From cranes to counseling: The Rev. Bo Ambrose stays busy

Tom KingAnderson, Our Town Heroes

When William Cowper in 1774 wrote the hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way, he based its theme on the understanding that God’s ways are beyond human comprehension. Perhaps that explains the transformation of the Rev. Jimmy Lloyd “Bo” Ambrose Jr.’s life from the world of big overhead cranes for 34 years and into the chaplain business for law enforcement and inmates alike.

Bo Ambrose

Can a chaplain be a hero? Many in his diverse congregation of officers, deputies, victims at times, families who have lost a loved one and those in jailhouses would probably answer with an “Amen.” He even gets into the marriage business with a few of the officers he’s counseled.

From big business to listening, counseling, holding hands, crying, hugging, praying and giving comfort, Ambrose is 24/7/365. On Feb. 25, 2024, he spent 10 hours at the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center after teaching a Sunday school class on evangelism at Loveland Baptist Church and going to church. Then he headed to Clinton to the ACSO and was home to wife Anita around 9:30 or 10 p.m. Just another long day of “doing what I do,” he says.

“God called me to do this … sharing my passion and love for the gospel and for people. I take this job very seriously. I get to know the officers and the inmates personally. I let them know that I am here to love you, to share God’s love for you and I am here to help you. To know them all is one of the biggest blessings of my life.”

Here are his ministry details:

  • Chaplain, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office & Detention Center
  • Recently became a chaplain for Knox County Rescue
  • As needed, he serves the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Spent seven years as a jail minister at the Knox County Detention Center
  • He’s hoping to begin serving both the Knoxville Police Department and Knoxville Fire Department
  • He also is exploring full-time chaplain work with hospice or in a hospital setting.

A Knoxville native, Bo was born at the old Baptist Hospital. He’s 57, passionate beyond belief about his calling. His family moved to Oak Ridge when he was in the fifth grade and he graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1984.

Following high school, he enrolled in East Tennessee State University with a goal of being a veterinarian. After three years he knew that was not going to happen. In 1988 he began work for Overhead Crane and Hoist Service for 24 years and left as its vice president. He then owned Arrow Crane Service for seven years (2017-2023) and it was bought by Patriot Hoist & Crane last year. That ended Ambrose’s life in business.

One Sunday in 2012, still in the crane business, he was leaving the KCSO Detention Center and says his calling came “out of the blue” … “He wanted this path to be my path forever.” Ambrose can’t explain it. It just happened.

“I felt my heart changing. God led me to this without question. He was speaking to me, to my heart, that this ministry was my work,” Ambrose said. Finally, after study and preparation, he was ordained in May 2022 at Salem Baptist Church in Halls.

“The men and women in the jails are doing what can quickly become a very dangerous job and I’m there to help and do whatever I can for them,” he said. He’s been working at Anderson County for four years and spends a goodly amount of time there, much of it at the detention center.

In late January he was on I-75 early headed for Rocky Top, where an early morning fire broke out in an apartment building on the 300 block of Main Street. Units from the Anderson County Fire Dept. and ACSO responded. One man died in the fire and Ambrose was the chaplain who sat down and comforted the firefighters and deputies.

In addition to his hands-on contributions, Bo is an author, having written a Christian evangelism book titled “Start Fresh Evangelism” available on Amazon or at the Cedar Spring Christian Store. He also a pistol-shooting chaplain. More about that later.

Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker is a big fan. “Whether on the road with our deputies or at the detention facility, Bo embraces opportunities to connect, inspire and uplift those around him. We are grateful to have him.”

The busy chaplain winds down with Anita when he gets home. “My wife tells me that I have to calm down because I get excited telling her about the people I work with and the stories I hear. I just love being there with them, getting to know them, caring for them and showing them God’s love.”

Ambrose has two additional stress beaters. He’s the master of the backyard grill and he and Anita drive to Frontier Firearms USA in Kingston most weeks to do a little pistol shooting at the range. Both have carry permits and Ambrose has 14 pistols. Monday night is their favorite because women shoot for free. “It’s amazing how relaxing I find the shooting. It really helps clear my mind. I go in stressed and when I leave, I’m in a different frame of mind.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562


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