Local man recalls journey from preacher to rodeo clown and back again
by Jennifer Cohron
Jan 26, 2014 | 1194 views | 0 0 comments | 115 115 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hugh Tubbs and his wife Betty pose for a photo. Tubbs recently completed a book — “From a Rodeo Clown to a Pentecostal Pulpit” — that talks about his struggles in life. Tubbs was once a rodeo clown, later a Baptist preacher and later an evangelist in the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hugh Tubbs and his wife Betty pose for a photo. Tubbs recently completed a book — “From a Rodeo Clown to a Pentecostal Pulpit” — that talks about his struggles in life. Tubbs was once a rodeo clown, later a Baptist preacher and later an evangelist in the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ.
slideshow
Hugh Tubbs walked a winding road before he found the straight and narrow.

Several years ago, he jotted down thoughts on his journey in a book, “From a Rodeo Clown to a Pentecostal Pulpit.”

What the title does not reveal is that before Tubbs was a rodeo clown or an evangelist in the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was a Baptist preacher.

Before that, he was a young man always looking for trouble and usually finding it.

“I must have been a mean little dude because every time there was a revival, my Mama made me go,” Tubbs said.

Shortly after receiving a hardship discharge from the Air Force in 1956, Tubbs moved his young family from California to his hometown of Jasper.

A cousin enlisted his help in painting the inside of a rural Baptist church.

At his cousin’s invitation, Tubbs then attended a Wednesday night service, secretly hoping that the preacher would compliment him in front of the congregation.

Instead, Tubbs found himself confessing his sins at the altar.

Tubbs later became the pastor of the church.

His day job at the time was operating a local wrecker and ambulance service.

One day, his two vocations intersected when he was called upon to transport a man and his fiance to the hospital after a near-fatal wreck and then married them in the hospital room.

In 1958, Tubbs and his wife, Betty, went to a revival in Pensacola, Fla., in a Pentecostal church that his sister and brother-in-law attended.

In three separate services, Betty Tubbs went to the altar to pray to receive the second baptism of the Holy Spirit, a teaching that distinguishes Pentecostal churches from other Protestant denominations.

Each time, Tubbs chased her down the aisle and pulled his wife away from the altar.

The evangelist stopped the couple on their way out of town and issued this warning: “If you don’t obey God, you’re going to lose everything you’ve got.”

Tubbs remained defiant.

“I said, ‘I don’t need what y’all have got. I don’t need that Holy Ghost business,’” Tubbs recalled.

Within three years, the prophecy came true.

Tubbs and his father left the wrecker and ambulance business behind for rodeos.

Tubbs first donned the baggy pants of a rodeo clown the night that the regular clown was too drunk to show up and the cowboys refused to ride without him.

As Freckles Smith, Tubbs was so popular that he became convinced that his calling was as a clown and not a preacher.

“I backslid from the Baptists, even though they say you can’t do that,” Tubbs said.

Tubbs invested everything he had in the rodeo show and eventually went bankrupt.

One night in Huntsville, Tubbs and his family found themselves sleeping in the coliseum after the show because he didn’t have enough money to make it back home.

While everyone else slept, Tubbs held to one of the steel beams holding up the roof and began to pray.

“I said, ‘God, show me what I need to do.’ I heard two words: ‘Obey me,’” Tubbs said.

The next morning, a cowboy bought one of his horses, giving him the money he needed to return to Jasper.

Tubbs sold everything he hadn’t yet lost and secured a job in south Alabama as a rodeo clown.

Tubbs soon found himself in Pensacola again and rededicated his life to God in the same altar where he had denied his wife the chance to pray. He then turned in his rodeo clown gear for good.

Tubbs went on to pastor a United Pentecostal Church in Florida and later founded a Pentecostal church in Jasper.

More recently, he spent two decades as a full-time evangelist.

In 2003, Tubbs published a book about his life. Like his sermons, it is filled with his trademark humor.

“From a Rodeo Clown to a Pentecostal Pulpit” is available by contacting Tubbs at 388-0650.