200 Years of South Carolina Baptist Leadership

200 Years of South Carolina Baptist Leadership

200 Years of South Carolina Baptist Leadership

J.O.B. (John Orr Beasley) Dargan 1866 – 1868

Elected as the first General Agent, Dargan knew South Carolina well. He was born in Darlington County on August 9, 1813, served churches in the area and died at his home on April 12, 1882. He was the grandson of Timothy Dargan, a Baptist minister who was active in the formative life of the Convention. Dargan studied at the Furman Theological Institute in High Hills of the Santee. He served Black Creek Church at Darlington for forty years asking their permission before accepting the General Agent position. He also served Darlington First, Camden, Society Hill, Mineral Springs and Clio. He was a Trustee of Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Active in church, association and Convention life, Dargan worked tirelessly to lead South Carolina Baptists through a difficult period both economically and spiritually. Baptists were still learning how to cooperate on the state level. There was no centralized work, and Dargan travelled from church to church and association to association. His challenge was great. He saw the entire state as his mission field, helping Baptists to a larger vision of Kingdom work, constantly preaching the gospel of Christ. After his time as General Agent, Dargan stayed involved in the work of the Convention. One of his passions was an educated clergy. His son, Edwin Charles Dargan, became a prominent theologian and author, teaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of their papers are in the South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection at Furman University.

Thomas H. Pope 1868 – 1870

Born July 4, 1839, Pope died while still quite young on July 8, 1875. He grew up in Newberry County, and graduated from Furman University and began his theological training at Princeton University, finishing at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Greenville. His ministry included Lower Duncan’s Creek (Whitmire First), Fairview, Enoree, Hurricane, Huntsville, Bush River, Siloam, Fellowship, and Mt. Moriah. He helped plant churches in Ninety Six, Hodges and Greenwood and was active in the Abbeville Association (Lakelands). He participated in the ordination of another General Agent, A.W. Lamar.

He had a tremendous heart for State Missions and said, “If we fail to press forward this work, it will not be from lack of ability, but of willingness.” (1869 SCBC Annual, p. 7 ) He encouraged every member of a Convention church to contribute “a penny a week.” This would send workers across South Carolina to make disciples and further the Kingdom of God. He worked and prayed for people to see beyond their needs or that of their church to the needs of a lost state and world.

John Fripp Morrall 1870 – 1872

Morrall spent his life in ministry in the Low Country of South Carolina. Born in Beaufort County on August 24, 1823, he graduated from Furman University and the Baptist Theological Institute, and was ordained in Charleston in June 1858. Morrall served as pastor at Euhaw, Aiken, Robertville, Pipe Creek, Lawtonville, Timmonsville, Allendale and two churches in Georgia. He was very active in the Savannah River Association serving many years as moderator.

During his service as General Agent, finances were tight, and he labored and prayed that churches and members would take their obligation to give regularly very seriously. He was committed to missions at home and abroad, teaching and preaching the command of Christ to go into all the world beginning at home. He was faithful to the task, and died on October 15, 1909. His obituary in the 1909 SCBC Annual states, “He had the confidence and respect and love of the brethren wherever he was known.”

A.W. (Abner Whatley) Lamar 1873 – 1878

Lamar was born March 30, 1847 in Edgefield to a prominent family. His life quickly changed after his father’s death in 1862 when he was fifteen. Lamar began his studies at the Citadel, but when he sensed a call to the ministry, he transferred to Furman University. After graduation, he studied at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he obtained his Doctor of Divinity degree. Lamar was elected General Agent at 25. His energy and enthusiasm for missions inspired the state. His travel schedule is printed in the Baptist Courier, and it’s clear it would take a young man to carry it out. One of his suggestions in a day when there was little cash available was for farmers to plant one acre of cotton, sell it and give that proceeds to missions. He called it “God’s Acre.” There was great sadness when he resigned as General Agent because he had led the Convention well. He served as pastor at Mt. Zion (Newberry) and Camden along with other churches in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. He was still preaching at 87 when he died on December 2, 1934.

W.H. (William Henry) Strickland 1879 – 1882

Strickland was born in Gwinett County, Georgia on June 20, 1838. He attended the Academy at Lawrenceville, the Gwinett Institute and Mercer University. Reared in a staunch Presbyterian home, his study of the Greek New Testament convicted him that he should be baptized by immersion. Even though his father objected, he was baptized, and when he came up from the water, his father was standing on the riverbank waiting to embrace him. Strickland’s gifts in preaching and ministry were quickly recognized and encouraged. Ordained October 30, 1864, he began ministering in Baptist churches in Georgia. He was commissioner of public schools for DeKalb County, Georgia for 1871, and chaplain to the Georgia House of Representatives for two years. God called him to South Carolina where he served as pastor at Darlington Court House (First) and Anderson Court House (First). While at Anderson, he was on the editorial staff of the Baptist Courier and President of the South Carolina Baptist Sunday School Institute. Elected as Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, he served three years, leaving to pastor in Greenville. He was the interim Secretary Pro Tem for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It is said he served with “zeal, energy, tact and success.” He died in 1901.

R.H. (Richard H.) Griffith 1882 – 1885

A native of Virginia, Griffith was born in King and Queen County, October 7, 1825. He graduated from Richmond College and studied theology at Columbian College in Washington, D.C. He taught and preached in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina. Settling in Charlotte, he helped lay the foundation for Charlotte First Baptist. Next he ministered to several churches in Chester County, South Carolina, and worked as Financial Agent for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, traveling the Southeast. He was quite successful in this role and would later work as Financial Agent for Furman University.

As the Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer of the Convention, Griffith continued his travels to every church and association promoting the work and making friends and supporters of those who had been “lukewarm.” His obituary states that he left the work in excellent condition for his successor. (1894 SCBC Annual, p. 38) In 1891, he became co-principal of Cooper-Limestone Institute in Gaffney. He made one more move in 1894 to be principal of York Baptist High School in Yorkville. He died there August 4, 1894. His life was focused on education and preaching to the very end. The following description was written about him. “As a scholar, he was profound and broad, . . . as a preacher, he was able, eloquent and Scriptural, and as a pastor, he was prudent, patient and persevering.” (Baptist Courier, May 26, 1927, p. 1)

T.M. (Thomas Mallory) Bailey 1886 – 1909

Born in Gracehill, County Antrim, Ireland on December 27, 1829, Bailey began life in a Moravian community. He studied in Moravian schools and became a businessman working in Dublin for a time. He felt the call to preach at age 16, and when he was 21, the Foreign Mission Board of the Moravian Church appointed him as a missionary to St. Thomas and later to St. Croix, West Indies. After a terrible attack of yellow fever, he moved to Edgefield, South Carolina. He was baptized at Gilgal Baptist Church and served as their pastor for two years.

He moved to Alabama and served as pastor in several churches. From 1874 – 1885 he worked for Alabama Baptists in several positions including Secretary of the Alabama Mission Board. In 1886, he became Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. His tenure of nearly twenty-five years is the longest of any executive, and he continued to be involved in the work as Secretary Emeritus for twelve more years.

Bailey guided the Convention during a period of great change in South Carolina. As the state moved from agricultural to industrial, he saw opportunities for new ministries. Challenging and encouraging churches and associations to meet the need for new Baptist church in every community, he led South Carolina Baptists into a new way of thinking about State Missions. His obituary in the 1923 SCBC Annual states that “his face was familiar from the mountains to the sea.” He was greatly beloved and respected for church planting, aiding weak and struggling churches and ministering to new challenges such as the increasing number of cotton mills and workers. His appointment of State Lady Missionaries to work in mill communities opened a new era in state mission work. It was during Bailey’s tenure that the Convention acquired Connie Maxwell Orphanage and Baptist Hospital.

He died in Greenville at age 91 on August 22, 1923. From Moravian roots in Ireland to missionary in the West Indies to preacher and Baptist state leader, he was indeed a faithful follower of Christ.

William Thomas Derieux 1910 – 1919

Derieux served South Carolina Baptists as Assistant Corresponding Secretary-Treasurer from 1906 – 1910, and as Corresponding Secretary-Treasurer from 1910 – 1919. He continued to serve as Secretary Emeritus until his death in March 1938.

His early life in Virginia would not have foreshadowed such a future. At age eleven, Derieux’s father was crippled and unable to work on the family’s Virginia farm. Derieux, guided by his father’s directions, managed to keep the farm going. When it was time for college, Derieux walked to Richmond without any money and asked to register at the University of Richmond. An athlete, he played baseball and football serving both as team captain. He worked his way through college and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary aided by Rockefeller Funds.

Derieux was pastor of several churches in Virginia and First Baptist, Spartanburg, South Carolina. While serving in Spartanburg, he helped start Green Street Baptist to minister to the cotton mill community. He continued to be committed to the needs of the mill villages across South Carolina during his time working for the Convention. The poverty he experienced as a child shaped his adult ministry. He was well suited to shape an increasingly industrial South Carolina.

Dr. Charles A. Jones paid tribute to Derieux in his 1938 Annual Convention report. He remembered, “He had a gift of humor which often helped to relieve the strain of our gatherings.” (1938 SCBC Annual, p. 47) To the end of his life, he was concerned about the Convention. During Derieux’s tenure, the budget was extremely tight leading to reductions in ministry. During Derieux’s last conversation with Jones, he asked how the churches were responding financially to mission needs. He understood well the resources needed for state mission work.

Charles Elford Burts 1919 – 1924

Burts was a South Carolina native, born near Honea Path on December 5, 1867. He was the son of a Baptist minister and studied at Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Burts served Blackville, Edgefield, Columbia First, Newberry and St. Matthews in South Carolina as well as churches in Tennessee and Georgia. The history of Columbia First says that he was effective as a preacher and pastor due to his preparation and character.

He was called to serve as General Secretary – Treasurer in 1919 serving until 1924. During his tenure, the structure of the Convention’s governing body changed from an Executive Board to the General Board, broadening the leadership base. He then led the Cooperative Program Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1924 – 1926. Upon his return to the state, he became director of the South Carolina Federated Forces for Temperance, and was elected Convention President in 1937 – 1938. His presidential address was titled “The Layman” undoubtedly a reflection on his years of encouraging laymen to be leaders in their church and community. A friend asked what Burts’ strongest quality was and replied, “Leadership.” He died on November 18, 1939 having used his gifts for ministry in many settings, but always effectively.

Charles Alfred Jones 1925 – 1942

Jones was born in London, England on April 14, 1869. but came to South Carolina as a child, growing up in Batesburg and Columbia. He graduated from Furman University in 1895, was ordained to the ministry in 1891, and in 1904 finished his studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

His ministry includes pastorates at Mullins and Bennettsville as well as Belleville, Illinois. He became Secretary of the Baptist Education Board of South Carolina in 1914, and was elected General Secretary-Treasurer of the General Board in 1925. He served until his death in 1942. He once told a friend, “I could more easily lay down my life than I could my work.” (1942 SCBC Annual, Memorial to Jones). He aiso serving as Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jones helped launch the Cooperative Program both in South Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention. He inspired and helped lead all states to adopt the Minister’s Retirement Plan. He was a leader on all fronts. It is said that his “vision was as broad as his concepts were deep.” He is described as a creative, trailsetting leader who had time to listen to others. His memorial in the 1942 Convention Annual speaks of his “cordial goodwill . . . wisdom, sound judgement, . . . the guarantee of fair and impartial consideration . . . to every messenger and cause we foster.”

William Seldon Brooke 1942 – 1949

Cumnor, King and Queen County, Virginia was the birthplace of Brooke on June 24, 1878. He made a profession of faith when he was nine and was baptised at Mattaponi Baptist Church which later licensed him to preach. He attended Fork Union Military Academy, the University of Richmond and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduating in 1911.

He served pastorates in Virginia and moved to South Carolina in 1916, serving churches in Johnston and Lake City. In 1929, he started work as Enlistment Secretary of the General Board. He promoted the “Every Member Canvass” and other projects for church financial support. Upon the death of Dr. Charles A. Jones, Brooke was elected General Secretary-Treasurer of the General Board in 1942. During his tenure, Baptist work expanded in the state. World War II brought challenges to provide ministry to soldiers during basic training and upon their return. Ministry on college and university campuses expanded with more workers and Baptist Student Centers.

Brooke died on September 8, 1949 while still serving. Dr. Charles F. Sims, his successor, describes Brooke as, “Endowed with a gracious spirit, and in tireless devotion to his task, he won the hearts of the people wherever he went.” (1949 SCBC Annual, p. 45)

Charles Furman Sims 1949 – 1961

Sims was born at Ware Place in Greenville County on February 20, 1893. He grew up at Washington Baptist Church in Pelzer making a profession of faith there and following in baptism. It was the joy of the church to ordain him and commission him to a life of ministry and service. Sims honored the church again by choosing to be buried there. He died on December 11, 1961.

Educated at Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he served as a fellow in the Department of Homiletics and Sociology. While a student, he pastored a church in Kentucky and then Liberty First and Greenwood First in his home state. Sims then served as Enlistment Secretary of the Convention and General Secretary – Treasurer of the General Board of the Convention. His combined service was from 1943 – 1961. The Convention honored Sims at his retirement by electing him as President of the Convention. He served twenty-four days in that office before his death. Some of the words used to describe him in a Baptist Courier editorial on December 21, 1961 are “modest, a fervent and effective preacher, sincere, a friend to all, and devoted to his work.”. It is said that he carried out his responsibilities “with wisdom and courage.” He was a beloved servant of South Carolina Baptists.

Horace Greely Hammett 1961 – 1969

Born near Cowpens, South Carolina, Hammett was one of thirteen children. His father died when Hammett was young, and the family struggled but survived. Turned down by one university because he had no financial resources, Furman University welcomed him. He thrived at Furman serving as Student Body President and lettering in football and track. He taught and coached at Gardner-Webb College (University), and helped write the alma mater. He was a prolific author of short stories and poems. He graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as pastor at Williamston First, Great Falls First and two churches in North Carolina before returning to the state in 1949 to be Assistant General Secretary-Treasurer to Charles F. Sims. He was elected General Secretary-Treasurer in 1961, retiring in 1969. Hammett oversaw the construction of the new Baptist Building on Richland Street, and a staff reorganization that included adding directors of business affairs, public relations, church-minister-denomination relationships, annuity services, Cooperative Program Promotion and Stewardship Development. He worked during a time of national unrest with regard to Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. He was always gracious and loving to Baptists and others on both sides of the issues. After Hammett’s retirement January 1, 1970, he served as interim pastor of several churches and on staff at Columbia First. He died peacefully at his home April 24, 1991.

A. Harold Cole 1970 – 1982

A native of Greenville County, Cole was born March 23, 1929. He attended Greenville public schools and graduated from North Greenville College (University), Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduating in 1944. He did additional study at Union Theological Seminary and the School of Pastoral Care at Bowman Gray School of Medicine. Furman University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1967.

His home church, Mountain Creek, baptized, nurtured and later ordained him in 1941. He served as pastor in Indiana and in South Carolina at South Main Street (Greenwood), Clemson First and Auburn First (Alabama). Cole served as Director of Baptist Student Work (Baptist Collegiate Ministry), in South and North Carolina. Prior to his election as General Secretary-Treasurer, he served as Assistant General Secretary-Treasurer to Dr. Horace G. Hammett.

Under Cole’s administration, Convention churches saw an increase in baptisms and giving to the Cooperative Program. The initial planning and development for the White Oak Conference Center began. The Convention started an annual orientation for trustees of its institutions and agencies along with an overall evaluation of the institutions and agencies. It was a time of growth for all. Cole died April 2, 2010 at 90.

Ray P. Rust 1982 – 1992

Born August 8, 1925, Rust grew up in Summer Grove, Louisiana. He was ordained at eighteen and began to serve as pastor at Pine Grove Baptist in Ruby, Louisiana. He received his education from Louisiana College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Louisiana College and a Doctor of Humanities from Furman University.

Rust served churches in Louisiana and Mississippi and worked for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At the seminary, he was Executive Assistant to the President, Acting President and Executive Vice President. He served Louisiana Baptists as President of the Convention, trustee of “Baptist Messenger” and Secretary to the Trustees of Louisiana College before moving to South Carolina in 1978 when he was elected President of Anderson College (University). He became Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 1982. Rust brought his “college administrator” skills to the Convention and worked hard to create a team who knew how to plan, set priorities, and serve the churches of the state. Rust recognized the importance of healty, growing churches and set up a Church Growth Task Force to strengthen and encourage both pastors and churches. International mission partnerships which involved laypeople in “hands on” missions took a huge step forward with the Rio de Janerio (Brazi) partnership. His interest and concern for his staff and fellow Baptists was genuine and enabled the work to move forward. Rust died February 2, 2018 in Richardson, Texas leaving a legacy of leadership across Louisiana, South Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention.

B. Carlisle Driggers 1992 – 2007

Growing up in Hartsville, South Carolina, Driggers loved the state and its citizens from the very beginning. Education was an early and continuing theme for him. He graduated from Mars Hill College (University), Carson-Newman College (University), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he obtained his Doctor of Ministry Degree in 1976. He studied in numerous other educational institutions seeking to continually update his understanding of contemporary issues.

He served churches in South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia and Georgia. He was a pastor, minister of education, minister of outreach and pastoral care. His experience led him to the Home Mission Board (North American Mission Board) where he worked as the Associate Director of the Department for Black Relations, and Regional Coordinator for Planting and Budgeting for the Eastern Seaboard states.

In 1990, Driggers became the Executive Assistant to the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Upon the retirement of Dr. Ray P. Rust, Driggers became the Executive Director-Treasurer of the convention. He retired in 2007.

During Driggers tenure, South Carolina Baptists embarked on “Empowering Kingdom Growth” better known as EKG. The goal was to enable, empower and strengthen churches in ministry. It encouraged each church to understand its unique contribution to the Kingdom of God. This emphasis was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention as a strategy to reach the nation for Christ. Driggers led the South Carolina Baptist Convention to partner with the Education and Missionary Convention to a mission partnership in Kenya. He is the author of A Journey of Faith and Hope about the Convention and numerous other published articles.

When asked what he hoped his legacy would be, Driggers responded, “. . . That I helped churches to catch a kingdom perspective as they grew to the glory of God, . . .” (The Courier, February 22, 2996) Driggers now resides in Greensboro, Georgia.

James W. Austin 2007 – 2014

A native of North Carolina, Austin was born in Charlotte on September 6, 1953. He graduated from Jacksonville State University in Alabama with a degree in Education. He furthered his education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary, receiving a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1996. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from Emmanuel Bible College and Seminary in Kota, India. Austin was an International Mission Board Journeyman in the Phillipines from 1979 -1981. He continued to participate in mission trips while serving as a pastor in Georgia and Virginia before taking the Associate Executive Director position for the Missouri Baptist Convention serving eighteen months before becoming Executive Director-Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in April 2007. He also served as a Trustee for the International Mission Board and Truett McConnell College. During his tenure in South Carolina, Austin will be remembered for his concern for pastors in both their good times and bad, frequently calling to pray with them. He had a heart for missions and sharing the gospel to all people. He wanted everyone to “Experience Kingdom Life” by participating in mission and evangelism events. Austin retired in October 2014.

Richard Harris, Interim 2014 – 2016

Harris began his work as Interim leader of the Convention in October, 2014 serving until January, 2016. He was well prepared for this role after his work at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), formerly the Home Mission Board. He led several national evangelism emphases including “Good News America” and “Here’s Hope.” He was with NAMB for twenty-nine years in various leadership and executive positions retiring in 2011 During that time, he also ministered as interim pastor to twenty-six Atlanta area churches. He previously served churches in Kentucky and Texas.

Harris pledged to continue to move South Carolina Baptists forward, building on the past and looking toward the future. God used his gifts well during his fourteen months leading the Convention.

Gary L. Hollingsworth 2016 – 2023

An Alabama native, Hollingsworth is a graduate of the University of Alabama, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1996. He served pastorates in Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas.

Hollingsworth was well suited for his work in South Carolina. In Alabama and Arkansas, he was very active in the work of the state convention. Serving as a trustee and chairman of the Alabama State Board of Missions and as president of the Alabama Pastors’ Conference. He continued his involvement in Arkansas serving as a Convention trustee and as chairman. He has been active in the Southern Baptist Convention serving twice on the Committee on Committees, and as a trustee of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For two years, he worked at NAMB as senior director of cultural evangelism. Before his election, Hollingsworth pledged, “‘ . . I will do everything I can do, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead South Carolina Baptists.’” (The Courier, January 2016, p.5) He is fulfilling that promise with his ADVANCE emphasis even as the Convention deals with the COVID pandemic and changes in the operation of the Convention and churches. Hollingsworth understands the importance of the past as the Convention celebrates its 200th anniversary, and he is using the founding principles of missions, education and cooperation to ADVANCE into the next century of South Carolina Baptist life.

Tony Wolfe 2023 – Present

Prior to serving SCBaptist as our Executive Director-Treasurer, Dr. Tony Wolfe was the Associate Executive Director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, where he served churches and church leaders since May 2017. In his 23 years of ministry experience, he has served Southern Baptist churches in Texas and Louisiana as a denominational leader, interim pastor, pastor, worship leader, Christian educator, and pastoral counselor. Tony is passionate about strengthening churches, raising up church leaders, and mobilizing Christ’s people to reach their neighbors and the nations with the gospel. He is personally committed to biblical inerrancy, strategic evangelism, cooperative missions, expositional preaching, and team-based leadership.

Tony holds degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and Lamar University and is currently in the final stages of earning a Ph.D. in Evangelism and Missions from Southwestern, researching confessionalism and cooperation in Baptist history from 1609-1925. He enjoys fishing, reading, writing, and a good LSU Tigers football game in his free time. Tony and Vanessa were married on April 14, 2001, and have two sons: Ethan (20), a youth pastor in Oklahoma and a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, and Aaron (16), completing his junior year in High School.

Dr. Wolfe has served as the SCBaptist Executive Director-Treasurer since May 2023.

Sources: South Carolina Baptist Convention Annuals The Baptist Courier The Courier The Baptist Encyclopedia, Vol. I & II The Southern Baptist Encyclopedia, Vol. II & III Researched and written by Jane Young Poster, part-time historian, South Carolina Baptist Convention

Editorial Assistance: Anna Wilson-Stillwell

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