In 1918, the Alabama Baptist State Convention purchased the paper and set it up to function under a board of directors as a nonprofit religious ministry. The directors own the publication and govern all aspects of its ministry.
During the 100 years of convention ownership, four men have served as editors. Dr. L.L. Gwaltney became editor in 1919 and served for 31 years. Dr. Leon Macon took the helm of the ministry in 1950 and served until his death in 1965. Dr. Hudson Baggett was elected editor in 1966 and served until his death in 1994. Dr. Bobby S. Terry was elected editor in 1995 and continues to serve in that role.
Leslie Lee Gwaltney entered the world on March 5, 1876, near Jamestown, Virginia, as the sixth of ten children born to John Avington Merritt Gwaltney and Sarah Rebecca (Deering) Gwaltney. He grew up in rural Virginia attending Bellvue school, and he was an avid reader, particularly influenced by John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which led him to deeper Bible study.
Gwaltney felt called to preach, but he was not willing to openly oppose his father, who wanted him to study medicine. So the two compromised. He would study business at Bryant and Stratton College, but after six months, he left school and took a job at a Richmond department store. He ultimately enrolled in Richmond College and studied ministry there for a time before leaving to study Hebrew and Greek at Union Theological Seminary. While in school in 1902, he married Richie Thornton Peters. They had five children over the years and lost two of them.
The family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, so Gwaltney could study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He graduated with a master of theology degree in 1908 and promptly moved to First Baptist Church of Prattville, where he served as pastor for two years.
In 1910, Gwaltney moved to First Baptist Church of Greenville, serving there until 1918 when he left for First Baptist Church of Florence. He stayed there for fifteen months before becoming editor of The Alabama Baptist and moving to Montgomery. He stayed in Montgomery for six months and then moved the paper to Birmingham.
While in Florence, Gwaltney published the Tennessee Valley Baptist and had been associate editor of The Alabama Baptist from 1914 to 1916. The editor left First Baptist Church of Florence with sadness and took the job at the paper with fear that he was not “fit for such a broad, responsible and untried field.”
Gwaltney worked with no vacation for almost ten years, but he took a three-month break in 1929 when his wife became desperately ill. They found their way through that time, and he served another 20 years as editor of The Alabama Baptist and ended up with more than thirty-one years in the role when he retired on July 1, 1950. On November 11, 1955, Gwaltney died after suffering a heart attack. His wife died on March 7, 1962.