It was in 1903, now some twenty-four years ago. when as a young minister I first came to Paducah for a meeting in the First Baptist Church. The first home in which I was entertained at that time, in fact the home that I almost lived in while I was here, was the home of this man whose memory we honor today [Deacon Will Ed Covington] and his dear companion who today mourns his loss. In the passing of the years many memories of that first visit to Paducah have become blurred and indistinct; but a few impressions grow brighter and more precious as the years come and go. The brightest of all these memories of almost a quarter of a century ago is the recollection of the happy, inspiring hours spent in association and Christian fellowship with this stalwart character, this giant soul, this humble man, Mr. Covington.
In his home I found that true hospitality that is among the greatest of Christian virtues. It was almost an ideal home. Never was a man more devoted to his home. Never did a couple live more for each other, and yet their mutual desire and purpose seemed to be always of service, real Christian service, to their church, their community and their loved ones. Though they had no children of their own, yet the home was always bright with the faces and cheery with the laughter of joyous childhood. Children always found this man to be ever ready with the loving advice and admonition of an ideal father. The other day when I visited the home and the little girl who lives in the home threw herself on my shoulder and sobbed, "Oh, Mr. Ham, he was so good to me," I said "Yes, the children still love him as they did twenty-four years ago. He was always the children's friend."
Many a young business man in this church and in this community will ever remember his sympathetic interest when they were struggling for a start in business life. He was the young man's friend and his influence on young manhood was a benediction in every instance. How well do I remember when, as a young preacher, I went into his home - just an inexperienced young minister, knowing very little, couldn't preach, full of mistakes and indiscretions, yet always I found this great Christian soul just as faithful to the services, just as true and as loyal, just as sympathetic as though I had been the greatest preacher in the land. What an inspiration it was to a struggling young preacher, facing the hardships and pitfalls of the travelling ministry, to see this competent, successful, genial man so loyal to the truth and to all God's messengers. His home was the preacher's home and no minister could visit there without coming away a stronger man feeling that he had received an inspiration and a blessing. How little did I think as we sat together in his home at the evening meal just a few days ago and enjoyed the inspiration of his radiant personality and felt the warm clasp of his friendly hand, that in a few more days I could sit in that same chair and lay my hand on the casket that would contain the earthly tabernacle of this great soul. Oh, that all of us may be as ready to answer the sudden call of our God at any time!
When, a few months ago, I first knew that I was coming again to Paducah, the first thought that came into my mind was the thought of his good man, whose memory I had cherished through the years. I had heard of him many times. I had heard of his prosperity in business and I wondered many times if he had been affected in any way by the opportunities that temporal success gives one to surround themselves with the unnecessary luxuries of life and thenceforward live a life of selfish indulgence and self-centered ease. But what a beautiful and encouraging thing it was to find that after the twenty-four years, years crowned with. success, he and his good wife were the same loyal, faithful, unselfish Christian folks they were in the earlier years. How I was impressed with the wonderful character that was this man's! How he could meet temporal success with Christian simplicity! And how influence in temporal affairs only clothed him with a quiet dignity!
Paul tells us to run a good race "seeing that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses". A "cloud of witnesses"! Who are these but the old heroes of faith gone on before and the departed loved ones who have preceded us into the next world and are clothed in that spiritual robe God has prepared for them until they are clothed in their new bodies which shall never die? My friends, today a new picture has been hung in God's Hall of Fame, and a new witness has joined that Cloud and is watching us as we run this race!
I see among the loved ones here some of you who in our Mayfield meeting laid your lives on God's altar wholly for service. May God help you to live such a life as this dear man whom you so loved. May God lay his hands upon some of these younger Covingtons and prepare them to carry on the great immeasurable influence for God and good that this fallen hero has exerted.
Dr. Clapp, you, his pastor, have suffered a blow. You have lost a loyal supporter, a sympathetic friend, a safe counsellor, a bulwark in every time of need. May God comfort you in this loss that none can estimate.
For you, the Board of Deacons of the First Baptist Church, whose ranks are now depleted by the loss of this one, I pray that God may raise up some one who will be as loyal in every test, as sacrificial in every service, as steady in every controversy, as liberal in every call, as wise in every counsel and as adaptable to the great program of our Lord and Savior and His church on earth. You have lost a great heart of love and a big soul that many times in stormy sessions has brought harmony out of chaos. Today you mourn your loss and it is great. Only God can raise another W. E. Covington! I pray that in His Infinite power and wisdom, he will fill the place in your ranks thus left vacant.
For you, his beloved companion, I can bespeak only the constant solace and comfort and abiding strength of our great Lord and Savior, who is ever present in these hours of separation. No human heart can even begin to fathom the loneliness you would now be experiencing if it were not for that great Comforter who is so wonderfully present with you in this hour, even now, and who enables you to be resigned to God's Will and to look with joyful anticipation to the great hope of the Christian - the resurrection of the dead and the life eternal. I believe that God had a purpose in calling this man on to other work at this time. We never can begin to grasp the great scope of God's activities. How could God possibly spare so powerful an influence for Him in this portion of His Vineyard if He did not have a greater need for him in another portion? I believe that in the future we are going to see that God, in His Infinite Wisdom, took this man at this time for a purpose. This church that this man loved next to his Lord is at one of the great crises of its history. Who knows but that the death of this man, timed as it was by God Himself, may mean more to this church and to God's great cause than all his life has meant up till now?
May the God of all comfort, and peace be with you his loved ones, and may you all be ready to face your Lord with such a record as this, your loved one, has made is my prayer.
This edition of our church bulletin is given wholly to the honor of our beloved deacon, Brother W. E. Covington. There are many other things we could mention in our bulletin but we will reserve them for next week. He was such an unusual man and his death made such a profound impression on the minds of the people of our church and of our city, we feel that we should honor ourselves in dedicating this edition of the church bulletin wholly to his memory.
[Address of Mordecia Ham in Reference to the Death of W. E. Covington in the Bulletin of FBC, Paducah, KY, March 20, 1927. Document provided by Ben Stratton, Farmington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More Baptist Bios
Baptist History Homepage