Kelly pastored in the Lake Region Conference for 25 years.
T. Marshall Kelly passed to his rest on February 6, 2023, at the age of 92.
In a career that has spanned over 70 years in the gospel ministry, Kelly has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor, Bible teacher, and singing evangelist. His death in Huntsville, Alabama was announced by his son, Eric.
Thomas Marshall Kelly, a bass-baritone singer, composer, teacher and pastor, was an internationally known soloist, ordained minister, radio personality, and award-winning religion teacher in the Seventh-day Adventist church. From his earliest years, religion and music have been focal points in his life.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Marshall, he was the only child of Louis and Mary Kelly. He attended Oakwood Academy and College, now University, before transferring to Emmanuel Missionary College (EMC), now Andrews University, in the early 1950s to earn an accredited four-year degree.
Kelly gained recognition for the resonant quality of his voice while at EMC and was a charter member of the Collegians, a newly formed select choral group conducted by Melvin Davis. In his senior year, he served as pastor of his class and was a featured soloist in the college orchestra's April "pops" concert, at which he sang four solos.
Following graduation from EMC in 1952 with a degree in religion, Kelly became a pastor in Chicago, and in December 1952, married Garnet Jean Garland from Cleveland, Ohio. They would have a son, Eric, and a daughter, Nadine.
Over the next 25 years, Kelly would serve in the Lake Region Conference, pastoring at Fort Wayne, Marion, and Muncie, Indiana; Inkster, Michigan; Chicago again; and at the Burns Avenue Church in Detroit. During those years he enjoyed great success as a pastor and evangelist and as a sought-after singer.
Kelly retired in 1995 and lived in Huntsville, Alabama until his death. During his retirement years, he continued to be a featured singer and speaker at church events and gatherings. For over 30 years he had a Sabbath afternoon radio talk show program on the Oakwood University radio station, WJOU, 90.1 FM.
In addition to a statement from Lake Region’s President Garth Gabriel, local tributes have poured in from social media. Toson Knight of Detroit wrote that Kelly baptized his mom and prayed for him when he was a student at Oakwood. “He literally would call me to his office and pray with me,” he wrote. “It was so powerful.” Kelly also called when Knight's mom died in 2020. “He’s been an enormous blessing to me.”
Kelly was Kim Logan-Nowlin's pastor from ages 9- 18 at the Burns Ave. Church in Detroit, and says she counts it a joy. “He called me for many days and into the months ahead when [my husband] Arthur passed and shared his loss of his beloved wife, Jean. I am still serving God and the church because of his example of love for God and leadership.” She went on to add that her children Micha and Erin fell in love with Jesus because of Kelly’s unconditional love that exemplified God’s love.
In a fundraiser launched by Eric said that his father’s health had worsened in the last two years but they were nevertheless looking forward to celebrating his 93rd birthday on March 2. Eric wrote, “His decline in health, mobility, and vision has reached a point where it has become necessary for 24-hour nursing care to be provided in his home or in an assisted living community environment.”
A memorial service will be 12:30 p.m., Friday, February 17, 2023, at the Oakwood Seventh-day Adventist Church with Eric Marshall Kelly as the eulogist and Pastor Debleaire Snell officiating.
Public viewing will be held from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 15, 2023, and 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Thursday, February 16, 2023, at the Royal Funeral Home in Huntsville.
Compiled by Debbie Michel, Lake Union Herald editor, and Katie Fellows, Lake Union assistant Communication specialist.