Jacksonville State University’s Baptist campus minister grew up on the banks of the Coosa River in Hokes Bluff. He likes to say that he lived in the suburbs of Hokes Bluff. He was one of seven children.

Brittain was a senior at Hokes Bluff High School when he felt God’s calling to the ministry. He knew he would be involved in ministry somehow for the rest of his life. At Gadsden State he found a Baptist Student Union and two campus ministers who were “very influential” in his life. He would eventually serve that campus as campus minister.

Brittain received a bachelor of arts in religion in 1979 from Mobile College and a master of divinity in 1987 from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was ordained at the First Baptist Church of Hokes Bluff in 1983.

On his journey to being JSU’s Baptist campus minister, he held a number of ministerial jobs at other schools, including the University of West Alabama, Shoals Community College in Tuscumbia, Bevill State Community College (Fayette and Jasper) and Northwest Alabama State Community College in Rainsville.

He’s served as interim pastor at several churches, including Williams First Baptist outside Jacksonville.

Brittain came to JSU in 1990 to work under then Baptist campus minister, Bob Ford. When Ford retired in 1999, Brittain was named to the position.

Brittain said his goal is to draw on his experience with young adults to reach them for Christ. One benefit of staying in the same place for as long as he has, he said, is that he’s able to see students move forward in their lives. He currently has four or five second generation students in his BCM group.

“It helps you to see that you really do get to have a long-term influence in their lives,” he said.

Brittain lost his first wife and then his daughter to cancer in a span on two and a half years.

“That was a tough period in our family’s lives, and it continues to influence all of us,” he said.

He met Donna Miller at a blood drive at the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville in honor of his daughter, Megan. They married in 2009.

“At just the right time, God brought Donna into my life,” he said. “She’s been such a nurturer and such a huge part of my healing from the hurts I’d been through. I’m a very blessed man to have her in my life.”

The Brittains live in Golden Springs and attend Golden Springs Baptist Church. Donna works at Dillard’s.

Donna and Gary have three sons. Gary’s son, Ian, lives in Ponchatoula, La. He’s a graduate of the University of Alabama. His son, Bradley, lives in Golden Springs. Donna’s son, J. B. Shugarts, is graduate of the Ohio State University. He lives in Toledo, Ohio.

Retirement is seven years away for Brittain, who has always been busy with family and his job. He’s only recently taken up a hobby.

“I’m starting to dabble in wood working projects, but nothing serious,” he said. “I saw a picture on the Internet of a bench, so for Christmas, I made one for my wife.”

He also whittled some walking sticks to give as Christmas gifts.

(Contact Margaret at pollya922@mail.com)