Guest / Limited Access /

Several years ago a teenager struggling with the call to ministry came to Dallas and boldly made an appointment to see W. A. Criswell. The great pastor listened with empathy and interest as the young man recounted the difficulties he was facing. When their conference was ended, Criswell knelt beside the young preacher with his arm around his shoulder and invoked the presence of Christ on his life's work. When he returned home, the young man told his pastor what he had done.

"What?" he exclaimed, "you really prayed with Dr. Criswell? Man, you have seen the Pope!"

Wallie Amos Criswell was born in 1909 in the dust-bowl town of Eldorado, Oklahoma, to a cowboy-barber and his beautiful wife. Born in obscurity and raised in poverty, this wind-swept lad of the plains would become in time the most famous Baptist pastor in the world. When he died earlier this year at age 92, he was extolled as a passionate preacher, a powerful evangelist, and a redoubtable defender of the faith. He was all of that and more.

Holy Roller with a Ph.D.


Criswell began his pastoral labors during his student days at Baylor University. He served small congregations in such places of renown as Devil's Bend and Pulltight, Texas. Even then he was known for his pulpit exuberance. On a clear night, it was said, you could hear Criswell preaching five miles away. After graduation from Baylor, Criswell moved to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he studied the Greek New Testament under the great A. T. Robertson. On Valentine's Day in 1935 he married Betty Mae Harris, the pianist at the church he served part time.

Following two pastoral charges in his native Oklahoma, Criswell was the surprise choice to succeed the venerable George ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHow Do I Talk with Someone Whose Worldview Opposes My Own?
How Do I Talk with Someone Whose Worldview Opposes My Own?
This week on Thursday is for Thinkers, Dr. Toby Jennings explores the biblical ways to talk with someone with an opposing worldview.
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickWatch and Wait
Watch and Wait
Tarrying with Christ and the fearful dying.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

hide thisMarch 11 March 11

In the Magazine

March 11, 2002

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.