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Revised April 2020

Author Portrait of Kirk H. Neely 2022Kirk H. Neely was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1944. He attended Spartanburg public schools and graduated from Spartanburg High School in 1962. Kirk received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry from Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina (1966). He was licensed to the ministry by First Baptist Church, Taylors, South Carolina, in 1966. He was ordained to Pastoral Ministry by Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky, in 1970. He received the Master of Divinity Degree (1970) and the Doctor of Ministry Degree in Pastoral Counseling (1973) from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He was named a Merrill Fellow at The Divinity School of Harvard University (1980), where he did postdoctoral study.

Since 2012, Dr. Neely has served as an adjunct faculty member of the Religion Department of the University of South Carolina Upstate. In 2014, he was retained by First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC, as a Pastoral Counselor. He also operates a private pastoral consultation service. In addition to teaching, counseling, and consultation, Dr. Neely is a freelance writer and a storyteller. He is a supply preacher and a retreat leader.

From 1996 until 2014, he served as Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church. The Sunday morning worship service was broadcast on radio stations ESPN and WQUL each week. “The Morningside Pulpit” was broadcast weekly on radio station WOLI. Kirk also had a program entitled “Family Matters” that was broadcast on three radio stations each week: WOLI, WDRF, and ESPN. “Stories with Dr. Kirk” aired weekly on WOLI. His “Daily Devotions” were heard on both WOLI and ESPN. He is a frequent speaker at corporate, religious, and private events and family life programs throughout the Southeast.

He previously served for sixteen years (1980–1996) as Associate Pastor of Family Ministries and Director of the Pastoral Counseling Center at First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Prior to that, he served as Pastor of Family Ministries at Knollwood Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1973–1980). Early in his ministry, Kirk served as pastoral counselor and chaplain at a state mental hospital, a child evaluation clinic, an institution for juvenile delinquents, and a general hospital, all in Kentucky.

He has taught at Southern Seminary, University of South Carolina Upstate, Wofford College, and the Divinity School of Gardner-Webb University. He has taught in the Life-long Learning division at Furman University. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor in the Religion Department at The University of South Carolina Upstate.

Kirk was coauthor with Wayne E. Oates of Where to Go for Help, Westminster Press, 1972. He has written two books of devotions, both published through Christian Supply Company (1996) By the Sea and Unto the Hills. The Hub City Writers Project has published a collection of his Christmas stories, Comfort and Joy: Stories for Christmas, in 2006, now in the third printing. When Grief Comes: Finding Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow was published in July 2007 by Baker Books and is also in the third printing. A Good Mule Is Hard to Find and Other Tales from Red Clay Country was published by Hub City Writers Project in 2009. It is now in the second printing. This book was selected as a finalist for the 2010 SIBA Awards, presented annually by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance for the best in Southern literature. Banjos, Barbecue, and Boiled Peanuts and Other Tales from the South was published by Hub City Writers Project in 2011. He has also written two books of family genealogy, Neely Cousins and Hutson Heritage, each privately published.

Kirk and his wife Clare founded Our Home Place, a small publishing company, in 2006. Their initial project was Kirk’s book Santa Almost Got Caught: Stories for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year released in October 2011.

Dr. Neely is a frequent writer for the religion page of The Spartanburg Herald-Journal. From 2005 through 2019, he wrote a weekly column, “By the Way,” for H-J Weekly. Currently, his “by The Way” c0lumn is published each week in the Sunday edition of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal Kirk has written for The Spartanburg Magazine and for Sandlapper Magazine. His articles have appeared in several other publications.

Kirk is the author of “Christmas at Croft,” included in an anthology, Hub City Christmas, edited by Betsy Teter and John Lane, published by Hub City Writers Project (1997); of “Rocky Colavito” in Stars Fell on Spartanburg, edited by Jeremy Jones and Betsy Teter, published by Hub City Writers Project (2008); of “Snake Handling with Rudy Mancke” in Outdoor Adventures in the Upcountry edited by Michel Stone with Lydia Dishman, published by Hub City Writers Project (2010); and of “Holy Ground” in State of the Heart, edited by Aida Rogers, published by The University of South Carolina Press (2013). Kirk also was a contributor to a family cookbook, Neely Family Favorites published by his mother, Louise Hudson Neely (1991).

Dr. Neely has served on numerous boards, commissions, and committees. These include the Rotary Club of Spartanburg, the St. Luke’s Free Clinic, and the Palmetto Council, Boy Scouts of America. He was a member of the founding board for The Children’s Advocacy Center of Spartanburg. He has served as President of the Parent Teachers Association at E.P. Todd Elementary School, Carver Junior High School, and Spartanburg High School, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Board and on the Parent Advisory Council at Wofford College.

Kirk has had a life-long interest in promoting ecumenical and interfaith relationships. For eighteen years he has been a leader in the annual community Thanksgiving service as well as an ongoing interreligious dialogue within the Spartanburg faith community

Kirk received the Four Avenues of Service Award from the Rotary Club in 2002.

The Salvation Army recognized him as the Toast of the Town in 2003.

He was honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2009.

Kirk Is an Honorary Kentucky Colonel, recognized for distinguished service to The Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Wofford College recognized Kirk as their Distinguished Citizen of the Year for 2010.

Upon his retirement as Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church, Dr. Neely was presented with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian award.

In November 2014, the Kirk H. Neely Compassion Fund was established in his honor at the Spartanburg County Foundation by the Spartanburg Ministerial Alliance.

In December 2014, he received the Abernathy-White Humanitarian Award.

Dr. Neely was the 2015 Distinguished Honoree for the Palmetto Council, BSA. He and Clare were recognized with the establishment of the Kirk and Clare Neely Campership Fund to be awarded annually, enabling a deserving young scout to attend summer camp.

In March 2015, Dr. Neely was recognized by the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce with the Duke Energy Distinguished Citizen and Service Award. In December 2016, Kirk was recognized by the Kiwanis Club of Spartanburg as their Citizen of the Year.

In May 2021, Dr. Neely was presented with the Algernon Sidney-Sullivan Award by Converse College for distinguished service above self.

Since his retirement as Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church, Dr. Neely continues ministry through teaching classes in the Religion Department at the University of South Carolina Upstate, serving as Pastoral Counselor at First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC, and supply preaching in various churches regularly. He has also continued his writing, His first novel, December Light 1916 was published in 2020 by Parson’s Porch Book Company.

Kirk is a Master Gardener. He enjoys working in his own garden. The National Wildlife Federation has certified the Neelys’ backyard as a wildlife refuge.

He is the oldest of eight children. Kirk and his wife, Clare, have been married since 1966. They are parents of five children and have thirteen grandchildren. Since 1980 Kirk and Clare have lived in the home built by his grandparents after the Great Depression in 1937.

Dr. Neely may be contacted by e-mail at for consultation or to schedule speaking engagements.

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