Old time-religion Baptists like to say that the faith that falters was faulty from the first because Jesus Christ changes everything. This is the story of Nora Pearl Minter Culberson and Albert Rufus Culberson who met one day at an all-day gospel singing at the Odena Baptist Church. Nora Minter was 23 and Albert was 35. Nora’s Dad was there that day, and Albert asked his permission to court his daughter. Mr. Minter said, “She’s 23 years old. I will leave that up to her.” So when Albert turned and asked Nora, right then and there, in everyone’s presence, she said, “I’ll go with you to church, but nowhere else.”
They became husband and wife on December 28, 1925, and eventually the parents of five girls: Roberta, Opal, Gaynell, Zora, and Carolyn. Only Opal remains, and there is a celebration of life and faith and family planned in her honor and to honor the memory of the Culbersons who spent their lives serving the Lord. It is also the hope of the Culberson’s granddaughter, Jerry Nell Nocua , that Providence Baptist Church, where Pastor Jeff Adams preaches the Word of God in 2022, will benefit from this word about the reality of the Christian life and how to attain it.
When they met, Nora was a Baptist, and Albert was a Methodist; but she insisted that he become a Baptist before she would marry him. Nora loved growing things and she wanted to farm so they bought a goat farm in the Harpersville area, 80 acres for $800. Albert was an A-1 Union carpenter in Birmingham, and he worked on building projects wherever they sent him. He had this habit of putting his initials on an obscure place on everything he built. Meanwhile Nora enjoyed her farm, growing and putting up the produce of their land, feeding the family.
The couple began attending the Crestwell Baptist Church soon after their marriage; in fact Albert helped build it. The church later became known as the Providence Baptist Church, and Marvin Morris who had lived in Odena pastored the church for 26 years. Albert became the Song Director. Nora was the Sunday School Director and also directed many of the church programs/cantatas that attracted so many people there for holiday programs. Myrtice Keeton was a regular in the Christmas play every Christmas Eve. The play centered on the birth of Jesus and prepared the congregation to celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Gail Keeton Shaw remembers that Santa Claus always brought goodies to the children after the play, 2 oranges, 2 apples, and peppermint candy. Many people from the Odena area were attracted to the church by Bro. Morris and his dynamic style of preaching. Nora and Albert raised their children there along with a crowd of other children, so many that the children’s Sunday School teachers supervised them in the church yard during the worship service. With no air conditioning and the windows open, the children could hear just fine.
It was such a different time. Jerri Nell’s mother, Gaynell, wanted her to be old enough to understand what she was doing, so Jerry Nell waited until she was ten years old to be baptized (in the Coosa River). Gail Keeton Shaw was also baptized when she was about 13. Other people from Sylacauga and Odena attended the church and contributed to the spread of the Gospel from there. Some who were prominent servants there were Jasper Foster, John Edwards, Bob Guy, C.C. Vaughn, and Elvin and Roland Spates. Mary Green played piano and Elvin Green, and Leon Lee who is Troy Jones’ grandfather, worshipped there.
God has a way of working things in our lives to give glory to His Name. This family is an example of that work. Nora’s father, Mr. Minter, talked the Culberson’s into letting him buy the back forty of the eighty acre farm. When Albert died, his father in law had just paid him the last payment on this mortgage. This enabled Nora to keep her farm where she worked hard raising food and cotton; later leasing out parts of the farm to others seeking a place to plant cotton. She was only 41 when Albert died, and she still had two girls in school and at home. Gaynell was a senior in high school. Nora was heart-broken, but she continued to work hard and served the Lord there at the church where their lives had been so blessed.
This remembrance of her grandparents and her aunts brought tears to Jerry Nell’s eyes as she described how the Christian example of Albert and Nora had been a witness to her during difficult times in her own life. “I wanted to give something back,” she said, “for their lives are a foundation that I cherish. I know if they could make it through, I could, too,” I smile to myself as I recall the words of that old Baptist hymn, “May all who come behind me find me faithful.” On April 9, Nora and Albert’s daughter, Opal Culberson Matchen, will celebrate her 94th birthday. The family will gather on April 10 there at the church of their childhood to fellowship together and celebrate Christ, Church, and family, the good life of living for Jesus and loving each other. It’s a true story, and it was not so long ago at that.