Leon Meertief Macon was born on October 25, 1908, in Whatley, Alabama, to James William and Martha (Kelly) Macon, the youngest of eleven children. His father was a hotel and livery stable owner in the small town, but Macon was encouraged by his mother to follow in her father’s Baptist minister’s footsteps. He finished Grove Hill High School and entered the Catholic Spring Hill College to study law. While in Mobile, he was assistant pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church and felt called to the ministry. He enrolled in Howard College and graduated in 1933. While in Mobile he met Emily May Bodden, and they married in 1934. They had three children, Sondra, Martha and Rodney.
The family traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, for Macon to study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1933 to 1935. He served as pastor of Bay Minette Baptist Church from 1935 to 1937, then returned to the seminary to obtain an additional degree in 1938. He also served as pastor of churches in Athens (1938–1941), Atmore, (1941–1943) and Bessemer (1945–1950), Alabama, along with a church in West Point, Georgia (1943–1945). While serving as a pastor, he also wrote for the local newspapers and was moderator in the associations of the churches he served. In 1949, Howard College awarded him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Macon also served Alabama Baptists as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention from 1962 to 1964. He was known in Southern Baptist life as a member of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, Historical Commission and the executive committee for the Southern Baptist Encyclopedia. He was also president of the Southern Baptist Press Association from 1962 to 1963.
The editorial page, filled with as many as three to six editorial comments, was Leon Macon’s primary venue to inform Alabama Baptists. He read religious and secular newspapers and periodicals to be abreast of denominational and secular news and concerns.
Macon gleaned his editorial topics from his reading and had a gift to discern specific issues. In his crisp, informational yet caring tone, he introduced an issue to readers with explanation. Then in a later editorial he would remind them again, and should he think necessary, he would reinforce the argument with additional comments.
As editor, he felt it was his responsibility to carry the torch for moral behavior and stand against unethical practices and people. Baptist beliefs, especially those of separation of church and state, priesthood of the believer, autonomy of the local church and caution against too much government in the denomination and in the nation, were always in the forefront of his message. Not shying away from his Southern conservative beliefs, following the bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, Macon was chosen to word the Southern Baptist Convention resolution:
“We express our deepest sympathy to those families who have lost loved ones and to others who have been victimized by such racist strife. We call on the church to turn to and sustain Christian principles which alone can heal the rift of our world.”
Macon died on November 15, 1965. As editor, he had seen his life’s work as this:
“The Alabama Baptist is the newspaper for the Baptists in Alabama and we feel it must ever be free to inform the people, to deal with the problems of the times, and to seek to get people to think for themselves. It is a means of communication by which the church members can know the truth about the society in which they live and the church to which they belong.”