December 30, 2020
Longtime pastor and leader among Alabama Baptists Harper Shannon died Dec. 30 of complications from progressive dementia. He was 89.
Shannon retired from full-time ministry in January 1997 after serving 12 years as director of the office of evangelism at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. He served as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention from 1977 to 1979.
Rick Lance, SBOM executive director, said, “As a young pastor, I followed with keen interest the ministry of Harper Shannon. For me, he was one of the role models I had in doing biblical preaching.
“Harper had a very sharp mind and an extraordinary ability to communicate the gospel,” Lance said. “He served several churches in Alabama as pastor before coming to the State Board of Missions as evangelism director. In that role, he did a superb job of keeping the need of evangelism before Alabama Baptists.
“He will be remembered as a preacher of the gospel, a leader of God’s people and a faithful servant of God.”
Shannon was a graduate of Howard College (now Samford University in Birmingham) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
When he was elected director of evangelism, he was serving as pastor of Huffman Baptist Church. He earlier served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Dothan; Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Montgomery; First Baptist Church, Ghent, Kentucky; and Harmony Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove (now First Baptist), where he met his lifetime partner, Elsie, who is now 83.
Shannon also served in various other positions through the years, including as a trustee of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and SBC Pastors Conference, president of the Birmingham Minister’s Association, trustee for Baptist Medical Centers, and director for the Baptist Retirement Centers.
Vision for evangelism
Troy Morrison, then-SBOM executive director who hired Shannon in 1985, was quoted in the retirement article on Shannon in the Jan. 30, 1997, issue of The Alabama Baptist.
“Dr. Shannon has kept evangelism in the forefront for Alabama Baptists,” he said. “The many conferences he has conducted have trained hundreds of Alabama Baptists to be more effective soul winners.”
Morrison also noted how each church Shannon led had grown in numbers and spiritual maturity.
In that same article, Shannon said, “My greatest personal satisfaction has been in dealing with churches, especially small membership churches, and seeing bivocational or young pastors get a gleam in their eye and a spring in their step when they catch a vision for evangelism — that they can win people to Christ.”
SBOM’s Sammy Gilbreath described Shannon with these words: statesman, scholar and preeminent pulpiteer.
“It was an honor to follow him as director of evangelism,” Gilbreath said. “He was a great encourager and always supportive of everything we did in the evangelism office. He will be greatly missed.”
Along with Elsie, Shannon is survived by two children, Ken and Grace, and two granddaughters, Rachel and Jessica. He was living in Luverne at the time of his death.
Shannon’s funeral service is Wed., Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. at Leak Memory Chapel in Montgomery. Visitation is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. prior to the service. A private burial will be held Jan. 7 at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.
Officiating the services is Charles T. Carter, former state convention president and pastor emeritus of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham.