Reverend Lee Albert Cate, 98

Reverend Lee Albert Cate peacefully passed away on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, after turning 98 on Fathers Day, June 19th.

It is so hard to describe the vastness of a 98-year lifetime! He gave so much for others, did so much for his community, mentored and counseled, repaired and rebuilt structures, led initiatives, loved his wife and family immensely, and ministered to everyone that crossed his path. He also baptized, married, and buried hundreds!

Born June 19, 1924, to Herman Forrest Cate and Mamie Belle Webb Cate of Sutherland Ave. Knoxville. He is preceded in death by his parents; his brothers James and Arthur: step-brother Bernard; the love of his life Mary “Frances” Smith Cate; all of his inlaws; and his beloved Great-Grandson Trevor Cate.

Before graduating from Knoxville High (1942) he enlisted in the military to fight in WWII. Being selected for the Navy, he received machining, welding, and pilot training at ALCOA and Island Airport as well as in Oklahoma and San Diego, CA. He served from January 20, 1943, to January 18, 1946, with his war-time experience on the USS Antietam CV-36 Air Craft Carrier as an aviation machinist and test pilot, AMMSC.

He received his call into the ministry while in the Navy and returned home to ask for his “Typewriter Girl” to marry him. The intriguing girl from Greeneville, TN, he met as a teen at church camp (now Mynatt Park) in Gatlinburg had typed a daily letter about everyday life in East TN to several servicemen she knew; Lee was one of them. Her letters brought solace to hundreds as Cate allowed them to be passed around deck and returned to him with worn edges. She always signed them “Keep Smiling and Praying”.

They married on Memorial Day, May 30, 1946, and headed to Ohio for him to attend Seminary and start his ministry. Their 63 years of marriage and over 50 years in the ministry landed them in Ohio twice, Knoxville 3 times, Greene County, Nashville, and Clinton. They retired in Anderson County, TN. She passed away on November 23, 2009.

Earning several degrees from Otterbein College, Tusculum College, Hiwassee College, and The United Theological Seminary of Ohio, his highest being a Masters of Divinity which now would be awarded as a PhD. Frances earned her Bachelors in Education in 1969 at UTK after 22 years and 6 institutions of study throughout their moves. She taught in the Knoxville City/County School System.

At every appointment, there were major challenges concerning the building, finances, community, or congregation for which Lee accomplished great success by being a hands-on leader and not being afraid to ‘fix’ anything. His proudest accomplishment was the rebuilding of Bookwalter United Methodist Church in Knoxville after it burned to the ground only 3 days after Lee’s family moved there in 1966. Being built during the merger of the Evangelical United Brethern (EUB) and the Methodist denominations made financing a challenge. Luckily, Lee’s brother Arthur was a bank officer, and several families of the church were willing to sign for the loans that financed the building of such a gorgeous structure to stately stand now at the intersection of I-640 and I-75 in North Knoxville. Knowing the merger was completing, Lee Cate ordered the cornerstone of “Bookwalter United Methodist Church” and thus it is the first *United Methodist* Church to be erected or dedicated in the world.

Serving as the delegate from the Tennessee Conference of the EUB denomination during the process of the merger with the Methodist denomination, Lee was instrumental in the selection of the word “UNITED” to be in the name of the newly formed international denomination of the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH in 1969. Ironically, he also helped draft the retirement benefits package at the age of 44 that he later reaped the benefits of for over 30 years!

Lee’s ministry within the EUB began in 1946, and he continued his service through the Holston UM Conference from 1969 until his retirement in 1986, BUT, then, he took the assignment of Asbury UMC in Clinton and Haven Chapel UMC in Claxton as the first caucasian minister to serve at historically black churches within Holston and pastored those congregations until 1993.

Lee and Frances served other UM churches in Anderson County between the years of 1974 and 1984: St. Mark UMC of Clinton and Moore’s Gap UMC in Heiskell. During retirement, in the mid-1990s they helped the former UM church in Briceville develop into the now Historic Briceville Community Church.

His last full appointment (1984-1986) was at Emerald Avenue UMC in Knoxville where he started an outreach program of afterschool tutoring and a food bank that ultimately led to the extremely successful Emerald Youth Foundation of Knoxville. He also co-founded a non-profit named “Helping Hands” that blended into what is now Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry (KARM).

Lee and Frances volunteered for many organizations including that he was the Anderson County AARP President for over 20 years and held positions with the City of Clinton for the Office of Aging. Over the years, he led Boy Scouts of America at many of his churches, chaperoned school trips, baked cookies for school parties, volunteered with the Rainbow Girls, cleared trees for expansion of Camp Wesley Woods, led camps, and VBS programs, and sang in the choir! For over 50 years he was a member of the Clinton Alpha Masonic Lodge #376 and the Knoxville Scottish Rite. He is a past member of Fountain City & Knoxville York Rite, Coeur de Lion Commandery #9 KT, and with Frances the Order of Eastern Star #193 and Powell Order of the Amaranth. For some time he managed and his Grandsons landscaped Sunset Cemetery for the Masons. At the age of 89, he became the oldest person to become a certified AYSO Youth Soccer Referee to support his Granddaughter.

In an effort to help others and to make extra money for his family, it was not unusual to see Lee Cate repair a broken down car or toilet, patch the roof of his church or a member’s home, turn a condemned house into a family’s dream home, repair walls after a party got out of hand, make large vats of chili for the Anderson County Fair, pull a drunk from a saloon, or babysit an infant while a mom took a break. His skills were vast, and his love for people was deep and wide.

Lee Cate exemplified the quote attributed to John Wesley… “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, and all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

He is survived by:
Children: Tom (Pat) Cate, Hoover, AL; Rev. Herman (Rev. Janice) Cate, Knoxville; Carolyn (Ray) Shular, Powell; Leanna Cate (Kevin Crow), Clinton. Grandchildren: Jeremy (Victoria) Cate, Plano, TX; Chris (Tammy) Cate, Edgewood, KY; Tim Cate (gf Tonia Mize), Knoxville; Derick Shular (Scarlett Kitts), Greensboro, NC; Travis (Katie) Shular, Powell; Catelee Crow, Clinton. His 8 Great-Grand Children, 5 Great-Great-Grand Children, and several nieces and nephews of many generations.

Friends who have become his selected family: Julie, Tony & Zach Armstrong, Russ Adkisson, Joy Henderson, Hubert, Johnathan & Matthew Duncan, Becky Porter, Kevin Hoskins, Caleb Massengill, and his Grand-Godson Ethan Braden.

A very special thank you to his friends with UT HomeHealth and the Campbell County Honor Guard.

Arrangements: Saturday, July 16, 2022: 10 am Military Honors and Graveside Service at Sunset Cemetery, Clinton, TN. Rev. Jim Bailes and Rev. Gary Atwater Officiating. The family will receive friends 2-4 pm at Holley-Gamble Funeral home, 621 S. Charles Seivers Blvd., Clinton.

In lieu of flowers, do good like Lee!

Holley-Gamble Funeral Home is supporting Rev. Lee Cate’s family through this transition. Online guest book & condolences may be left at

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