The life history of the remarkable man who is the subject of this brief biographical sketch is of peculiar interest to the Baptist denomination which he has so ably served, and cannot fail to inspire its readers with its illustration of the power of an ideal, fortified by a strong will and ample natural endowment.
Balus Joseph Windsor Graham was born in Cherokee county, Georgia, July 6, 1862, of distinguished lines of ancestry. His father, Joseph Graham, was of Scotch ancestry, while his mother, Eleanor Day Graham, was of Scotch-Irish descent. His great-grandfather, Windsor Graham, was a pioneer Methodist preacher in Georgia, three of whose sons were preachers, two Methodist and one Baptist, and many of whose grandsons and great-grandsons are preachers, all Methodist ministers except the subject of this sketch. The maternal ancestors of Mr. Graham were Methodists, but none of them became ministers. Joseph Graham died while serving in the Southern Confederate army in Virginia, without ever having seen his son, Balus. Eleanor Day Graham, his mother, died when Balus was a small boy, leaving him and an elder brother, John Graham, now of Oklahoma, orphans. The brothers were reared in Cherokee county, Georgia, on the farm of their maternal grandfather, Reuben Day.
On December 8, 1878, when Mr. Graham was not yet seventeen years of age, he was married to Miss Nancy A. S. Thompson, a
most estimable young lady from one of the oldest and most substantial families of Upson county, Georgia. She was of great service to him in his effort to secure an education, and has been a helpmeet indeed through all the years. Of this union nine children are the result, six of whom are living, four girls and two boys.
In August, 1879, at the age of seventeen, Mr. Graham was converted to the Christian faith and united with Shiloh Baptist church, Upson county, Georgia, and was baptized by Rev. John A. Jackson. At the age of twenty-two he was called into the ministry and was ordained the following year by the Shiloh Baptist church, and the presbytery was composed of Dr. W. A. Montgomery, Rev. G. H. Perdue, and Rev. J. W. Marshall. Immediately upon his ordination, Mr. Graham, who was engaged in farming and merchandising, became the pastor of four churches. His first pastorates were at Swifton, Waymansville, Harmony, of Upson county, and Salem, Meriwether county, all in Georgia.
Mr. Graham's marriage at a very youthful age, together with his busy life, had given him no opportunity for a college education. He attended the Big Springs school in his native county, where his minor and major studies were, respectively, Webster's Blue Back Speller and Davies' Arithmetic. It is, therefore, remarkable that in maturer years, in the midst of a very active life, Mr. Graham formed an ideal of scholarship and resolved upon its pursuit. The secret of his determination to secure a college education grew out of a rather peculiar yet very interesting circumstance. While en route to one of his appointments, through an unfamiliar part of the county, he stopped at a Negro house to inquire the way. A Negro man, faultlessly dressed, responded to his call and politely gave him the proper direction. After doing so he asked Mr. Graham if he were a minister, to which he replied in the affirmative. The Negro then said: "May I ask where you were educated?" The prompt reply was: "I am not educated. It does not require an education to preach the gospel." The Negro man politely replied: "Certainly not; but it seems to me that a young man of your promise puts himself to very great disadvantage in
not securing a thorough literary education." "There are," he continued, "so many delicate shades of meaning to the Latin and Greek which cannot be learned from the English, that a knowledge of those languages seems to me to be very necessary." Enough had been said. Mr. Graham gave his horse a stroke with the lines which was soon in a sweeping trot, but he was not a hundred yards away before he said to himself: "I will have a college education if it takes me twenty years to get it."
This incident occurred two years before Mr. Graham could wind up his business affairs and begin the carrying out of his purpose. With an iron will and unswerving determination he went with his wife and young children to Macon, Georgia, and entered the preparatory and theological departments of Mercer University. After spending two years in these departments he entered upon the A.B. course in the College of Arts. It was here that Mr. Graham showed those qualities which are his striking characteristics - an unbending will, and devotion to an ideal. Some of his venerable professors advised him, in view of all the circumstances and the difficulty of the Greek language, not to attempt that course, which was required at that time for the A.B. degree. Mr. Graham, counter to this advice, resolved to become conversant with the original language of the New Testament and would not be discouraged nor turned aside from his ideal of scholarship. So he entered upon the full classical course and graduated at the end of four years with the Bachelor of Arts degree of the University. This was a noteworthy vindication of his independence, self-reliance, energy and ability, and is an apt illustration of the character of the man.
Mr. Graham took a stand among the very best students at Mercer University and went forth well equipped for his splendid work of after years. His success in college is all the more remarkable when it is remembered that during the six years of his college course he served four churches each year as pastor. His time was divided between Salem and Macedonia, Meriwether county; Shiloh, Harris county; Milner, Pike county; Locust Grove, Henry county; Unadilla, Dooly county, and Haynesville, Houston county. In his
last year in college, 1894, he constituted the church at Bullochville, Meriwether county.
The first work of Mr. Graham after leaving college was the founding of the Locust Grove Institute, at Locust Grove, Georgia, where he had been pastor for four years. He considered this an ideal location for a Baptist High School, and though there was opposition to the enterprise, both locally and in the Flint River Association, he succeeded in its establishment. In a mass meeting at Locust Grove it was proposed to name the school Graham Institute, but upon Mr. Graham's insistence otherwise, it was given its present name. To the founding of this school Mr. Graham devoted the last half of 1894 and all of 1895. Under the very able presidency of Prof. Claude Gray, this Institute has become one of the foremost preparatory schools in the South, and is a splendid monument to the judgment and industry of its founder. While engaged in this work Mr. Graham served a part of the time as pastor of the following churches: Locust Grove and Sardis, Henry county; Union, Spalding county, and Unadilla, Dooly county.
From 1896 to 1898, inclusive, Mr. Graham gave his undivided service as pastor of the First Baptist church, of Cochran, Georgia. During 1898-1899, under the direction of the Mission Board of the Georgia Baptist Convention, this devout friend of education rendered noteworthy and untiring service in the Bible Institute work of the State.
In January, 1900, Mr. Graham became associated with the great work which was to claim so large a share of his talent and devotion and to extend his influence among Southern Baptists. He became Field Editor of the Christian Index, of which Drs. T. P. Bell and I. J. Van Ness were the editors and publishers. During this year Mr. Graham served one Sunday per month as pastor of the church at Pinehurst, Dooly county, Georgia. In the early part of 1900, Dr. Van Ness was called to the Editorial Secretaryship of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee, and Mr. Graham, in January, 1901, became Associate Editor of the Christian Index with Dr. T. P. Bell, and in the following year he became a partner with Dr. Bell in the publication
of this paper, and afterwards acquired a half interest in it.
In 1907, Mr. Graham founded the Index Printing Company, of which he has been the General Manager since its beginning. This was a notable achievement of his talent for organization and his industry. In the same year the trustees of Mercer University conferred upon him the degree of D. D., a well-merited honor. In January, 1913, Bell and Graham sold the Christian Index to the Index Printing Company, and they were retained as editors. After two years, in January, 1915, Dr. Bell retired from the paper on account of ill health, and since that time Dr. Graham has been the editor-in-chief of the paper, and General Manager of the Index Printing Company.
Through the Christian Index, with its wide circulation in Georgia and in neighboring States, Dr. Graham has furthered the cause of education and served his denomination in a large way by his able editorial work. During his connection with the paper he has served the following churches as pastor: Jonesboro, 1901; Conyers, 1901-1908, inclusive; Social Circle, five years; Flowery Branch, one year; Ellijay, four years; Hogansville, three years; Stone Mountain, one year. He is pastor of the last two named churches in 1916. He has served as trustee of Mercer University, Locust Grove Institute, and Hearn Academy. For many years he was a member of the Mission Board of the Georgia Baptist Convention and of the Committee on Co-operation. He was present at the inauguration of the Georgia Baptist Assembly, and was one of its promoters. The Mary P. Willingham School was planned and inaugurated by Mr. E. G. Willingham, of Aripeka, Florida, and Dr. Graham, who presented the plan to the Woman's Baptist Missionary Union, at its session in Hartwell, in 1909, which was accepted upon the condition that it be approved by the Georgia Baptist Convention. Dr. Graham secured this approval when the Convention met at Dublin, Georgia, in the same year, and the school has entered upon its work with promise of great usefulness.
In order to further his equipment for his chosen work, Dr. Graham made two tours abroad, the first embracing a part
of the countries of continental Europe and the last Europe and the Orient.
The exceedingly active life of Dr. Graham has left him but little time for writing, except for the Christian Index. In 1914, he wrote and published a work which has found large recognition and favorable comment, entitled, "Regeneration in Relation to Other Doctrines." Also he is the compiler of "Select Writings," of Dr. H. H. Tucker, and he is the publisher of "The Baptists, Their Doctrine and Life," by Dr. J. H. Kilpatrick.
As a writer, Dr. Graham's style is incisive, terse, energetic, lucid, analytical, logical, displaying study and care. These qualities are manifest in his sermons, which also give evidence of the critical, exegetical, and doctrinal character of his thought. He is forceful in his sermons, strong in debate and wise in counsel.
The publication of the series entitled "Baptist Biography," of which this is the first volume, was undertaken by the Index Printing Company, according to the plan submitted by Dr. Graham to its Board of Directors. The great task of editing this work has been committed to him, and under his care this series is destined to be a valuable contribution to Baptist History and a further monument to his industry and service.
Dr. Graham, pastor, editor, publisher, student, scholar and organizer, is still in the vigor of life, and may give yet many years of devoted service to the work of the Baptists of Georgia.
[From Balus Joseph Winzer Graham, editor, Baptist Biography, Volume 1, 1917, pp. 163-168. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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