Dr. Fred Lackey’s official title at the University of Mobile is “assistant to the president” directing the school’s church and denomination relations.
He prefers another title.
“I call myself the Chief Resident Hugger of the University of Mobile,” Lackey said.
His energetic embrace of life and passion for sharing God’s love with every person he meets has made Lackey an effective ambassador for the university.
Turning what is officially described as a part-time position into his fulltime passion, Lackey criss-crosses the state, making friends and building relationships for the university. Those encounters have helped bring new students and financial gifts to UMobile, and caught the attention of people who soon develop their own desire to be part of something special.
“I love people, and I’ve discovered this – it’s hard to oppose love,” he explained.
With more than 60 years in the ministry, including leadership positions at the highest levels of Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist Convention life, Lackey could easily sit back and relax.
But that wouldn’t be fun – and Lackey thrives on fun.
“Being a Christian is fun to me. Preaching is fun to me. Sunday School is fun to me. Life is fun to me,” he said. For a man whose next birthday will be his 80th – a man who starts each day with a three-mile run – sitting isn’t an option.
Raised in the Cheaha Mountains of Talladega County, Lackey was 19 when he married 16-year-old Sue.
“Outside of my salvation, that was the best move I ever made in my life,” Lackey
He earned degrees from Samford University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Luther Rice Seminary. Along the way, he served as pastor of three Alabama churches: Calvary Baptist in Prattville, First Baptist Church of Athens for 25 years, and Westside Baptist in Jasper, first for 10 years and later for another 15 years.
Now executive/associate pastor at Clements Baptist in Athens under the leadership of Pastor Tim Anderson, Lackey has “reduced” his schedule to preaching about one sermon a month and teaching at least once each Sunday and during a midweek Bible study.
“After 60 years of getting up and preaching anywhere from two to six times a week, I enjoy preaching just once a month,” he said with a laugh.
Lackey is well known and respected throughout Alabama. He recently completed a term as president of the 2013 Alabama Baptist Pastor’s Conference. A former two-term president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, he was named “Man of the Year” in 1990 by the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, where he served as a member of the administrative committee and as chairman of the Executive Committee.
His connection to UMobile began in 1986 when Dr. Sid Sample, then Mobile College’s director of church and convention relations, recommended Lackey for a seat on the school’s Board of Regents.
At that time he was pastor of First Baptist Athens, which was exploding in growth. NASA was expanding its operations in nearby Huntsville, and church attendance mushroomed from about 450 on Sunday morning to 800. As the church grew, it co-planted churches, eventually helping start five new congregations.
In 1994 he was appointed to the UMobile Board of Trustees. He served as a trustee until he was elected president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in 1995 and 1996.
Lackey was asked in 1996 by thenpresident Dr. Mike Magnoli to serve as full-time assistant to the president for church and convention relations. Lackey made the move into higher education, serving as a liaison between the university and Baptist congregations throughout the state and beyond.
In 1998 new president Dr. Mark Foley asked Lackey to serve as interim vice president for development. The university later honored him for that service with a resolution from the Board of Trustees thanking him for “providing constant encouragement and support to a new administration.”
Later in 1998 he moved to part-time status at UMobile when he was asked to supply preach at Westside Baptist until they could name an interim pastor. He would “supply” there for the next 15 years. In 2013 he was called to Clements Baptist Church in Jasper as associate pastor.
But “part-time” doesn’t describe the amount of energy, time and passion Lackey spends on building relationships that benefit the university he believes in
Students he has pastored during his more than 60 years in the ministry have enrolled at UMobile after accompanying him on a campus visit. One year he brought 10 students from First Baptist Athens for a campus visit. Nine enrolled and graduated, and many of them are now leading their own churches. This fall he expects three students from Clements Baptist to enroll, plus a young man from Arizona whose parents asked Lackey for a college recommendation.
“I tell anyone who asks the truth – if you want your child to go to a university where they will get an excellent academic education in a Christian environment that challenges them to grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, then go to the University of Mobile,” Lackey said.
The Lackeys sent two grandchildren to UMobile, have a granddaughter currently attending, and anticipate two more enrolling in a few years. Wait about 17 years, and they expect grandson Oliver to make UMobile his college home.
Lackey’s stint in the school’s development office gave him firsthand knowledge of the importance of fundraising at a private Christian university and how financial gifts help to keep college costs affordable for families. He and Sue contribute regularly to the university’s annual fund, and daughter Lisa celebrates her parents’ birthdays and anniversary by making her own contributions in their name.
When the university has a particular need, Lackey often works with Brian Boyle ’94, vice president for institutional advancement, to find the necessary resources.
“My philosophy is that you raise friends before you raise funds,” Lackey said. Recently, when Boyle was reviewing the list of endowed scholarships established at the university, he realized there was not one named for the Lackeys.
“Dr. Lackey has been such a significant part of the university for so long, and touched so many lives throughout his ministry. He loves this school. I thought it was past time that something permanent should be done that would honor Fred and Sue,” Boyle said.
He quietly reached out to just a few of the many people the Lackeys have impacted. Soon the $10,000 needed to endow a scholarship was raised.
During the University of Mobile Alumni and Friends Luncheon at the 2013 Alabama Baptist State Convention, with the Lackeys present, the surprise announcement was made: the Dr. Fred and Sue Lackey Memorial Scholarship was established.
Boyle said earnings from the principle will provide scholarship assistance for full-time UMobile students planning on a career in Christian service, with first priority given to students from the Athens or Cheaha Mountain areas.
“We’re both excited about it,” Lackey said. The Lackeys plan to start making contributions to their new endowed scholarship fund – in addition to the donations they already make to the annual fund.
“That way, we will be helping kids who are in school now, as well as those in the future,” Lackey said. “In the long run, this school has given me more than I have ever given them – the satisfaction of staying in touch with graduates who confirm in my heart how valuable this school really is.”