Dr. Ernest H. Mellor Jr., who devoted his life to Christian ministry as a Presbyterian pastor, foreign missionary, family counselor and TV talk-show host, died Monday at his home in Germantown. He was 83.
In the years between, Mellor became more well-known locally as a marriage and family counselor as well as a TV personality. In 1973, he founded the Memphis Institute for Group and Family Therapy, working with his wife, Lalla Mellor.
“They were true partners,” said Rev. Anne Mellor Emery, Mellor’s daughter and now a Presbyterian pastor of Pennsylvania. “Mom was our rock and dad was our inspiration.”
In 1977, Mellor and Dr. Brooks Ramsey, former pastor of Second Baptist Church, co-founded the Pastoral Counseling and Consultation Center. In 1979, the two began hosting “Family Focus,” a weekly show that ran for six seasons on WKNO-TV.
“Ernest was the first one to do pastoral counseling in Memphis,” said Ramsey, who at Mellor’s request preached his retirement sermon in 2005. “He was wise, he was compassionate, and he was completely loyal to the people he was trying to help. He had a fierce loyalty and commitment to the ministry of counseling, but he always had a pastor’s heart.”
Mellor was born in El Dorado, Ark. He was a graduate of Centenary College in Shreveport, La., where he earned spending money by preaching and playing piano at a small church nearby.
He earned his master of divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, taking time out from his studies to visit mission fields in South America and Africa. His first pastorate was at the First Presbyterian Church in Guntersville, Ala. He later received his doctorate in counseling from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Before coming to Germantown, Mellor was a missionary in Brazil for five years, serving there with his wife and children. “All of his children think he was the kindest man we’ve ever known,” Emery said. “His greatest gift was his love of people.”
Mellor accepted his first call to Germantown Presbyterian in 1963. He was instrumental in construction of Warren Hall, the church parlor, administrative offices and library. He brought the Metropolitan Opera’s leading dramatic mezzo-soprano, Blanche Thebom, to sing at the building dedication in 1968.
Mellor also served as parish associate at Farmington Presbyterian and as interim pastor at Farmington, Cordova and Faith Presbyterian churches. In 1995, he served a year as co-interim Presbyter of the Memphis Presbytery. He helped Balmoral Presbyterian church get started.
“You can hear his work in the conversations and remembrances of thousands of people in this region who sought him out for counsel and consolation,” said Rev. Carla Meisterman, Balmoral’s pastor. “In building the church, Ernest built us to be better people.”
Mellor is survived by his wife of 57 years, Lalla Brown Somerville Mellor of Germantown; a brother, James Mellor of Indianapolis; three daughters, Lalla Colmer and Elizabeth Mellor, both of Germantown, and Anne Emery of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; a son, Ernest “Ernie” Mellor III, of Memphis; and a granddaughter, Mary Glenn Mellor of Franklin, Tenn.
A memorial service for Dr. Mellor will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at Germantown Presbyterian Church. The family requests that memorials be sent to Germantown Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden, the Church Health Center, or Memphis Family Shelter.
More comments about Dr. Mellor from Rev. Meisterman:
His greatest gift.
Ernest Mellor had the ability to speak to a person’s spirit. He was a phenomenal listener and a great encourager. He was able to speak truth into your life in a way you could hear it. His Christ like ability to welcome you – just the way you are – allowed you to feel the freedom to accept yourself. His counsel opened doors to new understandings and possibilities for better ways of living. As a pastor, he was filled with grace. You could take anything to Ernest in confidence and never feel judged by him. He was able to create spiritual space for all kinds of people to consider their lives within.
Most lasting impact.
Ernest was a builder of the church. You can see his accomplishments in structures like Warren Hall at Germantown Presbyterian Church and my own church, Balmoral Presbyterian, which he helped the founding pastor of my congregation get started in the late 1960’s. You can see his impact in systems as you remember his visionary and collegial leadership in the 1990’s as Co-Executive Presbyter with an African American women, Ruling Elder Flordia Henderson. You can hear his work in the conversations and remembrances of thousands of people in this region who sought him out for counsel and consolation. In building the church, Ernest built us to be better people.
What you learned from him.
God does not waste anything a human being goes through. God uses hurt and failure. God uses disappointments and depression. God uses wounds and wanderings, waywardness and wonder. Ernest taught me that God does, indeed, work all things together for good. I learned from Ernest that no matter what has happened in a person’s life, no matter how badly people can feel about themselves or their experiences, God makes all things new. God weaves the dark places in our lives into beautiful creations if we learn, as Ernest taught, to trust that God loves us no matter what we do. That truth, understood, makes it easier to learn to forgive and love one another. Ernest believed in God’s ability to make all things new and guided us to use what we have learned in our own brokenness to bless others.
How he should be remembered.
Remembering Ernest will never be hard for the people who knew him and were loved and served by him. He was passionate about growing the church. He was passionate about loving people. He was passionate about God’s incredible grace. He wanted everyone to experience loving acceptance which invites positive growth and change. He was a teacher to our spirits and a an encourager to our souls. He will be remembered as one who ministered as Christ – binding up wounds, healing the broken-hearted, making peace and teaching us how to love.