches until his recent appointment to Herndon United Methodist.
Todd said he brings his past experiences in sports and the military to the pulpit.
“The discipline that we have to have in pastoring a church is to be able to deal with the multitude of personalities. You are in a position when there’s a great deal of happiness at times and a great deal of sadness,” he said. “The training that I had as a student — my high school coach at Earlington was a Christian man and taught a Sunday school class. As I went into the military, the discipline that I had from being an athlete in high school and college, and the sacrifices that you had to make in order to be successful, equated to the same things that you have to do as a minister.”
As he begins his Herndon ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic, Todd said he understands the wearing of masks and social distancing can be difficult for church members.
“It’s a change and it’s something that we’re probably going to have to tolerate for quite some time,” he said. “It takes an adjustment on everybody’s part, but if you put forth the effort we’re supposed to make anyway, it will all come out in the wash.”
Todd said there are several hot-button issues that he has opinions about, but he said he has a responsibility to refer to scripture to base his responses.
“We don’t serve the public, we serve the Lord,” he said. “We pastor a church and try to lead them down the pathway that the Bible tells all of us we need to follow in order to have a life hereafter.”
To his Herndon United Methodist church members, Todd said teamwork is the key to success in this life.
“We have to have a team effort,” he said. “The parishioner can’t do everything. The pastor can’t do everything. But, we can do everything together.”