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Busy preacher enjoys his calling

The Rev. Leroy Bellamy fills diverse roles: preacher, father of 10, janitor, landscaper, civil rights activist. But his main calling in life, he says, is to "preach the Word."

For more than 30 years, he and his wife of 54 years, Priscilla, have traveled throughout the United States preaching to thousands of churchgoers.

"The Lord called me to preach and I love it. I don't ever intend to quit, I am just going to keep at it as long as I can," Bellamy said.

He and his wife live in a modest wood-frame house on Leroy Bellamy Road in Inverness, named after Bellamy four years ago.

Although the reverend is 76 and his wife is 74, Bellamy said age has not slowed them down too much.

"We move a little slower than we did in our younger days, but that's about all," he said, laughing.

When he's not traveling, Bellamy spreads the Gospel in two area churches, Grace Temple Church of the Living God in Floral City and Church of the Living God in Hernando.

He's busy in other ways, too, holding a job as a janitor at Florida Power Corp. in Crystal River, working part time as a landscaper, and promoting civil rights.

"I believe in staying busy. There isn't any sense in wasting time," Bellamy said, rubbing his calloused hands.

Bellamy and one of his sons, Bruce, recently helped organize Citrus County's first Martin Luther King Jr. March.

"I believe we have got to get rid of prejudices. We might not get rid of all of them, but we can sure get rid of some of them," he said.

Though the gray-haired preacher has seen a lot of changes in Citrus County during the past 70 years, he still has hopes that even more social and economic changes will benefit local minorities in the future.

"I would really love to see blacks here get jobs, have their own businesses and make money with no problems," he said.

Bellamy has found strength and joy in preaching and promoting the advancement of minorities, and he has found joy in his family.

Bellamy said he is thankful for his 24 or so church members, but joked that his immediate family is larger than both of his congregations combined.

"Priscilla and I had 10 children, 35 grandchildren and about 13 great-grandchildren. That is quite a group."

The soft-spoken preacher said although he thinks of his large family as a blessing, "it sure was tough during those years when we were trying to get our children raised."

Rubbing his wrinkled forehead, Bellamy leaned back in his blue armchair and said, "Right before we got married I was working on a farm down near where Eden Drive is today. I worked there from sunup to sundown and only made 50 cents a day. Those were hard times."

Though money was scarce and the economy depressed, Bellamy and his wife managed to send five of their 10 children to college. "Times weren't easy, but we made it," he said.

Bellamy's children work as teachers, a bank vice president, mechanic and an Army lieutenant colonel.

"Oh Lord, we are so proud of our children," he said. "We've not done too badly when it comes to having a home."

After sharing his family's history, Bellamy reminisced about days gone by. Although he has fond memories of the past, he also has a few memories he would like to forget.

"I remember when my wife and I used to go to the local theater. We had to sit upstairs, away from the whites who sat downstairs," he said. "I also remember when we only had black congregations, but now we have black and white.

"Times have really changed in Citrus County, and it sure is a nice place to live now."