Deacon David Gay, Sr. and Bishop Robert Gay, Sr.
We can read about Frederick Douglass and watch the old documentary videos of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That kind of Black history is fantastic for the entire country. But, individual family history as Black history can be even more fantastic. That’s what we have in our Uncle Rob ( Bishop Robert Gay, Sr.) and our Uncle Dave (Deacon David Gay, Sr.).
Uncle Rob, 88, and Uncle Dave, 85, grew up in two locations on Stantonsburg Road: first, about four miles from Farmville; and second, about four miles from Greenville (back then), but now maybe 500 yards.
What was their world on Stantonburg Road like then? What was their Black history?
These two men grew up in a stronghold of segregation and discrimination of the 1930’s and 1940’s. The farms that Uncle Rob and Uncle Dave lived on and worked on were tenant/share cropper operations. Pa Bob raised the family on only receiving half of every dollar the family earned from raising crops.
Plus, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. Later in their childhood, they also faced the effects of World War II.
Their schools were segregated and to get there they walked. Wherever they went, they faced the Jim Crow world of North Carolina. Signs everywhere said White Only and Colored Only: at stores, in cafes, bus stations, and in the tobacco warehouses.
This was the world in which they were born, grew up in, and faced as young men. In fact, when the Brown versus the Topeka Board of Education case was decided, Uncle Rob was already 21, and Uncle Dave 19.
Now in 2021, 75-80 years later, Uncle Rob and Uncle Dave have endured through working hard, learning anew, raising their children, and serving Jesus Christ.
This February 2021 we celebrate Robert James Gay, Sr. and David Clinton Gay, Sr. the two youngest children of “Pa” Bob Gay and “Ma” Lillie Parker Gay.
Uncle Rob (Bishop Robert Gay) farmed briefly before moving to Bridgeport, CT. Later, he worked a number of decades painting cars and specializing in auto body work. Additionally, Uncle Rob was an ordained minister, pastor, and later a bishop for several decades. He pastored St. Matthews from 1977 to 2015.
Uncle Rob married Mary Spain Gay and later Ethel Gay and is the father of eight children.
Uncle Dave (Deacon David Gay) farmed, drove a school bus, and worked as an orderly and medical technician for Pitt Memorial Hospital (Vidant Hospital) and later at the Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center. Uncle Dave married the late Mary Whitehurst Gay and is the father of 12 children, one of which died as an infant.
He has been a deacon for over four decades.
In 2017, St. Matthews honored Uncle Rob by having a New Haven, CT intersection dedicated to him. You can read the newspaper story here.
Over the past few years, Uncle Dave has worked to increase health consciousness in Pitt County communities and in 2018 held a Walk-with-Dave event to provide information about kidney awareness and some health testing. Watch this WITN 7 video about Uncle Dave’s 2018 event here.
Uncle Rob and Uncle Dave are the connection to Ma Lillie’s line of Parkers: Her maternal grandfather was Dempsey Parker, her grandmother Viney Barrett Parker and her mother Jennie Parker Moore. Ma Lillie’s paternal grandfather was Turnage Joyner, her grandmother was Nicey Joyner and her father Spencer Joyner.
They are also the connection to Pa Bob’s line of Gays: his maternal grandfather was Jacob Gay and his grandmother Mary Jane Jefferson Gay, his mother Arie Gay. Pa Bob’s paternal grandfather was Richard Gay, his grandmother Arie Hemby Gay, and his father George Washington Gay.
So, here we are, celebrating Black History Month 2021. As said earlier, we celebrate Bishop Robert James Gay, Sr. and Deacon David Clinton Gay, Sr. the remaining living children of the second generation of the Pa Bob Gay and Ma Lillie Parker Gay.