Richard O. Gerow: The Natchez Years, 1924-1948
Today I give myself to God as an instrument in His hands. I give myself to you to do God's will. Henceforth, I devote myself entirely to you and your spiritual welfare. Through God I give to you my life, my health, all that I am and all that I possess.
Yesterday I was a stranger to you--today I become part and parcel of the people of Mississippi, a native Southerner, born and raised in the neighboring state of Alabama. I feel that I am by nature fitted to understand you and be in sympathy with you. I am familiar in a general way with the customs and feelings of the people of Mississippi, but I must not confide in any human circumstances or agencies in the rendering of my work among you a success. In the Grace of God I must confide. 1
In this statement made at his official installation in Natchez, Richard Oliver Gerow confided three very special characteristics about himself. One was that he was a totally committed individual who would give his all to what he was doing--in this case, leading the diocese of Natchez. Second, he openly proclaimed his southern heritage and what it meant to him, especially as he assumed his see. Finally and most important, Gerow expressed the most distinctive trait of his very life--his love of God and his total trust in Him. It was a revealing address he made on the day he first met his new congregation.
Born on May 3, 1885, in Mobile, Alabama, Richard O. Gerow was the only son of Warren Rosecrans Gerow and Anne Skehan Gerow. The Gerow family had ancestral roots going back to Daniel Giraud, who had migrated to America around 1700, settling in New Rochelle, New York. 2 Sometime around 1750 and for unknown reasons, the spelling of the family name changed to the form used by the bishop and his family. Gerow's grandfather, Warren D. Gerow, was born in Dutchess County, New York, in 1822 and later migrated to Mobile, Alabama. There, he married and settled. Bishop Gerow's father, in fact, was born in Mobile