The Rev. Harold Oates Taylor, who served the First Baptist Church of Davie for more than 33 years and was chaplain to the Davie Police Department and Davie Pro Rodeo, could have been the inspiration for the old John Denver hit, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
“We didn’t have golf courses and tennis courts and movie theaters so we all grew up to be cowboys and cowboys became our heroes. The Rev. Taylor came in to be our chaplain and he would show up for every rodeo and pray for the safety of all our fans and pray for the safety of all the ride contestants,” said developer Ronnie Bergeron, a member of the pioneering Davie family who built the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds more than 80 years ago.
Taylor, the last of the Davie Kiwanis Club charter members, died July 18, said longtime friend Valerie Moran. He was 87.
Born in Columbia, Alabama, Taylor studied dairy production and science at Auburn University. He joined the Navy during the Korean War and served as a mechanic on the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. After receiving his master’s of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, he started First Baptist Church from inside the Bergeron family’s small country store, Davie Groceries, in 1961.
Pastor Taylor was the unofficial welcoming committee for new religious leaders who moved to Davie. He took me under his wing in 1977 and introduced me to everyone. He was the religious ‘go-to man’ of our community.
Pastor Darryl Stuehrenberg, who served Davie’s Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
Taylor led First Baptist’s expansion and also served First Baptist Church of Hallandale and Gardens Baptist Church in West Park. He officiated countless weddings, including Bergeron’s.
“He really was everyone’s mentor in Davie,” Bergeron said. “Always there in all the wonderful occasions and always there in the sad times. We’re extremely proud of the heritage and being a part of keeping Davie a cowboy town. The Rev. Taylor was a big part of that. He was probably one of the greatest men I ever met.”
Bergeron laughs. “He’d listen to some of the crazy things young teenagers would do. I remember him sitting with all of us and we’re telling him what we did through the weekend and I could see his eyes raise. He handled himself like he was father to all of us. We let him into our world and he certainly gave us a lot of good advice.”
Sometimes he gave out moon pies and a bottle of RC Cola, too, when it could serve as comfort to a troubled soul.
Rev. Taylor deeply affected tens of thousands of people who counted on him for God’s word and guidance, and if they were lucky, a country boy’s delight of a six-pack of RC Cola and a box of MoonPies.
Years ago, when her father died at 52, Taylor brought Moran’s mother those sweet treats. “Something about an RC and moon pie that could make a day better. He was just the kindest, most gentle soul.”
Taylor’s survivors include his wife MaryAnn, his children Catherine Taylor Hickem and Harold Taylor, Jr., five grandchildren, and sisters Wilma Yance and Marjorie Odom. Services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at New Life Baptist Church, 2400 S. Pine Island Rd. in Davie. Donations in his memory can be made to Gardens Baptist Church in West Park.