Rev. Sam Storey (Feb. 4, 1943-March 2, 2017), led the prayer at Roy Barnes’ last public appearance as governor

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Rev. Sam Storey led the prayer when Gov. Roy Barnes' official portrait was unveiled in 2003. AJC file photo: Jean Shifrin

This originally ran Jan. 16, 2003. Following the death of Rev. Sam Storey this week, we decided to run it again. Storey died at 74 after suffering heart disease for years. Details on visitation and service are here.

Four years ago, when a crowd of Georgians gathered to welcome newly elected Gov. Roy Barnes, the Rev. Sam Storey led them in prayer.

Last week, when a crowd of Georgians came to say goodbye to the soon departing governor, Storey once again led them in prayer.

Storey is the longtime senior associate pastor of Marietta First United Methodist Church, where Barnes and his family are longtime members. During his four years in office Barnes and his wife, Marie, attended church most Sundays, often visiting and shaking hands before taking their seats in the back pew, and usually slipping out during the final hymn. Storey led a prayer service for Barnes at the dawn of his administration.

Last week, some of Georgia’s most prominent citizens went to downtown Atlanta for the unveiling of Barnes’ official portrait. The crowd, including Storey’s wife, Carolyn, and former U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden and wife, Lillian, who attend Storey’s church, were chatting and mingling in the Capitol rotunda in the moments before the ceremony.

Storey hushed the crowd with three words.

“Let us pray.”

The pastor bowed his head and led the group in prayer for Barnes in what would be his last public appearance as governor.

“O God, we come together today to honor and celebrate the administration of a man who has led the state of Georgia to greatness over the past four years. As we come from the Blue Ridge mountains of Rabun to the shores of Cumberland Island, from the roses of Thomasville to the gardens and horseback riding of Barnsley, from Hickory Flat Road in Holly Springs to Biscayne Drive off Peachtree, from the mansion on West Paces Ferry to beautiful Brookwood Drive in Mableton, we all come to celebrate the life, work, and ministry of Gov. Roy Barnes,” Storey’s prayer began.

It was a prayer only someone close to the Barnes family could have composed. Barnsley is a favored Barnes family vacation spot, Hickory Flat Road is where Marie Barnes was born, Biscayne Drive is where the Barneses’ son and daughter-in-law live, and Brookwood Drive is Barnes’ address in his hometown of Mableton, Storey said.

Sam and Carolyn Storey’s close friendship with Roy and Marie Barnes began in 1969, the Storeys’ first year at Marietta First Methodist.

“Since his election as governor, we have been invited and have participated with the first family and their family and friends every Christmas Eve,” Storey said. He’s been invited to occasions such as the swearing in of judges, and has sat with the family during budget and state of the state addresses.

Storey also performed the weddings of Allison Barnes and John Salter at the Governor’s Mansion in October 2001 and led the reception prayer at the wedding of Harlan Barnes and Amy Crist in January 2002 at the Atlanta Athletic Club. The Barnes’ youngest daughter, Alyssa, has worked with Storey in the church’s sports camp the past few summers.

“We have also been very close to Marie’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth ‘Spud’ Dobbs, ” also a member of the church, Storey said. Carolyn Storey was invited to Dobbs’ 80th birthday party at the Governor’s Mansion last year.

At the portrait unveiling last week, Storey’s prayer for his friend and parishioner contained a hope for Barnes’ legacy.

“We do pray today that something of the spirit of this great governor will dwell in our lives and especially in the lives of our future leaders, that they may have a vision and see as clearly that only right makes right, that only as we are on the side of God can we hope that our state will prosper,” Storey said.

After remarks by Secretary of State Cathy Cox, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, and an emotional goodbye from Barnes, the governor in the twilight of his administration made his way back into his office with family and friends at his side. As Barnes moved through the crowd his pastor patted him on the shoulder and offered two words that seemed directed not just at his remarks, but at four years in office: “Good job.”