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By Scott Jester, 06/25/21 4:07 PM


Like a stool with three-legs, Faith, family, and friends,  in that order, are the three best words to apply to widely respected local preacher and civic leader Harold Freeman. The stool must have all three legs to stay in balance and Freeman holds the aforementioned attributes with a calm, quiet humility.


He was born in Elkhart, Texas, population 77, located just outside Palestine, and last week celebrated his 84th birthday. His wife, partner, companion, cook and advisor of 63 years is Nelda (Nell) Burns.


He excelled in school, graduating in 1956 in a class of 28 students. He was elected to Boys State and also Mr. Senior of his class, while his sister was elected Miss Freshman of the same year.


It was school where he received his nickname of “Baby Face Freeman” and taking a look at his wedding day picture, the nickname stuck.


Life wasn’t easy as a youngster, his father finishing and sanding hardwood floors as an hourly laborer. No electricity until he was 11 and never had running water. His mother said she lost her ‘running water’ when they left that home because Harold Wayne was the ‘running water’, running back and forth with a bucket to the water source.


He spent many summer days on the porch of his minister grandfather, watching him rest during the lunch hour after laboring as a sharecropper.


“As most grandkids, I really admired my grandfather,” said Freeman.


“His influence over me got me to want to preach more than anything early. He would come in for lunch after plowing in the fields and would lay down on the porch against an old cane-slatted chair and rest by telling us grandkids bible stories. He was called a “circuit preacher” because he would ride horseback from church to church serving each in the area. He would leave on a Saturday and return home on Monday.”


Anyone who knows Harold would never question his faith. In fact, some might seek him out in order to assist in getting their own faith in check.


His faith was a strong part of his early relationship with Nell. “When (Nell) and I were dating, she didn’t drive, so as part of our getting together, I said I would take you to the Church of Christ every Sunday morning if you would come with me to the Baptist church on Sunday night.”


After the two were married he hadn’t been in the Church of Christ long before he was asked if he had ever led the singing. “One of the men brought me a pitch pipe and said ‘I will teach you how to use this and if you use it on Sundays it’s free. If you don’t use it, you owe me however much it costs,” he says with a smile.


As with most callings from up above, Freeman was led to his first preaching engagement by happenstance. “There was a church west of Conroe, Texas that needed a preacher to fill in for about six weeks,” Freeman recalled. “I’d never done this before but one of the men at the church told me that I could. I had been leading Sunday School before that and so I said ok. After a little time went by I said to the elders there that they needed to get to finding a preacher and they looked at me and said, ‘we already have a preacher’. It was me.”


Fast forward to 1967 to Central Church of Christ located just south of Hope, where he has served as pastor ever since. That’s 54 years for those doing the math.


Freeman spent many years in the trucking business while leading his flock, managing transportation and freight for numerous outfits that dotted the local area during the 1970’s and ’80’s including the impressive startup Spears Carpet Mill and TexArk Joist. It was his ministry, however, that made up his foundation.


The Harold Freeman family could be easily compared to a solid group of hardwoods growing deeper and stronger with each year. Harold and Nell were blessed with two boys. The older Wayne currently serves as an elder at his church in Hot Springs while Ronnie is close to home and serves as the pastor when Harold is not available for the past 25 years.


As children, the Freeman boys were raised virtually inside a church house. “I stayed for three years at that first church,” Freeman stated. “I had to tell them that Wayne had started school and we couldn’t hardly wake him up on Mondays to get ready because he was so tired from travelling the 50 miles one way and spending the whole day and into the night at the church.”


It is said that “similarities create friendship, while differences hold them together”. Such applies to Freeman’s connection to others through his ministry which crosses across all denominations and his civic work with the Hope Lions Club. He has reached out in both areas to help others materially and spiritually.


“I joined the Lions Club in 1972 and received a 50-year plaque last year,” Freeman said. “I wanted to do something more than I was able to do at the church.”


Freeman was always active during food drives held by the Lions, delivering baskets to other families in the area. “We would always tried to pick one of the young men around that were willing to help and we started with my grandson, Zane, who is now 33, to help us.”


And, the annual Lions Club Auction fundraiser does not begin their three-day event until an opening prayer from Freeman is given.


One could also tune into KXAR on the AM dial every Sunday morning and receive a message of encouragement and hope from the soft-spoken Freeman.


“Harold is the ‘real deal'”, says longtime Lion Mark Keith. “He’s a genuine Christian man whose ministry goes beyond his church. He’s been an inspiration to me.”


Freeman simplifies this entire story with, “I always pray every day for myself, my family and my church that I’ve made a difference in a neighbor’s, friend’s or a co-workers life along the way. That has always been a goal in my life.”


If interested in visiting or joining Freeman’s spiritual family each Sunday, you will find them at the Central Church of Christ, 5707 Highway 29 South or call 870-777-3599 for more information. All are welcome.