Growing Close to God as a Youngster

The temptations of urban life “in the roaring twenties” were largely unknown to Tom. He knew very little about “the world of flappers and smoking” because his family encouraged him to seek God instead. The Malloys also supported the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, which sought to outlaw alcohol in America to promote a more moral society. These ideas resonated with Tom as his reasoning abilities grew, and he became a conservative young man. A new, pow- erful mentor also sensed extraordinary potential in Tom. Tom admits that even before he showed an interest in spiritual leadership, he “was always treated special” by Asbury’s pastor, R.W. Cheers. “He knew that I was unusual. That I had a way of understanding. That I was not an ordinary boy,” Tom admits. Cheers helped to guide Tom’s adolescent behavior.

Tom reminisces: “Even as a dirty little boy, the pastor invited me to hear speeches. He would come sometimes and find me out in the street playing and say, ‘Come and go with me, Thomas.’ And we would be the only black people there.” Tom also gained the attention of Reverend Cheers and others as a young boy because he had the uncanny ability to recite the minister’s Sunday sermon almost verbatim after the service.

Cheers’ kindness meant a lot to Tom because some of the more affluent blacks degraded him and other poor migrants from the South. As Pastor Cheers went out of his way to befriend Tom, he gave the intelligent boy unexpected chances to succeed.