Columbus Dispatch  (May 12, 1984):  p. 8 B.
“Famous Woodcarver Buried.”
By Mark Ellis.

A man who brought life to pieces of wood, and who this week finished his life’s work on what he called “God’s chain gang,” was buried Friday in Evergreen Cemetery.

As the life of folk artist and woodcarver Elijah Pierce, 92, ended Monday, his legend was spurred on.

The 250 mourners who gathered at a chapel in the Wayne T. Lee Funeral Home, 1370 E. Main St., celebrated the life of the artist, and they relished his humility, wit and friendship.

The Rev. M.J. Mitchell of the Pilgrim Baptist Church shared a favorite comment of Pierce’s:  “God put me on a chain gang, and gave me a knife.”

With the knife and wood, Pierce achieved a simple eloquence.  He expressed visions inspired by the Bible and interpreted a world that revolved around his barbershop, home and church.

A barber for decades, Pierce gradually scratched his mark in the international art world with primitive wood carvings.  He was one of 15 people to receive the National Heritage Fellowship of the National Endowment for the Arts, and his work is displayed in museums and galleries around the country.

Willis Bing Davis, chairman of the Art Department at Central State University, said that in traditional societies Pierce would be revered as a master carver.

“He was placed among us to be a leader and to guide us young artists.  We sat at his feet many times.  He was the greatest of them all,”  Davis said.  “He has given us vision and hope.”

“He was the purest of artists, from the heart and spirit.

“He was an inspiration to many of us.  He was what we aspire to be, a chronicler of the black experience.”  

The Rev. S.T. Lewis, of the Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church, said, “Brother Pierce is taking a nap.  For 92 years he walked this sin-cursed, debauched, messed-up earth, and that’s a long time.

“We’re going to miss him, but in God’s sight his death is precious.”

Lewis described his own inspiration after viewing Pierce’s wood carvings, particularly recalling a dark-skinned figure of Jesus.

Lewis said, “Brother Pierce was a tall, stately man.  You know a giant has fallen.

“He’s at home in peace with Jesus today.”

Copyright 1984 The Columbus Dispatch