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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day [Bob Jones]

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: biod-request@www.anb.org [mailto:biod-request@www.anb.org] Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2003 1:00 AM To: ANB bioday
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 14, 2003
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      From: biod-request@... [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2003 1:00 AM
      To: ANB bioday mailing list
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day

      American National Biography Online

      Jones, Bob (30 Oct. 1883-16 Jan. 1968), Protestant evangelist
      and college founder, was born Robert Reynolds Davis Jones in
      Skipperville, Alabama, the son of William Alexander Jones and
      Georgia Creel, peanut farmers. Jones, the eleventh of twelve
      children, grew up in the Reconstruction South, working hard on
      the family farm that barely supported the large family. He was
      named after his father's Civil War comrade Robert Reynolds and
      southern hero Jefferson Davis, though his parents dropped the
      second middle name "Davis" when he was very young.

      Exhibiting excellent speaking ability at an early age, Jones
      was memorizing lengthy pieces of poetry and prose at age five
      and reciting them to family supper guests. By the age of twelve
      he had traveled throughout his county and preached in homes,
      schoolhouses, rural churches, and outdoor settings. His first
      recorded public speech was in defense of the Populist party.
      His first revival was held at the Mount Olive Methodist Church
      in Brannon's Stand, Alabama, where he had been elected Sunday
      school superintendent at age twelve. He recorded sixty conversions
      during the one-week meeting. Known locally as the "boy preacher,"
      he had a commanding presence, not only because of his speaking
      ability but because of his physical presence. At age thirteen
      he was rotund and weighed 150 pounds.

      At age fifteen, having founded his first church of fifty-four
      members two years earlier, Jones was licensed to preach by the
      Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The next year he became a
      circuit rider and served five churches on the Headland circuit
      of the Mariana district of the Alabama Conference of the Methodist
      church. During his first few years as a circuit preacher more
      than 400 people made confessions of faith in response to his
      preaching. His reputation as a preacher and evangelist began
      to spread, and by the age of sixteen he was preaching all over
      southeastern Alabama.

      Jones's mother died when he was fourteen, his father when he
      was seventeen. In 1901, having received his high school diploma
      from Kinsey High School in 1899, he enrolled in Southern University
      in Greensboro, Alabama (now Birmingham Southern University).
      He supported himself on funds he earned as pastor of a few small
      country churches and as an occasional revivalist preacher. He
      was a diligent but average student, much of his time being dedicated
      to weekend revival meetings during the school year and week-long
      campaigns in the summers. He completed three years of coursework
      but never received a bachelor's degree (the often given title
      "Dr." is the result of several honorary doctorates given to Jones
      throughout his career). He married Bernice Sheffield, a student
      at nearby Judson College in Marion, Alabama, in October 1905.
      Ten months later she died of tuberculosis; they had no children.

      From 1905 through the mid-1920s Jones traveled the nation and
      the globe as a full-time evangelist. On one of his evangelistic
      tours in Uniontown, Alabama, he met his second wife, Mary Gaston
      Stollenwerck. They were married in June 1908 and moved to Birmingham,
      Alabama; they had one son. As Jones preached he received increased
      notoriety, and by 1914 he had preached all over the southern
      states and was known as the "Billy Sunday of the South." Jones
      conducted his evangelistic campaigns in churches, outdoor canvas
      tents, and specially constructed tabernacles, often preaching
      to crowds as large as 15,000. His frequent citywide campaigns
      sparked extensive newspaper coverage, and as his name began to
      spread invitations came in from all over the United States.

      Jones's message was not only one of the need for personal conversion.
      He also preached against social ills, such as liquor consumption,
      gambling, dancing, Hollywood movies, and casual mixing of the
      sexes. As a fundamentalist, he opposed modernism in all its forms.
      He opposed teaching evolution in the public schools and rejected
      Protestant liberalism with its acceptance of biblical higher
      criticism. Later in his career, he would oppose popular evangelist
      Billy Graham (who had attended Bob Jones College for one year)
      because he cooperated with liberal Protestants in his evangelistic
      campaigns. Politically, he was a friend of William Jennings Bryan,
      a Democrat. He did, however, oppose Roman Catholic Alfred E.
      Smith, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1928, and delivered
      more than 100 public speeches for Smith's Republican opponent, Herbert

      By the time Jones was forty years old, he had preached in hundreds
      of cities throughout thirty states and several foreign countries.
      In his first twenty-five years of ministry, he had preached more
      than 12,000 sermons to crowds exceeding 15 million total and
      witnessed over 300,000 conversions to the Christian faith. He
      was a convincing preacher because of his speaking style. He spoke
      directly and simply, communicating a practical gospel message
      with animation and clarity. Although he is mostly known for his
      evangelistic crusades, he also maintained a ministry to Christian
      lay people and pastors by speaking at the nation's leading Bible
      conferences, such as the Winona Lake Bible Conference. Because
      of his popularity and his cultural influence, he was, except
      for Billy Sunday, the most significant American evangelist in
      the period between Dwight Moody and Billy Graham.

      During the early decades of the twentieth century, many fundamentalists
      sensed a secularizing trend in higher education. During his travels
      Jones heard scores of stories from parents about young people
      who had left home to attend a college or university and returned
      with their faith shattered and their morals corrupted. Sensing
      an "atheistic drift" in America's institutions of higher learning,
      he decided to open a Christian college that would protect youth
      from the scourge of modernism. The school would provide an education
      in "the arts and sciences, giving special emphasis to the Christian
      religion and the ethics revealed in the Holy Scriptures."

      He founded Bob Jones College in St. Andrews, Florida, in 1926,
      and students began taking classes in the fall of 1927. Because
      of financial pressures brought on by the Great Depression as
      well as the need for a more central location, Jones moved the
      school to Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1933 (now the site of Lee
      College, denominational school of the Church of God, Cleveland).
      In 1947, needing more land and facilities, he again moved the
      school, now Bob Jones University (BJU), to its present location
      in Greenville, South Carolina. In addition to running and promoting
      the university, he continued to preach at evangelistic crusades
      and Bible camps. He remained president of BJU until 1964, but
      by the mid-1950s his son, Bob Jones, Jr., had taken over much
      of the school's internal management.

      Because Jones desired to protect Christian students from rampant
      secularism, he refused to take any government money or to submit
      his school to the official accreditation process. To this day,
      Bob Jones University remains an unaccredited institution. In
      addition to his rejection of governmental intrusion, Jones is
      also known for his affirmation of racial segregation on biblical
      grounds. By official policy Bob Jones University remained racially
      segregated until 1971, when Bob Jones III became president; and
      interracial dating was forbidden until 1983, when the Supreme
      Court forced the school to change its rules (Bob Jones University
      v. the United States).

      Throughout its existence Bob Jones University has prepared students
      for a life of Christian ministry. Although many who attend the
      school plan to become pastors or evangelists, the university
      also offers a wide variety of majors in the arts, the sciences,
      and business. Bob Jones University, the nation's premier fundamentalist
      institution of higher learning, has fostered a commitment to
      the arts, maintaining an impressive art collection, sponsoring
      an artist series, and developing excellent drama and music programs.
      Jones died in Greenville.


      Jones's papers and other archival materials are in Bob Jones
      University, Greenville, S.C. Books written by him include Comments
      on the Here and Hereafter (1942) and Things I Have Learned: Chapel
      Talks at Bob Jones College (1944). For a complete biography with
      extensive information on his evangelistic campaigns, see R. K.
      Johnson, Builder of Bridges: A Biography of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.
      (1982). For a general sketch of his life with more details regarding
      his role in founding and running Bob Jones University, see Melton
      Wright, Fortress Of Faith: The Story of Bob Jones University,
      3d ed. (1984); this is an institutional history that also includes
      extensive biographical information on Jones, Bob Jones, Jr.,
      and Bob Jones III. The works of Johnson and Wright are both in-house
      histories; hence, they are partisan in nature and largely uncritical
      of Jones and the university. They do, however, provide the basic
      historical details. For general information on North American
      Protestant fundamentalism, see Nancy T. Ammerman, "North American
      Protestant Fundamentalism," in Fundamentalisms Observed, ed.
      Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (1991). For a more lengthy
      and detailed account of fundamentalism and its role in American
      culture, see George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture:
      The Shaping of Twentieth-century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (1980).
      For a more popular account, see Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism
      and Evangelicalism (1991).

      Kurt W. Peterson

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      Kurt W. Peterson. "Jones, Bob";
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
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