John A. Broyles

Posted:  Thursday, December 21, 2017 - 2:30pm

John Allen Broyles, 83, was born in the Methodist parsonage in Johnson City, Tennessee on Jan. 13, 1934. He died Nov. 20, 2017, at Alive Hospice in Nashville.

Some highlights of his life include being a bat boy for the 1948 Cleveland Indians’ visiting dugout. He earned this by receiving second place in a writing contest about why he would be the best bat boy. He was able, briefly, to cross paths with baseball legends including Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Lou Boudreau and Bill Veeck.

He went to school at Hoover High in San Diego and went to University of Redlands where he met and married his wife of 61 years, Dolores Pettit. They married on June 2, 1956 in Los Angeles. He continued his education at Boston University, where he earned a Ph.D. from the School of Theology in sociology and Christian ethics. During this time, he was elected “Man of the Year” among his graduate class, which he sometimes attributed to his wife’s ability to make peach cobbler. His dissertation focused on The John Birch Society, an organization with concerns including the infiltration of Communism into American culture. Because of the depth of the research and its timeliness, “The John Birch Society: Anatomy of a Protest,” was published by Beacon Press in 1964 as a seminal study on this topic and translated to a French and Armenian edition. It was most recently referenced in a January 2016 New Yorker Magazine article, “A View from the Fringe: The John Birch Society and the rise of the radical right.” In 1968, he and Dolores attended the Christian World Council in the former Prague, Czechoslovakia where he also traveled across the Berlin Wall to East Berlin with a Quaker missionary who wanted to distribute medicine in this Communist area of the world.

Dr. Broyles went on to serve United Methodist churches in Winchester and Lexington, Massachusetts and Orono and Boothbay Harbor, Maine before relocating his wife and daughter, Marianne Aweagon, to Memphis, Tennessee where he worked not only in pastoral roles at churches (Union Avenue and Wesleyan Hills United Methodist Church) but as a chaplain at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences and the Neighborhood Center in North Memphis. He also served in the Rotary Club in Memphis as well as Leadership Memphis. His family maintained close ties to longtime friends and family in the Portland/Boothbay region and owned a cottage on Ocean Point for over 30 years. He treasured the three weeks every summer with his wife and daughter where they spent time fishing, climbing rocks, playing cards and Yahtzee, and exploring surrounding islands. No television was allowed. After his retirement, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico with his family where he worked for the living wage to become law so people could continue to live in their city which had become so exorbitantly expensive in the last decades. In August, he returned to his home state of Tennessee, where he lived in Nashville.

He will be remembered not only for his career achievements but more for his prioritization of his family. For Dolores and especially Marianne, he provided unconditional love, and lessons about the courage to speak truth to power, the investment of education, using critical thinking skills, and an abundance of time to talk about anything and everything, play tennis, read voraciously, throw a baseball, and verbalize thoughts on driving improvements.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Edith Verna Allen and Joseph Warren Broyles, his brother, Joseph Warren Broyles (Patricia), his brother- and sister-in law Richard Bell Pettit and Julia Jones Pettit, and numerous friends and colleagues whom he is eager to join and become a part of a “cloud of witnesses” for those remain here.

He is survived by his wife, Dolores, and Marianne, both of Nashville, as well as nieces, nephews, and cousins who range in locality from Washington, D.C. to South Carolina, and Tennessee.

A celebration of his life is planned for April 14, 2018, at 11 a.m. at Wesleyan Hills United Methodist Church with a burial TBD at the family resting place at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Chucky, Tennessee.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Wesleyan Hills United Methodist Church, Memphis’ Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), or Alive Hospice of Nashville.