W. J. McGlothlin

W. J. McGlothlinWilliam J. Mcglothlin, professor of church history 1894-1919, was born on November 29, 1867 on a farm in Sumner County, Tennessee. Hungry for education, McGlothlin walked three miles to a one-room schoolhouse in his youth. In his undergraduate years, McGlothlin studied at Bethel College. He followed his B.A. with a Th.M. from Southern, graduating in 1894. The seminary faculty then asked him to begin teaching work as an assistant instructor of Old Testament. McGlothlin switched to his lifelong field of church history following President Whitsitt’s resignation in 1899.

McGlothlin desired first-rate qualification in the field and so decided to study at the University of Berlin where he obtained his doctorate under noted liberal scholar Adolph Harnack. At this time McGlothlin married his first wife, May Williams. May gave birth to three daughters and two sons before dying two decades later.

At Southern, McGlothlin gained a reputation as a fine teacher. Fellow professor A. T. Robertson esteemed him “the finest communicator on the faculty.” (1) Made chair of the department of church history in 1904, he wrote several well-received books including The Course of Christian History and Baptist Confessions of Faith. Popular at Southern but desiring more vocationally, McGlothlin left the seminary in 1919 to take the presidency of Furman University. Remarried early in his tenure at Furman, McGlothlin led the school in an expanded academic program. In 1930, Southern Baptists elected him to the SBC presidency, a post he held for three years. In his last year as president, McGlothlin died with his second wife in a car crash in Washington, D.C.

(1) Carl Wilkinson, "The Life and Work of William Joseph McGlothlin,"

Carl Wilkinson, "The Life and Work of William Joseph McGlothlin," Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1980.

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