Friends, family help Lloyd Scales celebrate 90th

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

For most of the years that he has been living, Ironton's Lloyd Scales,

has woken up each Sunday and gone to church. And he will tell you that sitting in church, he has the opportunity to count his blessings.

Today, Scales has one more blessing to count: He celebrated his 90th birthday Saturday. Today, he will host a "Lord's Day" service after the regular morning worship at Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and invite friends to celebrate with him.

Email newsletter signup

The church may need a few extra pews because in his 90 years, Scales has made many friends.

Love for God, music

Born in Virginia on Sept. 4, 1914, his family moved

to Ironton when he was a young boy. At an early age, Scales discovered two of the great loves in his life: God and music.

Church has always been at the center of his life. He remembers that Sunday attendance was never an option in the Scales' household. "You didn't have any argument about it, you went," he said.

Betty Gordon attends church with Scales. Gordon said she was 13 years old when her family moved to Ironton. She met Scales at church; he was a Boy Scout leader. They have been friends ever since. "He's a loving man, a caring man," Gordon said. "He never met a stranger."

Throughout the years, Scales has had a number of duties in the church, helping out whenever and wherever he can. These days he is president of the lay committee, often leading devotions and teaching. And he sings. It is that voice that people often think of when they think of Lloyd Scales.

"I've been singing practically all my life, I suppose," Scales said. "I sang in the church choir when I was old enough that they'd let me in."

His first memory of singing in public came in 1922 when he was among a group of students who sang at the dedication of the newly erected Ironton-Russell Bridge. Children from Ironton met children from Kentucky in the middle of the bridge and we sang and had the opening for the bridge," Scales said. "I don't remember what we sang; it's been too long." He was in the sixth grade.

'Let your light so shine…'

Another of Scales' duties over the years has been acting as scoutmaster to the Boy Scout troop at his church.It was an opportunity for one man to make a difference, and he did.

"It shows how you can be used by God and not even know it," Scales said of his years as a scout leader. He points proudly to the young men who were in his troop that have now become leaders themselves. Of those boys who grew up with Scales as scoutmaster, at least eight have gone on to become ministers. One of them is the Rev. Douglas E. Carter, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Burlington. Carter said he was a member of Scales' scout troop in the early 1940s.

"He is one of the finest men that I have ever met in my life," Carter said of Scales. "He has always been a mentor to me. He is a fine citizen of Ironton."

Carter said he remembered how Scales would take a vacation from his job to take his scout troop on trips to Camp Oyo and other places. In all these years, Carter has not forgotten Scales' sacrifice of time and energy to help (shape) young boys into young men.

What did Carter learn from Scales and those years in scouting? "Dignity, loyalty, truthfulness and honesty," Carter said. "He was a friend to all mankind." And an example, too. "I never have heard an ill word against him," Carter said.

"He encouraged me to do better. Every time he hears me preach he says, 'you just keep getting better and better' and that encourages me. It's encouraging," Carter said.

Black and white

His friends describe Scales as a gentleman, even when times were not so gentle to him.

Growing up in America in the 1930s meant a segregated world, one for blacks and one for whites.

"There were places we could not eat," Scales said. "We're all God's creation, all God's children. Humanity came from two people, Adam and Eve, so that makes us blood kin."

After graduating from Ironton High School

in 1932, Scales took whatever jobs he could find to support a family that began with his marrying Evelyn Thurman in 1937 and later included a daughter, Carol. At that time, few jobs were open to blacks, regardless of


"I did janitorial work, and then I went to the railroad in 1942 when the war broke out."

Juggling two or three jobs to make ends meet, Scales often worked 14-16 hours a day. It was what he had to do to put food on the table, so he did it.

Even then, the harshness of racism was reality. Although Scales had taken typing classes in high school and had the qualifications for clerical work, office jobs

at the Chessie System car shops in Raceland, Ky., were not open to blacks, no matter what their abilities were.

It wasn't until the 1950s that black workers pressed the issue with management and won the right to have jobs that were previously open only to whites.

Friends and family recall that even in the face of prejudice, Scales never became hardened toward others, whatever they may have done to him.

"I always saw my dad as an even-keeled person," his daughter, Carol Rushin, said. "He never got upset. He was an easy-going person. He never seemed to let things bother him, or if he did it didn't show on the outside."

A father

These days Scales said he divides his time between two families "my blood family," he explained "and my spiritual family (at church). God takes care of me; I've been blessed."

His blood family consists of Rushin, her daughter,

Monuette Rushin, and four great grandchildren, Brandon, Alicia, Cameron and Joshua.

"He was a wonderful parent," Rushin said. "He still is a wonderful parent."

Some of


fondest memories of her father were those days when she would get up and go to work with him when she was a little girl. "He would tell me, 'if you're going to go to work with me, you'll have to walk fast!' And I learned to!"

Rushin recalled that her father made the time to be Daddy, even after she was grown, no matter how busy he was or how many miles separated them.

"My freshman year of college Mom said to him, 'are you fixing Easter eggs for Carol?' Spring break was the week before Easter so I had been home then. He got in there and he helped my Mom color Easter eggs and they got on the train in Ironton and brought a basket of Easter eggs to me in Cincinnati."

What is it about her father that Rushin is most proud of? His walk with Christ. "He's a child of The King," she said. "Jesus Christ is the head of his life."


In 90 years, he has seen a lot of good and bad in the world. "I have had an enjoyable life," Scales said. "God's been good."

He has outlived his first wife, Evelyn and a second, Hazel.

He still drives, still visits his daughter, still visits with friends from time to time.

And he still sings. Today, he will sing during his special "Lord's Day" program at church.

And one of the songs he will sing is one of the first he ever learned. "Jesus Loves Me," he said with a smile.

And after 90 years, friends and family will tell you he remains a special person, and their lives are special because they knew him.

Asked to describe her father to people who never met him, Rushin answered.

"Look for that certain glow. I think everyone who sees him - at least I do - they see he has a glow about him you don't often see."

Staff reporter Teresa Moore can be reached at 532-1445 ext. 25.