Elder J. Leon Etheredge was born November 16, 1931 at Ozark, Dale County, Alabama the fourth of five children born to Elder S. W. Etheredge and Lena Hester. Elder Leon was raised in a God fearing, devout Primitive Baptist home. After graduating from high school, and spending four years in the US Air Force he used the GI bill and earned a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University in December 1957.
While in college he married Betty Jo Spurlock of Ozark, Alabama. His wife had a small son from a previous marriage and there were three children born to this union. His experience of being called out of nature’s darkness into God’s marvelous light happened the first Sunday in December 1963. His loving companion had taken the three boys and gone to the Missionary Baptist Church of her membership, leaving him at home with their daughter. While languishing in bed that Sunday morning, a very strong urge moved him to search for a church he had seen which had indications of being a Primitive Baptist Church.
At a nearby home he learned that the church was of the Primitive Baptist faith and that there would be services second Sunday night at 6:30. They went home and when his wife returned, their daughter ran to her and said “Mama, Daddy has found a church.” He shared his experience with his wife and she agreed to go with him the next Sunday night.
He said that was longest week he ever spent. The time finally came to go to church. He and his family arrived shortly after 6:00 PM and those who came were friendly and warmly welcomed them.
He and his wife were baptized into the fellowship of Bethel Church by Elder S.W. Etheredge in April of 1964, among a flood of tears. Elder Leon says that if he was ever called to preach the Gospel of the Son of God, it was the same day he had the urge to go look for the church building described earlier.
At the request of Elder Gene Thomas, Elder Leon made his first effort to speak in the name of God at Bethel Church in June 1965, and was ordained to the full work of the Gospel Ministry in June of 1966. He was soon called to serve three Primitive Baptist Churches of the Mud Creek Association. A few years later, he was called as one of the pastors of another church in the Mud Creek Association. Since that time, he has continuously served as pastor of four churches in the area. As of February 2000, he serves Hurricane Church of the Flint River Association and Bethel, Union and Bethlehem Churches in the Mud Creek Association.