ROCKINGHAM — The Rev. Tommy Legrand says God told him in a vision that he needed to become a pastor. Fifty years later, he’s still carrying that vision out.
Legrand, 75, who started in Richmond County as a street preacher in 1969, began his career in Philadelphia in 1964 as a deacon at his church. Legrand said the vision came as a surprise.
“I was hesistant to respond. I didn’t really want to be a preacher,” said Legrand. “But on the corner of 59th and Vine Street in Philadelphia is where the ministry actually began.”
His first sermon on those streets was titled “Lift Him Up,” but after three more visions from God telling him to move back to North Carolina, Legrand moved to Fayetteville in September 1968 and moved to Richmond County three months later.
Now living in town, Legrand preached his first street sermon on East Washington Street in Rockingham and quickly moved around the county spreading his message to Philadelphia, Ellerbe, the Galestown community, Ashley Chapel, Dobbins Heights and Hamlet.
One of the things Legrand is most proud of was conducting a revival for five weeks in south Hamlet. Standing on the corner of Thomas Street and Buttercup Drive, Legrand spoke to crowds of 15 to 20 a night in a neighborhood that he said at the time was a very dangerous one to walk through in daylight.
After a period of street preaching, someone suggested to Legrand that he purchase a building for his ministry, so he did just that. Legrand bought a building with no water, windows or electricity.
“I patched up the windows and doors and got the lights turned on, but there was still no running water or restrooms,” Legrand said. “We made repairs on that building as the congregation grew.”
In 1981, Legrand broke ground on a new sanctuary, which would later be known as Prayer and Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, Legrand’s home church, and the building was finally dedicated in April of 1994.
In the coming years, Legrand would oversee the building of the Faith Academy in 2000, the Prayer and Faith Community Food Pantry in 2003 and the Southview Learning Center in 2005, all next door to the sanctuary. A new addition, the Family Life Enrichment Center is due to open in August of this year.
Said Legrand, “Our mission is to provide facilities, information and direction for people to become productive citizens.”
Legrand has conducted tent revivals in West Virginia, Virginia, Louisiana and the Carolinas. He is one of the founding members of the Christian Clothes Closet on U.S. 74 Business beside Holiday Inn Express and is a lifetime member of the NAACP.
He has a live prayer radio ministry every Sunday morning at WKDX in Rockingham and a pre-recorded broadcast every Saturday at 5 p.m. on WPJL 1240 in Raleigh.
Legrand prefers to stay busy outside of his office.
“Being a part of community activities, as a man of God, you have to come out from behind the desk and connect with the community,” he said.
Legrand was appointed by Jurisdictional Bishop Leroy J. Woolard to oversee seven Pentecostal Holiness churches, two of which are in Richmond County, as district superintendent.
In 2011, Legrand graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh with a master’s in religion and philosophy. Legrand said he went to school for a semester in 1995 and then changed his mind. It took him from 1995 to 2004 to psych himself up to go back, he said.
Legrand has been married to his high-school sweetheart, Geraldine Allred, for 53 years and together they have seven sons, three daughters and 13 grandchildren. Some would say it’s time for Legrand to retire from the ministry, and he said himself he may one day step down, but retirement is not in the near future.
“God continues to expand my vision. There is an area that I’d like to build some low-income houses,” said Legrand. “The Lord has blessed me with strength and good health. The work of the Lord is never finished. There are so many needs in our community.”
Legrand can take one night at least to relax and let himself be the center of attention.
Prayer and Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Hamlet will celebrate his years of accomplishments at 4 p.m. Saturday with a celebration to be held at Family Agape Center at 401 McIntyre Road, Ellerbe.
Said Legrand, “I’m honored to be recognized for 50 years of service. It’s the hand of the Lord and I’m thankful.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.