Feast of William Louis Poteat, Hubert McNeill Poteat, Edwin McNeill Poteat Sr., Edwin McNeill Poteat Jr., and Gordon McNeill Poteat (December 12)   1 comment

Above:  A Partial Poteat Family Tree

Image Source = Library of Congress

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WILLIAM LOUIS POTEAT (OCTOBER 20, 1856-MARCH 12, 1938)

President of Wake Forest College, and Biologist

brother of

EDWIN MCNEILL POTEAT, SR. (FEBRUARY 6, 1861-JUNE 25, 1937)

Northern and Southern Baptist Minister, Scholar, and President of Furman University

father of

EDWIN MCNEILL POTEAT, JR., (NOVEMBER 28, 1892-DECEMBER 17, 1955)

Southern Baptist Minister, Missionary, Musician, Hymn Writer, and Social Reformer

brother of

GORDON MCNEILL POTEAT (APRIL 11, 1891-NOVEMBER 1986)

Northern Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Congregationalist Minister and Missionary

first cousin of

HUBERT MCNEILL POTEAT, SR. (DECEMBER 12, 1886-JANUARY 29, 1958)

Southern Baptist Academic and Musician

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A FAMILY PROFILE

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One name–Edwin McNeill Poteat, Jr.–opened the portals for this post to encompass five saints.  I found his name in The Interpreter’s Bible.  The rest was history.

The family story began, for the purpose of this post, with James Poteat (1807-1889) and Julia Anice McNeill (Poteat) (1833-1910), of Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina.  Two of their sons were William Louis Poteat and Edwin McNeill Poteat, Sr.

WILLIAM LOUIS POTEAT (1856-1938)

William, born on October 26, 1856, grew up and became a pioneering educator and biologist.  He, having earned his B.A. degree from Wake Forest College, then located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, in 1877, followed up with an M.A,. degree from the same institution in 1889.  Between graduation ceremonies he taught biology at Wake Forest College, starting as a tutor then advancing in stages, to full professor.  He was the first person in the South to teach biology via the laboratory method instead of the recitation method.  William, always a devout Christian of the Southern Baptist variety, caused great controversy by accepting the Theory of Evolution.  This did not prevent him from serving as the President of that Southern Baptist college from 1905 to 1927.  In 1925, he helped to defeat the proposed state law to forbid the teaching of Evolution in public schools.

On a conventional front, William was also active in the temperance movement.

William married Emma James Purefoy on June 24, 1881.  The couple had three children–Louise, Helen, and Hubert.

William, aged 83 years, died on March 12, 1938.

EDWIN MCNEILL POTEAT, SR. (1861-1937)

Edwin, Sr., born on February 6, 1861, also reconciled faith and science.  He graduated from Wake Forest College (1881) then the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1885).  Poteat, ordained in 1884, served as pastor of the Wake Forest Baptist Church from 1884 to 1886.  He resigned to study psychology and philosophy at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, from 1886 to 1888.  While in Baltimore, Edwin, Sr., was the acting pastor of the Lee Street Baptist Church in that city.  Then he studied at the University of Berlin during the summer of 1888.  Studies at Yale University followed.  He was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, New Haven, Connecticut, from 1888 to 1898.  Then Edwin, Sr., was the pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1898 to 1903.  He returned to the South to accept the presidency of Furman University (1903-1918).

Subsequent work entailed living in, at different times, the North, the South, and China.  Edwin, Sr., worked as the Executive Secretary of the General Board of Promotion of the Northern Baptist Convention.  After spending six years teaching philosophy and ethics at the University of Shanghai, our saint served as the Interim Minister of the First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, from 1927 to 1929.  Then he was the pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, for two years, followed by a stint (1931-1934) teaching ethics and comparative religion at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.  Finally, in 1934, Edwin, Sr., returned to Furman University to teach ethics.

Edwin, Sr., married twice.  On October 24, 1889, he married Harriet Hale Gordon.  The couple had seven children:  Edwin McNeill Jr., Gordon McNeill, John Robinson, Priscilla Isabella, James Douglass, Clarissa Hale, and Arthur Barron.  Harriet Gordon died in 1919.  Edwin, Sr., married Harriet Helen Brittingham, a Northern Baptist missionary to China, in that country in 1925.

Edwin, Sr., aged 76 years, died on June 25, 1937.

HUBERT MCNEILL POTEAT, SR. (1886-1958)

Hubert, son of William and Emma, was a scholar, athlete, and musician.  He, born in Wake Forest, North Carolina, on December 12, 1886, earned his Bachelor’s (1906) and Master’s (1908) degrees from Wake Forest College.  Between graduation ceremonies he taught Latin at the college.  Hubert had been musical from a young age, learning the violin and the organ.  He was sufficiently accomplished to perform at his father’s inauguration as college president in 1905.  Hubert also played sports (such as tennis and eventually golf) at different stages of his life.

Hubert was also a Freemason and a Shriner.  He, inducted as a Freemason in 1908, rose to high ranks in both organizations.

Hubert worked on his doctorate at Columbia University, New York, New York, in 1908-1912.  He found time to attend plays and operas, as well as to sing in the choir of The Brick Presbyterian Church; William Pierson Merrill (1867-1954) was the pastor at the time.  Hubert also performed solos at the Episcopal Church of the Intercession.

Hubert married Essie Moore Morgan on June 26, 1912.  The couple had two children:  Hubert McNeill Jr. and William Morgan.

Hubert returned to Wake Forest College to stay, from 1912 to 1956.  He was Professor of Latin then the Chair of Latin.  He also directed the Glee Club from 1912 to 1923.  Hubert, the organist of the college for more than four decades, published in the fields of hymnology and Latin literature and philosophy.  Hubert also taught at Columbia University during the summers of 1924-1942.

Hubert valued the liberal arts educational model.  The humanities, he understood, were vital.  Hence he looked on with dismay as many public schools in the South began to de-emphasize the humanities and to emphasize vocational training.

Hubert also had high musical standards.  He, who included pieces by Wagner in his organ concerts, dismissed gospel music as

jig tunes.

Hubert insisted that only

consuming fire

could improve them.  This strong opinion was consistent with his perfectionism in many matters.  Hubert was, for example, a stickler, regrading proper English grammar and usage.

When Wake Forest College moved to Winston-Salem, in 1956, Hubert remained behind in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  There he retired, and there he died on January 29, 1958.  He was 71 years old.

TWO BROTHERS:

GORDON MCNEILL POTEAT (1891-1986)

EDWIN MCNEILL POTEAT, JR. (1892-1955)

Edwin, Jr., son of Edwin, Sr., and Harriet Gordon, continued in the family legacy of supporting progressive causes.  Some of his activities overlapped geographically with those of his older brother, Gordon.

Gordon, born in New Haven, Connecticut, on April 11, 1891, grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, where his father was the President of Furman University.  Gordon, who graduated from Furman in 1910, earned his M.A. degree from Wake Forest College, where his uncle, William, was the President.  Then Gordon attended and graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Next he spent 1915-1927 in China, first as a missionary in Kaifeng then (1921f) teaching ethics and the New Testament at the University of Shanghai.

Edwin, Jr., born in New Haven on November 20, 1892, became more prominent than his older brother.  Edwin, Jr., graduated from Furman (B.A., 1912; M.A., 1913) and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1916).  He was a traveling secretary for the Student Volunteer Movement (1916-1917) then a missionary in Kaifeng (1917-1926) with Gordon (until 1921).  In 1921, Edwin, Sr., visited his sons in China.  He wound up accepting an offer to teach philosophy and ethics at the University of Shanghai, and remained until 1927.  He and Gordon–father and son–were faculty colleagues for six years.  Meanwhile, Edwin, Jr., remained at the compound in Kaifeng until revolution forced him to flee in 1926.  Then he joined the faculty of Shanghai from 1927 to 1929; he taught ethics and philosophy.

Gordon, back in the United States for a few years (1927-1930), worked as an Educational Secretary for the Student Volunteer Movement from 1927 to 1928.  Then he served as the pastor of the City Park Baptist Church, Denver, Colorado, from 1928 to 1930.  Next, from 1930 to 1937, Gordon was the representative of the Northern Baptist Convention to the University of Shanghai.

Gordon married Helen Anne Carruthers in 1915.  The couple had four children:  Anne Rose, Wallace Bagby, Nida, and Priscilla Hale.

Edwin, Jr., back in the United States, worked in churches, in a seminary, and on the public stage.  He was pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, for the first time from 1929 to 1937.  Seven years as pastor of Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio, followed.  Then, in 1944, Edwin, Jr., became the President of the Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, New York.  Declining health forced him to resign in 1948.  Pullen Memorial Baptist Church had a vacancy at the time, and welcomed him back.  Our saint died in that job on December 17, 1955, as he prepared to conduct a wedding ceremony.

Edwin, Jr., was not afraid to take controversial positions.  He was a pacifist, a supporter of conscientious objectors, and an advocate for civil rights.  In 1946, he addressed the the American Association for the Advancement of Science; he was the first minister the organization had invited to speak to it.  Furthermore, in 1948, Edwin, Jr., helped to found and became the first President of Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (now Americans United for the Separation of Church and State).  Separation of church and state has long been a Baptist issue, after all.

Edwin, Jr., had strong opinions regarding worship.  He made sure in 1950 that the new sanctuary of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church had a split chancel.  He also wore a ministerial robe.  Edwin, Jr., critical of both Evangelical informality and a fixed liturgy, maintained high standards for hymns and other service music.  He agreed with his cousin Hubert.  Edwin, Jr., complained about the

banality of the words of modern songs

sung in most Protestant churches in the United States.  The critic composed 23 pieces of service music, some of them included in the Northern Baptist/Disciples of Christ joint hymnal, Christian Worship (1941).  In 1948, he wrote a hymn, “Eternal God, Whose Reaching Eye,” for the first Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

Edwin, Jr., married Wilda Hardman on June 27, 1918.  The couple had four children:  William Hardman, Harriett Allen, Elizabeth McNeill, and Haley Gordon.

Gordon, author of books about Christian missions in China, became Professor of Social Ethics and Homiletics at Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester, Pennsylvania.  I have not been able to learn when he left that position.

Edwin, Jr., wrote 17 books.  The genres included sermons, original poetry, and theology.  Both he and Gordon wrote for The Interpreter’s Bible.  Gordon wrote the exposition on James in Volume XII (1957.)  Edwin, Jr., wrote the exposition on Psalms 42-89 in Volume IV (1955).

When Gordon wrote for The Interpreter’s Bible, he was the pastor of the Tourist Church (the First Congregational Church), Daytona Beach, Florida.  That congregation has become the Seabreeze United Church of Christ.

Gordon, aged 95 years, died in Ormond Beach, Florida, in November 1986.

CONCLUSION

Members of two generations of the Poteat family served God and did not fear controversy in doing so.  This post has summarized incompletely the faithfulness of some Poteats.  If, however, it has prompted you, O reader, to want to learn more, this post has accomplished my purpose.

Loving God, we thank you for the faithful service of

William Louis Poteat;

Hubert McNeill Poteat;

Edwin McNeill Poteat, Sr.;

Edwin McNeill Poteat, Jr.;

and Gordon McNeill Poteat

in a variety of disciplines, times, and places.

May their examples of fidelity to you inspire us to live boldly in your service.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 113

2 Timothy 1:3-7

Matthew 28:16-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WASHINGTON GLADDEN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF FERDINAND QUINCY BLANCHARD, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JACQUES FERMIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

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One response to “Feast of William Louis Poteat, Hubert McNeill Poteat, Edwin McNeill Poteat Sr., Edwin McNeill Poteat Jr., and Gordon McNeill Poteat (December 12)

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  1. Wow! What a family that was dedicated to serving God!!

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