Mission founder Doug Upchurch dies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Doug Upchurch, a Realtor who helped establish River City Rescue Mission and keep it going, died today, May 13, 2009. He was 66.

Mr. Upchurch, born in Brooksville and reared in McComb, had battled health problems previously and apparently had a heart attack early this morning, said Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey.

Mr. Upchurch had been a Vicksburg resident since 1965 and was president of Jones & Upchurch Real Estate Agency since 1978.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

But an ardent faith and commitment to charity were most important to him, friends and family said this morning.

Along with several other Vicksburg residents, Mr. Upchurch helped found the mission in 1994 and served as director until his death. The 3705 Washington St. facility today includes a shelter, a used-goods store and a dining hall. The 9,000 homeless men it serves annually are given a choice upon coming to the shelter  — stay for three nights and go back to the streets or enroll in programs to get off drugs or alcohol and re-enter the job market.

“Mission work was always something that was close to his heart,” Mr. Upchurch’s wife, Andrea, said.  “He saw some heartbreaks, but he also saw some incredible success stories with the men he tried to help get back on their feet.”

Gene Allen, vice president of the mission, said Mr. Upchurch “was a Christian man who practiced Christian principles,” endeavoring to find jobs in Vicksburg for men deemed ready to leave the mission.

“The men who come through all have different personalities and different problems, but Doug tried to get to know each of them on an individual basis,” Allen said.

Mr. Upchurch’s pastor, Mike Fields of Triumph Church, said Upchurch promoted Christianity as tirelessly as he did charity.

“I don’t think a day went by when Doug didn’t hand out a (religious) tract, didn’t talk with somebody about their salvation, or didn’t share his testimony,” Fields said.  “I have never known someone who was so enthusiastic about evangelism.”

Stacy Hartley, annually the organizer of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Angel Tree program, said Mr. Upchurch was “one of our biggest donors.”

“He was always the one who bid the most” at the annual fundraising auction to buy Christmas presents for Warren County children, “and then he would pay the money and then return the item to have it auctioned again, Hartley said this morning.

Mr. Upchurch and his wife recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, and his son, Keith, is scheduled to marry Jill Waring of Vicksburg on Saturday at St. Paul Catholic Church.

Andrea Upchurch said this morning that the families will decide later whether to reschedule the wedding.


Contact Ben Bryant at bbryant@vicksburgpost.com