Luther L. Riley
Luther Lee Riley was born of Alcie Clementine Moore Riley and Isaac Edward Elisha Riley in Cauthron Community on September 19, 1887. Luther did not grow up in a Christian home. According to his daughter, Vera, Luther’s father “He drank up a fortune. But after getting saved, Grandpa Riley never had the desire to drink and was a testimony to all of his friends.” Luther Riley had the privilege of baptizing his own father and mother in water in January 1919.
Luther (L.L.) was saved in a Cumberland Presbyterian Revival in the community as a teen. He met and married Josie Poole in 1908 and had 6 children over the years of marriage which included: Opal Mae (Hampton), Mary Lee, Eugene, Vera, Evelyn (Branch), and Dorothy Mildred (Strickland). The Rileys were farmers until 1912 when Luther received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the call to preach.
After the call, the family moved to Booneville in the summer of 1912 and held tent revivals with minister Will Hacker. They faced much persecution during the revivals. Both L.L. and Will were arrested during these meetings for “disturbing the peace.” But many were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit during the revivals.
In 1913 L.L. Riley went to Havana and held revival with the purpose of establishing a church. He was met with much persecution there as well. He received threatening letters which said, “if you do not close out, get out, and stay out that in three days we are going to take you out, strip your clothes, and whip all of your skin off.” The letter was signed “Mystic Twelve.” But God was doing a mighty work in Havana – saving, filling, and healing – so L.L. Riley stayed on and God protected him. He said, “I am not closing, I am not getting out, God has sent me here. And He will take care of me.” After the revival a church was established and L.L. Riley stayed as the pastor.
In 1914 L.L. Riley attended the first General Council of the Assemblies of God, that the Assemblies of God was created to unite Pentecostal churches and ministers in fellowship. He along with E.R. Fitzgerald and Dollie Drain attended theses meetings and then immediately following came to Russellville to establish a Pentecostal fellowship in the area.
L.L. Riley also established the following churches: Blue Mountain, Paris, and Greasy Valley. On September 1, 1925, Bro. Riley became the pastor of Russellville First Assembly. During his pastorate he held many revivals hosting evangelists such as Smith Wigglesworth and Sister Edith Mae Pennington (1, 2). During Bro. Wigglesworth revival in 1926 there were many saved, many miracles, and several people became members of the Assembly of God Church. During Sister Edith Pennington’s revival in 1932 there were over 300 saved and over 200 filled with the Holy Spirit.
Also during L.L. Riley’s pastorate he oversaw the organization of a church orchestra with Marvin Williamson as the teacher in 1929. First members included were Imo Story, James Scott Taylor, Madge Torrence, JB Lemley, Ruth Mari Taylor, JV Taylor, Edward Burris, Troy Jordan, Eugene Riley, and Brother L.L. Riley himself.
Brother Riley also organized the Dardanelle Assembly that was started with a revival. He along with Bill Bumpers (father of Senator Dale Bumpers) rented the old Ford garage and held a 5 week revival which then later led to the organization of the church that is still there today.
Brother Riley left Russellville First Assembly in 1927 to go and pastor New Bethel A/G in Ft. Smith. But he came back to Russellville First Assembly in September 1929 and stayed until 1939. After that he evangelized and pastored the following churches: Hot Springs First Assembly in 1941, Harrison in 1944, and North Little Rock First Assembly in 1946.
L.L. Riley moved back to Russellville and died at home on November 6, 1952 at the age of 65. He is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Russellville, AR. His daughter Vera remembered him this way “Father was very jolly and always young at heart…. One of the greatest prayer warriors you could meet.”
Bio by Kerrye Swicegood