Tuesday, July 26, 2016

3 tributes for 3 historians

Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due...honour to whom honour.

Two important mentors of mine were Louis F. Asher and J. W. Griffith, both of whom were once my pastors. Brother Asher baptized me and Brother Griffith was my pastor when I surrendered to preach, was licensed and ordained. They were both historians and seminary professors who did much to nurture my predisposition toward things historical.

Three men that did not know me were also extremely gracious and helpful to me when I reached out to them. Their helping me was of no personal benefit to them. Much of this occurred prior to the days of easy internet communication and contact. I want to pay tribute to them here.

Claude Howard Dorgan:
Howard Dorgan worked for many years at Appalachian State University. High Country Press called him "an all-around gentleman and scholar". His specialty was communications, but he is probably best remembered for his research and books on religion in Appalachia. He advised me on what he knew and put me in contact with a variety of Baptist associations in Appalachia, as well as giving me info about earlier religious research he had done. Some of his books include Giving Glory to God in Appalachia: Worship Practices of Six Baptist Subdenominations, In the Hands of a Happy God: The "No-Hellers" of Central Appalachia and The Old Regular Baptists of Central Appalachia: Brothers and Sisters in Hope.

Robert Granville Gardner:
I believe when I first contacted Dr. Gardner he was at Shorter College, but more people may associate him with Mercer University and the Georgia Baptist Historical Society. He helped me in more ways that I can mention here. One of the most significant was helping with my understanding of black Primitive Baptist associations. Some of the books by Robert G. Gardner are A Decade of Debate and Division: Georgia Baptists and the Formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, 1784-1984, Baptists of Early America: a Statistical History, 1639-1790, Cherokees and Baptists in Georgia, and   On the Hill: the Story of Shorter College.

Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
Dr. Wardin served many years as Professor of History at Belmont University. In my opinion his greatest contribution is in the field of Baptist taxonomy, issuing three books on the topic, Baptist Atlas, Baptists Around the World and The Twelve Tribes of Baptists in the USA: a Historical and Statistical Analysis. I began to understand the Baptist diversity and grouping in America through reading Baptist Atlas and corresponding with Dr. Wardin. Other of his books include Baptists in Oregon, Gottfried F. Alf: Pioneer of the Baptist Movement in Poland and Tennessee Baptists: a Comprehensive History.

One thing all three of them had in common was also helping me collect Baptist minute books -- either sending me books or putting me in contact with local Baptist association officers. Chester Raymond Young of Cumberland College was also extremely helpful in this endeavor, as we swapped our duplicate copies of minute books.

T. J. Denson's Sacred Harp song Odem urges us to give the roses while a person is alive to appreciate them. Drs. Dorgan and Gardner have already passed to their reward. I hope they understood how much I appreciated their help. Dr. Wardin still lives to hear my words of praise, which are many.

Wonderful things of men are said,
When they have passed away;
Flowers adorn the narrow bed
Over the lifeless clay.

Give me the roses while I live,
Something to cheer me on,
Useless the flowers you may give,
After the soul is gone.

Life is the time for words of praise
Hands clasp with friendly smile,
Blessings to cheer a pilgrim’s days,
Are always well worthwhile.

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