Faith is everything for the Agnew family

 Charles Agnew, Jr., center, with his daughters, Mary Agnew Wright and Geneva Agnew Matthews.

Charlie Agnew, Jr. has been a man of God for 91 years. He has been a member of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Saltillo his entire life, and a deacon for over sixty years. As a sharecropper on the Wesson Plantation, Agnew and his wife, Bernice, built the foundation for their nine children on the faithfulness of God, the importance of family, and the benefits of a strong work-ethic. Daughters Mary Agnew Wright and Geneva Agnew Matthews remember the challenges of growing up on the Wesson Plantation. “Each year was so difficult. And I can remember praying that we didn’t get too much rain, or that we got enough rain. Because as sharecroppers, you only got a percentage of what you made. Your share was crucial in terms of the family being able to make it,” Matthews said. Every member of the family was expected to help. In September, the children would miss school in order to harvest the crops. Agnew depended on God to provide for his family not only in sharecropping, but also in growing his own food. “Dad not only had to pray for a bountiful harvest, but he also was a subsistence farmer. All the food we ate, he grew. Pigs, corn, tomatoes. He always had a garden and that’s what fed us,” Matthews said. Agnew’s wife who was expecting their youngest children, twins Darron and Sharron, suffered an illness while Agnew was in Indiana attending his mother’s funeral. Once he returned, he took her to the hospital. Complications from this illness caused her to develop congestive heart failure, and she was no longer able to work in the fields. “Mother was quite ill. I feel his faith helped him, because she was hospitalized several times,” Wright said. A few years later, the government developed programs to train laborers for new professions. Agnew was trained to be an industrial painter and left sharecropping in the late 1960’s. After that, Agnew was hired on at Rockwell as a machine mechanic and worked there for many years. Agnew’s wife went to work at Purnell’s Pride Chicken, even though the doctor advised against it. “She definitely gave all that she had to help him raise us,” Matthews said. Agnew’s wife died in 1986 at the age of 54. Their legacy consists of 9 children, 16 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. Their daughter, Sula Agnew Hood, died when she was 41. Agnew put eight of his children through college. They all went on to become successful in their chosen careers to include his son Rickey Agnew, pastor of United Christian Faith Tabernacle of Tupelo. Throughout the many hardships and blessings, the Agnew’s are certain that their families’ faith is what brought them through it all. “Faith is everything for this family,” said Matthews. “We learned to love the Lord and without the Lord we could not go anywhere. That is the root of his beliefs. The Lord is the focus and the center.” “He’s kept me here for 91 years. Through God everything is possible. You’ve got to have faith,” Agnew said.

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