Cleo Kelley is a fixture in Scotts Hill. Born in Decatur County 73 years ago, Cleo has lived in Scotts Hill since he was eight. Some of his earliest religious experiences came at th Scotts Hill Holiness Church, and changes in his life in the early 1930's sent him into the ministry.
Cleo Kelley preached his first revival in August 1933 at Vernon's Chapel in Chester County. That brush arbor meeting not only produced conversioons, it produced the peginning of 22 years of work with that church. Kelley even named one of his sons after that church.
His work as a holiness preacher took him through appointments and revivals in Benton, Chester, Decatur, Hardin, henderson, Henry and McNairy counties and today, Cleo kelley is still going strong. Still preaching revivals when requested, Cleo Kelley is also the pastor of the Center Hill Holiness Church south of Lexington.
Asked if he thought he was too old to be preaching and pastoring a church, Kelley responded, " I don't feel like I am... As some have said. 'You ought to hear him preach if you think he's too old". And many folks have heard him. When you live, work and preach all your life in the same region, folks eventually hear you.
During a revival last week, Kelley asked the congregation of over a hundred how many had never heard him before; only one out o the entire congregation. When you are around that much, people get to know you pretty well. But with Cleo Kelley, that apparently alright. Describing Scotts Hill as the "garden spot of the world", Kelly can take you back to those different times, that really weren't that many years ago.
To the house he was born in (which still stands); to the place where his grandmother saw a live panther; to the field his grandfather was clearing the place he died; it's all within a few miles. "My dad died when I was three," he noted. My mother raised three boys on our farm.. There was no such thing as help from the government then .. we raised chickens, hogs... she was a good manager... some said we couldn't keep th farm... but we did... she plowed, she could work those mules on a two horse plow .. we paid for that farm."
She worked hard, she taught us how to work. I'm gonna teach ya'll to work. When you get old I hope you don't have to. But if you do, you'll know how". That background has apparently paid off for Cleo Kelley. He and his wife Mary Elizabeth (Goff) have raised five children and have seen nine grandchildren.
Thoase that are living, all live in the Scotts Hill area. The grocery store the Kelley's operate has been going undeer the name Kelley for 28 years. How much longer it lasts is unknown. Cleo Kelley reads in his Bible the "signs of the times" and feels that its all approaching the return of the Lord. His advice on life - "In young life accept the Lord, and be a Christian. I've avoided a lot of the trouble other men my age have gotten into in life."