A. W. Lamar
Born: March 30, 1847
Died: after 1920
Family: Wife – Elizabeth B. Webb (Bessie), 6 children
Education: State Military College (The Citadel), Furman University and the Theological Institute
Military Service: Confederate veteran
Churches served: Mt. Zion (Newberry), Camden, also served in Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas
Other service: General Agent and Corresponding Secretary of South Carolina Baptist Convention January 1872 - 1878
Secular work: Insurance agent; popular speaker on the Chautaqua circuit
Reaping The Harvest
As South Carolinians moved into the 1870's, poverty was abundant and life remained difficult but the vision of a new day for the kingdom of God was growing in hearts of South Carolina Baptists. J. O. B. Dargan had plowed the fields. Thomas H. Pope planted the seeds and John F. Morrall cultivated the crop. Now General Agent A. W. Lamar began to harvest. It did not mean hard times were over but visible progress was taking place. New churches were started and missionaries were on the field.
Following his father’s death in the war, the South Carolina legislature sent Lamar, also a veteran, to State Military School (The Citadel) where he became a Christian and an active witness holding prayer meetings and reading students Spurgeon’s sermons. Lamar used his inheritance to educate himself for the ministry at Furman University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary then in Greenville. He was ordained in 1871 at the age of twenty-four and elected as General Agent of the Convention in November. In 1873, the Convention acknowledged his successful leadership by changing his title to General Agent and Corresponding Secretary.
Lamar served from January 1, 1872 until 1878. Each year more churches were started and missionaries employed to strengthen work and to encourage and train new believers. Politically, South Carolina was in reconstruction. This era would end with the elections of 1876. Economically, the state was on a roller coaster with good years and bad years dependant upon weather and crops. Whether feast or famine, work continued with thanksgiving for God’s goodness in blessing the ministry.
Lamar was constantly travelling, preaching and teaching. He listed his appointments in The Working Christian and encouraged South Carolina Baptists on progress of their work. He is credited along with others, with the birth of The Baptist Courier, a true state Baptist newspaper. He worked creatively to find new ways to strengthen churches in destitute areas by recruiting students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville (originally in Greenville) to serve destitute areas during their summer vacation. In return, the association where the student worked would contribute $100 toward their support for the next school session. This expanded mission work and gave students great experience. One of Lamar’s most interesting ideas was to encourage families in country churches to plant a “patch of cotton” for state missions. Other states had tried it successfully and Lamar thought it would work in South Carolina. The increased contributions would help expand the work even further.
Lamar’s last report to the Convention was given with a great sense of progress. During 1878, 25 missionaries were on the field “from the mountains to the seaboard.” They worked in ninety-two different places and travelled 36, 373 miles preaching, teaching and baptizing. As the Executive Board evaluated Lamar’s leadership, they stated in the 1879 Convention annual, “Eight years since the prospects were discouraging indeed. . . . the work has gone steadily on. . . . That such gracious results should have been so rapidly brought about is a marvelous illustration of the oneness of our people, and of the fact that God has given us, in this State, a host of godly men and women, who esteem Christ and His cause dearer than all things else. There is cause for praise and joy and thanksgiving! To God be all the glory.”