When, H. Aldridge Gillespie, as a young missionary, had the opportunity to act as "chauffer, roommate, and companion" to Elder Spencer W. Kimball, (then of the Twelve) as the Apostle organized and toured the new West Spanish American Mission, he certainly never thought that he would one day join Elder Kimball as a General Authority. But the opportunity of that tour, was but one of a lifetime of preparatory experiences used by the Lord to prepare Elder Gillespie for full-time service as a General Authority of the Lord's True Church.
H. Aldridge Gillespie was born May 22, 1935 in Riverside, California to Lionel Aldridge Gillespie and his wife, Amelia Eileen Baird. His mother died when he was only eight months old and his father subsequently married Maria Giles who took the young child as her own and accorded him the love and discipline a child needs to develop. The family moved to Manti, Utah to be near the Giles Family and help run the family business, a resort ranch and dairy. Fully accepted by the family, Aldrige learned of love and compassion from the Gileses. Helping on the dairy route, he also developed a strong work ethic at an early age. Though his father was not fully active in the Church, he often testified of the truth of the Book of Mormon and always encouraged young Aldridge to participate.
Elder Gillespie credits the Saints of Manti and especially his teachers and leaders for creating a spiritual environment in which the young lad could flourish. The community was of great importance when Aldridge's father died at the young age of forty-two. The family was left in dire financial straits and for a time was forced to go to the Church for welfare assistance. The experience was another of preparation for Aldridge and left him with a deep empathy for those who suffer and a lifelong desire to succor those in pain.
With a deepening testimony of the restored gospel, Aldridge determined that he should serve a mission for the Church. He was called in 1955 to serve in the Spanish American Mission. His mission might be called sucessful, insomuch as while he was in the field the mission was split forming the new West Spanish American Mission. Aldridge was among those assigned to the new mission, and was called to serve as Second Counselor to the Mission President. Thus it was his privilege to accompany Elder Spencer W. Kimball for a two week period as Elder Kimball toured the mission. And it was another experience of preparation. Aldridge saw life as it should be lived. "Elder Kimball had special spiritual capacities that touched my heart and influenced my opinion of what life should be and how I should live it," Elder Gillespie recounted to a reporter from the Ensign. "My concept of what man should be, what families should be, and how people should conduct themselves was greatly amplified in that brief time."
After returning from his mission, Aldridge entered Utah State University where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering in 1960, then continued and was awarded a Master's degree in the same field in 1962. Ultimately he would earn a Doctorate in Civil Engineering, fracture mechanics, and failure analysis from the University of Arizona.
At the same time he was beginning his family. On July 18, 1958 in the Manti Temple he took Virginia Ann Larsen as his eternal companion. They would have five children and, at the time of his call as a General Authority, fourteen grandchildren.
Armed with a plethora of academic degrees, Aldridge Gillespie's began his career. He became Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Oklahoma from 1966 to 1973. Even after leaving the University, the Gillespies continued to make their home in Oklahoma. He joined Allied Western as an Engineer and Salesman from 1973 to 1977. Leaving the private sector, he became Director of the Transportation Safety Institute of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Oklahoma City from 1977 to 1997.
Meanwhile Alridge and Virginia served the Lord in a variety of Church callings. He was sucessively a Bishop, a Stake President, and a Regional Representative. With that experience, he was well prepared, when Oklahoma City suffered the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, to serve as a grief counselor and chaplain in the weeks following the tragedy. "I functioned in that capacity for several weeks," he told a reporter from the Church News "It gave me a chance to see how generous the people of Oklahoma and the people around the nation were. To be able to get close to those people and to be part of their families for a brief period of time was a choice experience. All I did was teach them gospel principles hour after hour. They recognized the truth of those principles and it gave them hope."
Aldridge Gillespie retired from the Federal Service in 1997 but, instead of settling into a life of retired leisure, was almost immediately called into full-time service to the Lord as President of the Mexico Tampico Mission. As he neared the end of his three-year call as mission president, he might again have looked to a period of rest and relaxation. Such was not to be. Even before his release, he was extended a five-year call as a General Authority in the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
On October 1, 2005, a grateful Church, assembled in General Conference, extended an honorable release from the Second Quorum of the Seventy to Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie, and with raised hands, gave him a vote of thanks for services long and honorably rendered.