Tree Planted in Memory of Peyton Lee

Tree Planted in Memory of Peyton Lee

September 22, 2022
Contact: Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations

 MOUNT OLIVE- University of Mount Olive students, faculty, and staff gathered in Rodgers Chapel on September 21, for a service of prayer and reflection over the loss of their classmate and friend, Peyton Lee.

Lee died in a fatal accident on September 16.  He was a senior agriculture major from Four Oaks, NC. Lee was laid to rest on Tuesday, September 20, in a grave dug by the hands of many of his closest friends, including some of his UMO classmates. In his remarks to students, Professor of Christian Studies Dr. David Hines used that as an example of Christian love.  He went on to reference Bible verse John 11:35 in which Jesus wept.

“This reveals aspects of Jesus’ great care for the people he came to save,” Hines said.  “Our students, with their shovels, have displayed that Christian love to the Lee family, and we should all pick up our respective shovels and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We need to help each other, love each other, and pray for each other during this difficult time.”

Following the worship service, students walked over to the University Arboretum for the planting of a cedar tree in memory of Lee.  Karen Smith, a friend of the Lee family, and Peyton’s former Sunday School teacher provided a touching tribute.  In her remarks, Smith shared that, three years prior, she had chosen the Bible verse Psalm 92:12 for Peyton’s high school senior blessing Sunday.  That verse reads, “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”   “It was the mention of the cedar tree that meant so much to me when thinking of Peyton,” Smith said.

Smith went on to note the comparisons in Lee and the cedar tree.  She talked about his overshadowing care and loyalty for his friends, his towering height, his faith in Jesus Christ, which was nourished by a close-knit and loving family, his strength, his ever-bright and outgoing personality, and many other similar characteristics.  “As beautiful as Peyton’s life was on earth, he will continue to provide a solid foundation for others to build from,” Smith said. “He will be remembered for his lasting legacy and pleasant nature.”

The service concluded with some of Peyton’s favorite Alan Jackson songs playing softly in the background. Friends and professors, with heavy hearts and tearful eyes, shoveled dirt around the roots of the cedar tree planted in Peyton’s memory.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit