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Former Southern Seminary president McCall diescomment (0)

April 11, 2013

Former Southern Seminary president McCall dies

Duke Kimbrough McCall, a Southern Baptist statesman and former president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., died April 2 near his home in Delray Beach, Fla., from congestive heart failure and respiratory distress. He was 98.

McCall, whose contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and Baptists around the world cover nearly 70 years, shaped both Southern Seminary and the denomination in ways that continue to define them today, Baptist leaders said. When he became the seventh president of the seminary in 1951 at the age of 36, he already owned a record of denominational leadership.

He served as president of three SBC entities: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (1943–1946), the Executive Committee of the SBC (1946–1951) and Southern Seminary (1951–1982). He invested in denominational leadership as a very young man and was only 28 when elected president of New Orleans Seminary (then Baptist Bible Institute). By the time he retired in 1982, he had become the longest-serving president in the history of Southern Seminary. 

In 1980, McCall was elected president of the Baptist World Alliance, an organization he supported since 1931 when he attended a Baptist World Youth Congress in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). For five years he traveled extensively encouraging scores of Baptist bodies in their service of Christ.  

“A giant has fallen in Israel. The death of Dr. Duke K. McCall reminds us of the lengthened shadow one man can cast over a great denomination,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., the current president of Southern Seminary. 

Frank S. Page, current president of the Executive Committee, said of McCall: “Southern Baptists are indebted to Dr. McCall. I know that I follow some great men, and Dr. McCall is one of them. He now moves to his ultimate reward and stands before our Lord. Southern Baptists have lost a great leader today. He leaves a powerful legacy.”

Chuck Kelley, the current president of New Orleans Seminary, said, “Dr. Duke McCall was one of the most influential leaders in SBC history. ... He earned the respect and appreciation even of those who disagreed with him. The story of the modern Southern Baptist Convention cannot be told without including the story of Duke McCall.”

Jason K. Allen, an Alabama native and president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., called McCall “a once-in-a-generation figure, a man Solomonic in judgment and Mosaic in leadership.”

“When he spoke, his words were full of wit and wisdom, power and grace,” Allen said. “By birth and by nature, he was a Southern gentleman; a patrician, in every good sense of the word.”

McCall stood firm for the civil rights of African Americans, and it was during his tenure at Southern Seminary that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in chapel and in class in 1961. McCall led the seminary in growth, both in enrollment and in its endowment. 

Son of Judge John W. and Lizette McCall, Duke McCall was born in Meridian, Miss., in September of 1914, and he grew up with his four siblings in Memphis, Tenn. Following high school, McCall entered Furman University in Greenville, S.C. There, he met Marguerite Mullinnix. The couple married shortly after McCall graduated from the university as valedictorian in 1935. The McCalls raised four sons. 

After McCall graduated from Furman University in 1935, he enrolled at Southern Seminary, earning a master of theology degree in 1938 and a doctor of philosophy degree in Old Testament studies in 1942 from Southern Seminary. Through most of his student years he served various churches as their pastor.

McCall leaves behind his wife, Winona McCandless, a widow whom he married after Marguerite died in 1983, and his four sons: Duke Jr., Douglas, John Richard and Michael. 


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