Among Kentucky's imposing list of brilliant churchmen, Rev. John William Porter is distinguished as pastor and builder of what is said to be the largest Baptist Church building in the world, and is head of an organization completely worthy of such a home. He is also prominent as editor of the Western Reporter, and as a preacher, lecturer and writer is one of the powerful influences in state and national affairs today.
He was born in Fayette County, Tennessee, August 8, 1863, a son of John Freeman and Martha Carolina (Tharp) Porter. His father was a native of North Carolina and his mother of Fayette County, Tennessee. His two grandparents owned 400 slaves and were among the wealthy citizens of the county. Col. John F. Porter was a prosperous planter and a man of unusual intelligence, while his wife was a first honor graduate of the Somerville Female College and an accomplished French scholar. Her father, B. H. Tharp, presented her with six slaves as a bridal present, and that deed of gift is still preserved by the family.
John William Porter acquired a liberal education, attending Oxford University and the Law School of Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, where he graduated LL. B. in 1882. He began his career as a lawyer, and practiced with considerable success in Tennessee from 1882 to 1885. In 1890 he was ordained to the Baptist ministry, and in 1893 received the degree Th. G. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Subsequent degrees conferred upon him are D. D. by Keiche College of Louisiana in 1900, LL. D. by Union University in Tennessee in 1913. During the thirty years of his active ministry Reverend Porter served successively in earlier years as pastor of the Baptist churches of Germantown and Collierville, Tennessee; of Pewee Valley, Kentucky; Maysville, Kentucky; Newport News, Virginia, and since April, 1908, has been pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lexington. It was during his pastorate that the imposing edifice of this church was constructed. The building is said to cover more ground than any Baptist building in the world. During the great $75,000,000 campaign recently concluded this church led all other churches in the state by more than $60,000.
During his ministry Doctor Porter has been instrumental in securing more than 10,000 additions to Baptist churches, and in connection with other work has been a leading evangelist. He is author of three books: "World's Debt to the Baptist," "Baptist Debt to the World," and "Evangelistic Sermons." He has
preached the introductory sermon for the Southern Baptist Convention and has been president of the General Association of Baptists of Kentucky. He is president of the Baptist Book Concern of Louisville, an establishment which has more volumes in stock than any other denominational book house in the world.
The Western Recorder, of which he is editor, is the oldest denominational paper south of the Ohio River and is published at Louisville. The Western Recorder took the initiative in the recent fight against the Interchurch Movement. Rev. Mr. Porter is a trustee of the Barberville Institute of Kentucky, the Hall Moody Institute of Martin, Tennessee, and of Georgetown College of Kentucky. He is president of the City Missionary Society of Lexington, a democrat, a Knight Templar Mason, a Knight of Pythias and an Odd Fellow.
On July 21, 1891, Doctor Porter married Lillian E. Thomas. Her father, Capt. G. W. Thomas, was a merchant and planter of Germantown, Tennessee, for a long time served as mayor of that town and was also chairman of the Board of Deacons of the Baptist Church. Mrs. Porter, a woman of unusual beauty and of intellectual character, has been prominently associated with her husband in church work. She finished her education in the Blue Mountain Institute at Blue Mountain, Mississippi. To their marriage were born the following children: Martha Frances, now the wife of Mr. Morris Willis, of Lexington; Mary, who was married to Mr. Perry Rowe, of Lexington ; John W., Jr.; Russell T.; and Blanche Porter.
[William E. Connelley & Ellis M. Coulter, editors, History of Kentucky, 1922, pp. 101-2. The document is from Google Books. - Jim Duvall]
More on J. W. Porter
Baptist History Homepage