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Tommy Lane, Bellevue music minister, dies at 77; served with 3 SBC presidents


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Thomas P. Lane, the first full-time minister of music at Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church, serving 38 years in the post, died Dec. 6 of heart failure at Baptist Memorial Hospital East in Memphis. He was 77 and had been battling stomach cancer for two years.

Lane served under three pastors at Bellevue, all presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, R.G. Lee, Ramsey Pollard and Adrian Rogers.

“I’ve teased Tommy and said that while the pastors come and go, he has stayed,” Rogers, Bellevue’s current pastor, told The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

A bass baritone who was offered a job with the San Francisco Opera Company after finishing graduate studies at the University of Southern California, Lane instead served at Bellevue from 1948 until his retirement in 1986 at age 65.

The day he went to sign the opera contract, the company representative didn’t show, The Commercial Appeal recounted, quoting his wife of 55 years, Elizabeth, as saying, “When he got home, he had a letter to go to Bellevue,” which prompted him to conclude that the Lord was calling him to the Tennessee church.

Lane met his future wife as they were growing up in Claremore, Okla.


In 1990, Lane came out of retirement to serve as minister of music at First Baptist Church, Coldwater, Miss. He served there until November when he became seriously ill.

In addition to his wife, Lane is survived by a daughter, Mary Katherine Simpson of Sherman, Texas; a son, John Thomas Lane of Bartlett; and eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at Bellevue Baptist Church, with burial in Claremore, Okla., at a later date.

The family requests that any memorials be sent to Memphis Cancer Foundation, 1068 Cresthaven, Memphis, TN 38119.