Who was Editor Hudson Baggett?

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Howard College religion professor Hudson Baggett, left, was the choice to succeed Leon Macon as editor of The Alabama Baptist. Above, Baggett receives a framed copy of the first issue (February 4, 1843) of The Alabama Baptist from Andrew Tampling, chairman of the publication’s Board of Directors and pastor of First Baptist Church, Birmingham.
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

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Even in the midst of tensions, the down-to-earth Hudson Baggett contended, “I have learned that we need each other. No matter how much we disagree, most of us agree on the things that really matter.”
The Alabama Baptist file photo

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Editor Hudson Baggett was a popular guest in the pulpits of churches large and small. He was noted for his humor as well as the biblical insightfulness that marked his career as a professor of religion at Howard College (now Samford University). On the day before his death he turned his annual report into a sermon at the 1994 annual meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.
The Alabama Baptist file photo

Hudson Doyle Baggett was born in Arkadelphia, Alabama, on July 23, 1923, to Elbert B. and Audie (King) Baggett, and later worked for his father in the coal distribution business. Baggett enrolled in Howard College as a religion major in 1941, but he enlisted in the army as a private on June 30, 1942. He was wounded in World War II and received the Purple Heart.

When Baggett returned to Howard after the war, he served as vice president of the sophomore class, was a member of Alpha Phi Omega and the Ministerial Association and he was an outstanding basketball player for the “Y” veterans team. He met June Stewart at the school, and they married September 7, 1946, in East Tallassee, Alabama. Both graduated from Howard.

Following graduation, the couple moved to Louisville, Kentucky, so Baggett could attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned three degrees: bachelor of divinity, master of theology and doctor of theology with a major in homiletics. June graduated from the Carver School of Missions. While in Kentucky, Baggett served as pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Meade County and served as moderator of Salem Baptist Association for three years. Later in Alabama, he served as pastor of Panama Baptist Church in Cullman, Shades Valley Baptist Church in Birmingham and First Baptist Church of Florence.

Leaving Florence in 1958, the Baggetts moved to Birmingham with their three children, Mark, Dale and Tim. Baggett returned to Howard College as an instructor in English but rose to full professor of religion by 1965. In addition to his teaching load, he also directed the Howard College Extension Division of Christian Training.

On May 13, 1966, Hudson Baggett was installed as editor of The Alabama Baptist. He was introduced as someone who had been a preacher’s friend and was a preacher “of no mean ability” himself. Baggett responded, “I pledge dedication to the task of seeking, interpreting and presenting the truth in the light of study and research. I covet your prayers.”

In 1973, he published a special Sesquicentennial celebratory issue of the paper for the Alabama Baptist State Convention’s 150th anniversary. In May 1975, he wrote about plans for the paper’s new home, and in June 1976, the new building was dedicated, debt free.

Baggett, always concerned about the paper’s financial status, planned wisely. He presented readers and the convention with figures of actual publishing costs and asked for additional convention funding, while urging more subscribers.

He continually promoted all state and convention missions efforts and Woman’s Missionary Union. He urged peace and reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention. He wrote, “We believe that the majority of Southern Baptists are weary of conflicts and wish to move our convention in the direction of more cooperation and good will.”

In addition to his weekly editorials, the editor wrote Sunday School lessons for the Baptist Sunday School Board (which later became LifeWay Christian Resources) and contributed to the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists. He had published articles on preaching in Proclaim, a BSSB publication. Baggett also served on the Board of Trustees for Southern Seminary and was active in the Southern Baptist Press Association.

On November 16, 1994, Baggett presented the annual report of The Alabama Baptist at the state convention. In typical Baggett style, he included a mini sermon. Sadly, the next day Baggett had a massive heart attack and died in Point Clear, Alabama, where he and June had gone for a quick getaway following the convention. Sorely missed by Alabama leaders and church members, “Mr. Alabama Baptist” would be remembered for his motto: Make light, not heat.

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Happy Birthday to TAB!!

Happy Birthday!.jpgToday’s the day! It’s officially our 175th birthday!

On February 4, 1843, the first issue of The Alabama Baptist was published.

We have continuously served the state of Alabama and its Baptists for 175 years and we hope to continue to publish in this great state for many, many more.

Don’t forget to join us in at Judson College on Tuesday, February 6th for our celebration event!

Click here for more information.

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Who was Editor Leon Macon?

 

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New editor Leon Macon was in “hyper drive” when promoting circulation of The Alabama Baptist. He wrote, “Any extra cost to the church (for the state Baptist paper) is missionary money well spent.” Baptists believed him and in 10 years circulation more than doubled from about 46,000 in 1950 to more than 106,000 in 1960.
Photo courtesy of the Macon family

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The Alabama Baptist paid tribute to Editor Leon Macon on the occasion of his death with a two-page spread noting the life and contributions of the tireless Baptist leader. The Alabama Baptist file photo

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.”

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It’s almost time to celebrate

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The time for The Alabama Baptist‘s 175th birthday celebration is almost here! If you’re interested in Baptist history or have a senior adult group, WMU group, Sunday School class, or other church group this is a great outing for you.

The celebration will be Tuesday, February 6 on the campus of Judson College in Marion where the state Baptist paper began.

The day includes historic tours in the community, presentations by the authors of the new book “The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years,” a worship time with Judson students featuring editor-elect Jennifer Rash, a thanksgiving prayer, a birthday party with cake and punch, and a sit down lunch. The activities begin at 9:00am with the historic tours. If you choose to not participate in a historic tour, registration will be in Jewett Foyer at Judson College from 10:30-11:00am.

The cost is $15 per person in advance or $20 per person at the door and covers all tours, events and lunch as well as a $5 discount on the new book.

For more information or to register call 1-800-803-5201.

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Who was Editor L. L. Gwaltney?

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Two months after the convention ratified the purchase of the paper from private ownership, L. L. Gwaltney, a popular pastor and prominent denominational leader, was introduced as the new editor.
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

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After 31 years as editor of The Alabama Baptist, Gwaltney retired in 1950. Historians called him “the premier denominational leader during the three decades after 1920.”
The Alabama Baptist file photo

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.

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Be on the lookout

All of our books are in and we’re prepping them to be mailed out. We’ve got a lot of books to be shipped out but we’re chipping away at them every day. Be on the lookout for your copy of the book, but don’t worry, if you haven’t purchased one yet, it’s not too late!

Visit here to purchase a paperback and here to purchase a hardcover.

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We teamed up with the WMU distribution warehouse to get the books packaged and ready to be mailed out. The Alabama Baptist file photo

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The book’s authors, Grace Thornton and Elizabeth Wells, sign the books to be sent to our generous donors. The Alabama Baptist file photo

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Each donor book has a handwritten message from each of book’s authors. The Alabama Baptist file photo

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Who was Editor Frank Willis Barnett?

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Glennville, Alabama native Frank Willis Barnett was an attorney and pastor before purchasing the paper in 1902. His work with The Alabama Baptist and other newspapers earned him honorary degrees from Howard College and the University of Alabama.
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

Frank Willis Barnett 

Frank Willis Barnett was born in Barbour County, Alabama, on October 23, 1865, to Dr. Augustus William and Celeste (Truetlen) Barnett of Washington, Georgia. His father was a Methodist minister and physician, and he sent Barnett to school in St. Louis, Missouri, the city considered to have the best schools. In 1882, his brother took him to Paris, France, where he entered the Institution Winter, a private school that would prepare him for study at the Sorbonne and College of France. But he was homesick and returned to study at the University of Alabama as a sophomore in 1884 and 1885, then went on to Vanderbilt. He later returned to Europe, studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, the University of Vienna and the University of Berlin.

When he came back home, he read law with C.D. Clayton in Eufaula, Alabama, practiced law in Birmingham from 1888 to 1892, then moved to New York University to be in a post-graduate law program from 1892 to 1894. He moved to Atlanta in 1894, and while he was there he made a profession of faith and was baptized and ordained to the Baptist ministry in September 1895. To prepare himself for the ministry, he studied at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and took courses at Yale Divinity School.

On June 21, 1899, Barnett married Maud Proctor, daughter of David Jesse and Eileen Proctor of Forsyth, Georgia. Their two sons were Frank Willis and Proctor Hawthorne Barnett.

Barnett left the pastorate of Washington Baptist Church in Georgia in December 1901, desiring to purchase and edit a religious newspaper in Alabama. He purchased The Alabama Baptist of Montgomery from owner and editor Major John G. Harris for $7,500. He then bought The Baptist Evangel of Birmingham and The Baptist Herald of Florida. His church, in resolutions appearing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, praised their pastor and his wife for their faithful service of two years and commended him to the Baptist brethren of Alabama. In January 1902, the first issue of The Southern and Alabama Baptist appeared.

Throughout his editorship, Barnett sought ways to improve the physical appearance of the paper, using the newest printing technology and techniques. He was thirty-six when he started his journalism career, and his enthusiasm was reflected in the paper. He stayed busy in Alabama Baptist affairs but also in Birmingham and Alabama politics and business, serving as first vice president of Birmingham Press Association in 1904. He used information from state, local and national sources. He fought for Baptist ideals that he cherished — improved working conditions for children and lower-paid wage earners, religious freedom, freedom of speech and separation of church and state. He also helped with the constitution of First Baptist Church of West Blocton in 1912, serving as the first pastor.

During World War I, Barnett served as Birmingham’s coordinator of Societies of Alabama Council of Defense. Barnett was also working for the Birmingham Age Herald. After selling The Alabama Baptist to the Alabama Baptist State Convention, he wrote, “I sold it of my own free will and accord and that at no stage of transfer was there any other thought in my or Dr. Yarbrough’s mind but to do the thing that was best for the Baptists of the state.”

Howard College conferred on him the doctor of law degree in 1918. In 1919, Barnett became pastor of First Baptist Church of Trussville. The University of Alabama honored him with the doctor of letters in 1924.

Barnett died in Birmingham on June 29, 1941, and was buried in Forsyth City Cemetery in Forsyth, Georgia.

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Who was Editor John G. Harris?

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In 1885 Major John G. Harris purchased the paper and moved its offices to Montgomery where the paper became embroiled in local and state politics. Despite its rough and tumble approach to reporting, the publication was called “a marvel of successful journalism” by The Birmingham Age Herald.
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

John Gideon Harris

John Gideon Harris was born into the home of a successful planter near Greensboro on March 1, 1834. His parents, Page and Mary (Williams) Harris, were North Carolina natives who had moved to Alabama about 15 years before his birth.

Harris graduated from the Green Springs Academy and taught school for five years. In March 1856, he was elected justice of the peace. Going by the name “Gid,” he entered Cumberland University, was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon and graduated in 1858 with a law degree. He was admitted to the Alabama Bar in 1859 and practiced law in Greensboro with Judge Thomas W. Coleman Sr.

On January 3, 1861, he married Mary Jane Brown, daughter of John Evander and Mary Jane (Godfrey) Brown, in Sumter County, Alabama. Less than two weeks later, on January 15, he enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army in the Greensboro Light Artillery Guards. In the summer, Harris raised the Planters Guard, becoming part of the Alabama 20th Regiment. Then in 1863, he was promoted to major. His daughters, Mary Julia and Annie B., were born during the war years.

Following the war, Harris settled in Livingston, opening a law office. He was involved in Alabama Democrat Party politics and was unsuccessful in his campaign for Congress in 1870. In 1873, he was appointed to the board of commissioners of the Alabama State University for Colored Students in Marion. Harris was the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 1874 but declined to have his name on the ballot. In 1875, he coordinated Mississippi’s Democratic Party.

He and his wife were active in First Baptist Church, Livingston, where she was considered one of the best Sunday School teachers and choir soloists in the church. Harris too was so revered in his area that the newly formed Baptist association was named in his honor. Harris was elected Grand Master of Alabama’s Grand Lodge of F. and A. Masons in 1885.

That same year, Harris bought The Alabama Baptist, located in Selma, Alabama, from John L. West. He moved the operation and his family to Montgomery. In 1886, he was appointed register of the Montgomery Land Office by President Grover Cleveland and he served in that position until 1889.

Through his career as editor, he championed the rise of the South from Reconstruction. He encouraged the industrial growth of the state, especially Birmingham. He urged legislation to improve education for all children and to defeat “demon rum.” Some in the convention considered him too outspoken on moral and political issues, but he explained that an educated readership made better citizens and church members. He served as president of the International Sunday School Convention from 1890 to 1893.

From 1890 to 1895, Harris served as Alabama’s superintendent of education. When he retired as superintendent of education in 1895, Booker T. Washington, president of the Colored State Teachers Association, signed resolutions endorsing Harris’ administration and commending “his deep and active interests in the education of the colored race.” He called Harris “a friend who stood by us.”

The front page of April 18, 1901, issue reported the death of Mary, Harris’ wife of forty years. By the end of the year, he negotiated a second office for The Alabama Baptist in Birmingham and sold the paper to Frank Willis Barnett.

The July 15, 1908, issue of the paper reported the July 7 death of Harris in Montgomery. His was a Masonic funeral, befitting a past grand master of the Alabama Masonic Lodge.

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Getting ready to celebrate

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As the birthday celebration in Marion, Alabama quickly approaches, our preparations for the big day are in full swing. There’s food to plan, signs to design, jobs to delegate, furniture to layout and much more.

The day includes historic tours in the community, presentations by the authors of the new book “The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years,” a worship time with Judson students featuring editor-elect Jennifer Rash, a thanksgiving prayer, a birthday party with cake and punch, and a sit-down lunch. The activities begin at 9:00 a.m. with historic tours with other activities following at 10:45.

The celebration would make an ideal outing for senior adult groups, WMU groups, church groups, Sunday School classes or anyone interested in Baptist history.

The cost for the day is $15 in advance which includes the tours, the program, lunch and a $5 discount coupon on the new book. Registration on the day of the event will be $20.

To register or for additional information, contact Linda Harrison at 1-800-803-5201 or news@TheAlabamaBaptist.org.

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Who was Editor John L. West?

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Even though he did not own the publication, Editor John L. West paid expenses for the final issue of 1877 out of his own resources. A month later he paid about $1,500 for all new printing equipment after a fire destroyed the press, type and everything else used to produce The Alabama Baptist.
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

John L. West

John L. West, a native of Union District, South Carolina, was born December 11, 1848, and moved to Pickens County, Alabama, as a child with his parents, Aaron L. and Luvenia J. West. He was baptized at Oak Ridge Baptist Church and attended Howard College with a scholarship from Union Baptist Association, but he dropped out in 1872 because of bad health.

He was ordained to the ministry in 1871, preaching as a student at Hopewell Baptist Church and serving as pastor until his death in 1888. He also was pastor of Newbern Baptist Church. West served as moderator of Cahaba Baptist Association and chaired association committees. He married Mary E. Holmes on March 17, 1876, and they had six children.

West owned the John L. West & Co. Printing Company in Selma. He had been editor of the Selma Times and part owner of the Selma Printing Company. During the July 1877 Alabama Baptist State Convention, the board of directors that oversaw The Alabama Baptist was pleased when E.T. Winkler presented West as the new editor and proprietor of the paper.

In 1878, the convention granted ownership to Winkler and West. Then in 1879, because Winkler no longer wanted ownership, West requested total proprietorship of The Alabama Baptist. The convention agreed and transferred sole ownership to West, who said his years with Winkler were “pleasant and trustful.”

On January 1, 1885, Major John Gideon Harris of Livingston purchased half interest in the paper. Remaining in Livingston, Harris had no editorial control at first but solicited subscriptions for the paper. However, by the meeting of the convention in 1885, West had sold the paper to Harris.

On July 17, 1888, West died near Scott Station in Perry County. He was described as an outstanding minister in central Alabama known for his “loveable disposition” and being “gentle in manners and spotless minister of Christ faithful to the end to all that pertained to his calling.”

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