FLORENCE, Miss. (BP)–Sammy J. McDonald III, 41, pastor of Victory Baptist Church near Florence, Miss., died Jan. 29 along with his wife and three young sons when a pre-dawn fire swept through their home.
Killed with McDonald were his wife Patricia, 37, and sons Lowery, 14, Allen, 12, and Reese, 7. The rambling, two-story farmhouse in which they were living, built by Sammy McDonald’s grandfather in 1914, also was destroyed.
Firefighters from two rural volunteer fire departments reported the house was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived. They estimated the fire began between 1:30-1:45 a.m. as the family slept. There were no initial indications of foul play, but autopsies have been ordered and authorities said an investigation at the scene of the fire would begin as soon as the debris cooled.
McDonald previously pastored Lighthouse Baptist Church, located a short distance from Victory Baptist Church. He and about 20 Lighthouse members left in September 2001 to begin Victory Baptist Church, which presently has about 50 members.
Other Mississippi churches where McDonald held pastorates included Old Pearl River Valley, Philadelphia; Carmel, Monticello; Gum Grove, Brookhaven; First, Braxton; and Southside, Vicksburg.
He was a graduate of Mississippi College (BA ’82), New Orleans Seminary (MRE ’84) and Evangel Christian University (Th.D. ’93).