May 3rd, 2013 at 11:37 am
FORT WORTH – Leon McBeth, one of the foremost Baptist historians of the 20th century, died April 29. He was 81.
McBeth taught church history on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1960-2003 and was a prolific author whose books include The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness and Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History. He served as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention Historical Commission and president of the Southern Baptist Historical Society. He also served as interim pastor for numerous congregations.
Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection, called McBeth his “mentor” and indicated he first felt called to minister as a Texas Baptist historian in one of McBeth’s classes. McBeth’s teaching and writing had a vast impact on later generations of Baptist historians as well as academicians and ministers.
“A lot of pastors were really influenced by him. McBeth was a great storyteller,” Lefever said. “Even if you weren’t a historian, the way he told stories influenced the way you told stories behind the pulpit.”
Karen Bullock, director of the Ph.D. program at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, said McBeth understood history as a series of interlaced lives. That understanding informed how he approached the topic and helped him “bring it alive” for his students.
“There is no word that carries more honor for me than teacher,” Bullock said. “I have had many instructors, but I have had few teachers. He was my example for accuracy and personalizing history.”
Visitation is set for 6:00-8:00 p.m. May 3 at Greenwood Chapel Cemetery in Fort Worth. McBeth’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. May 4 at University Baptist Church in Fort Worth.