The death of Bob Jones, Sr., at age 84 last month closed the era of hard-hitting evangelists of the Billy Sunday ilk, which reached its peak between the two world wars. During the height of his career, Jones preached an estimated 12,000 down-to-earth gospel messages, laced with folksy maxims, to more than 15 million people. He bridged the gap between old-time fundamentalism and the post-war evangelical resurgence.
This was the era when Jones founded his most memorable monument, Bob Jones University. From a small start in Florida, the school moved to Tennessee, then Greenville, South Carolina. It is the world’s largest fundamentalist college, with an enrollment of 4,000 and a modern campus valued at $50 million.
Jones was born in southeast Alabama, the eleventh child of a farmer and Confederate army veteran. As a youth he tried out preaching in the barn and by age 14 had held his first evangelistic meeting. The next year he was licensed to preach by The Methodist Church, which he left years later, charging theological liberalism.
One of the converts during those early years in Alabama was an old blind man who turned out to be the physician who had brought him into the world. Both of Jones’s parents died when he was a teen-ager, and his first wife died of tuberculosis ten months after the wedding. Two years later he courted and married the former Mary Gaston Stollenwerck, who is still living. He attended college in Alabama.
Three years after he received an honorary D.D. from Muskingum College (United Presbyterian) in Ohio, Jones decided to start a college to promote unflinching fundamentalism. Bob Jones University is well known today not only for its conservative, biblical theology but also for its strict discipline and student ...1
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