Handley, the son of William L. Handley of Dallas County, served as a private in the 36th Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, and suffered an injury to his hand in the Battle of Chickamauga. He attended the University of Mississippi, graduating in 1869 and then earned a doctorate at the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia in 1872. He was ordained in the Presbytery of Tuscaloosa a year later.
Handley came to Birmingham to serve as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in 1874. He left to become founding pastor of the daughter church, Central Presbyterian in 1890. He re-enlisted during the Spanish-American War and served as a corporal and sergeant in Company G of the 1st Regiment of Alabama in the U.S. Army from May to October 1898.
Handley offered prayers before large crowds at the dedications of the William Elias B. Davis statue and the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument at Capitol Park on December 14, 1904 and April 26, 1905, respectively. In June 1910 a large celebration of Handley's lifetime of service to Birmingham's Presbyterians was celebrated.
- "Confederate Monument Unveiled at Capitol Park." (April 26, 1905) The Birmingham News, p. 1-3, 10
- "Humor Blended Into The History of Earlier Days." (June 17, 1910) The Birmingham News, p. 16
- Hutton, C. M. (January 1911) "Dr. Luman S. Handley" obituary. Confederate Veteran. Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 81.
- L. S. Handley at Findagrave.com