By Gerry Wakeland
Having a goal is a good thing. It keeps us focused and on track. Sometimes we can have a goal and not even realize it. I believe this to be the case in Dr. Lenton Malry’’s life.
Recently Dr. Malry’s memoir was published. It’s the story of a man from modest beginnings that through persistence, perseverance, and prayer has accomplished much not just for him but for many others. Did he plan to write this book? Not really, but looking back Malry wanted to impart his message of encouragement to a new generation. Times are tough and he wanted to be able to share from many years of experience that you can do what you set your mind to do.
I first encountered Dr. Malry at the door to the sanctuary of the old downtown church. Dressed in his suit and tie, standing tall as a sentinel on duty, he was shaking hands and handing out bulletins, like any good Southern Baptist deacon.
As time passed, I came to learn there was a lot more to this humble servant. This was a mighty man of God who had influence in many corners of this nation.
Dr. Lenton Malry is a man of firsts:
• the first of his family to graduate from college
• the first African American teacher at the Kinlichee Elementary School on the Navajo reservation
• the first African American principal for Albuquerque Public Schools
• the first African American elected to the New Mexico State Legislature and
• the first African American to earn a PHD in education from the University of New Mexico.
He and his wife Joy were the first African Americans to become members of Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church.
“I remember the first Sunday we attended the church downtown on Central and Broadway. People actually got up and walked out.” Joy Malry
That did not stop the Malrys from placing their membership with AFBC and getting involved.
Thankfully times have changed. Dr. Malry and Ms. Joy are valued members of our congregation. He has been a deacon for over 40 years, serving as both Deacon Chair and Vice Chair. He has taught both Sunday school (now called Life Groups) and the senior high students’ Training Union class. To this day he continues to serve as a greeter and usher.
He likes to recall a time at the peak of his career, one the busiest times for him, Ms. Ruth Hosley came to him and asked him to serve as the Director of the RAs (Royal Ambassadors). He tried every excuse to get out of it but Ms. Ruth would not take no for an answer. “You can just make the time,” Ms. Ruth told him.
In 2005, Malry was on the Pastoral Search Committee that brought Pastor Michael Cook to AFBC in 2006.
Lenton Malry has made a number of wise decisions in his lifetime. Perhaps the wisest was when he asked Joy Dell Green to be his wife. For the last 58 years Joy has supported him in all of his endeavors, cheering him on, praying for him and making sure he tows the line.
While some may consider Let’s Roll This Train an inspirational memoir, it really chronicles a piece of New Mexico history through the life of an inspirational figure. Malry never imagined as a poor black child growing up on a small rural farm in Louisiana that someday he would look back and see the impact he has made on the state of New Mexico particularly Bernalillo County and the city of Albuquerque.
Most importantly Dr. Malry has made and continues to make a mighty impact on the Kingdom of God. Almost every Sunday morning you still find him standing tall at the front door of the church. He’ll greet you with a bright “good morning” and a firm handshake as he hands you a bulletin. He mentors many of the younger deacons as they take their place in the leadership of the church. And he’s always among the first to step up to the plate when there is a financial need.
Dr. Malry’s book, Let’s Roll This Train will be available for purchase on the concourse on Sunday, October 2nd.