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Shortly after the death of his mother, Edith, Harold wrote about her descent into Alzheimer’s disease as part of his own grief process, as well as, to pay tribute to his mother. He put his writings in a personal newsletter which he titled, “The Southern-Fried Preacher.” The name came from Terry Mattingly, former Religion Editor of The Charlotte Observer who had noted the op-ed pieces Harold had contributed to The Observer and suggested he write a regular newspaper column under the name “The Southern-Fried Preacher.”
That first newsletter went out to 35 family and friends. In it he mentioned he would send out another newsletter whenever he had something else to say and it would be free, but only to those who asked for it.
Kays Gary, legendary journalist in the region, got hold of the newsletter and reprinted it in his column. As a result, the second issue went to more than 2,000 readers. The third grew to beyond 4,000. Harold bought a secondhand copy machine to print the, now monthly, free newsletter. Family and friends volunteered to help label and prepare it for mailing. Readers began to send small donations to help pay for postage; some sent stamps.
Eight years later, the newsletter morphed into a weekly newspaper column and the name “The Southern-Fried Preacher” stuck. Remaining down-home, witty, sometimes preachy and sometimes cranky — in a good-natured sort of way — he regards the column as a weekly word for a bunch of good friends.
The History of The Southern-Fried Preacher
Harold and his wife, Judy
About Harold Bales
Harold Bales is “a crusader against the heresy of humorless religion.” Writing in an earthy, Southern vernacular, Harold reveals a fresh and humorous perspective about family, friends, ethics, politics, patriotism, religion, romance, public issues and Southern culture. He gently chides the wayward, pokes fun at the foolish and displays good-natured crankiness at the politically correct while addressing the human foibles that, he believes, “get on the Divine nerves or under the Godly skin.”
Harold Bales considers himself a very blessed man. He has spent more than half of his fifty years in ministry as a denominational executive in The United Methodist Church. Joining the staff of the General Board of Evangelism
while in seminary allowed him a great opportunity to grow into a mature minister while working with and being mentored by many of the great leaders of world Christianity and visiting many nations as a lecturer, consultant and preacher. Harold’s greatest joy has been his pastoral service in the local parish*, which has provided a platform for his dedication and quest for social justice, civil rights, education and ministry to the poor.
Harold loves plain talk, pooh-poohs political correctness and believes humorlessness is a serious heresy. He considers himself pious, but not pietistic. His writing has created a wide circle of friends to include those from Christian denominations and non-Christian faiths, as well as atheists, agnostics and religious skeptics. He says, “Like the late humorist Will Rogers and often-married actress Elizabeth Taylor, I never met a man I didn’t like.”
Harold describes himself as a garden-variety Methodist and a progressive, evangelical Christian. He admits this baffles some but makes perfect sense to him: “I’m happy to leave it to God to figure all that out at the end.”
He and Judy, his beloved wife of over 50 years, have four children and six grandchildren. Now semi-retired in Kannapolis, NC, Harold spends most of his time and energy as a writer and speaker. Although he earned a doctorate from Vanderbilt Divinity School, Harold prefers no titles except an occasional “Your Splendorship.”
* Denominational work includes First UMC Charlotte, Central Ave. UMC Asheville, First UMC Gastonia, First UMC Kingsport TN, and District Superintendent. Other experiences are Executive Director of The Churches’ Presence at the 1982 World’s Fair, Chaplain of the Day for the first session of the US Congress after 9/11, Chair of counseling and follow-up for the Billy Graham Crusade in Charlotte, and has lived on miracles having overcome two terminal illnesses.