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Dr. R. G. Lee

I was thinking this morning, for some reason, about R. G. Lee, the famous preacher.  Robert Green Lee was born in a three room log cabin in South Carolina on November 11th, 1886. He was the fifth child of David and Sarah Lee and a distant relative of General Robert E. Lee. While having such a famous forefather these Lees were a poor family, barely making it as sharecroppers. When Robert was born the black midwife (a former slave) who attended Lee’s birth cried out, “Praise God! Glory be! The good Lord has done sent a preacher to this here house.”
Lee’s parents were strict Christians and raised their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Because of that influence young “Bob” came to Christ in 1898 at a church meeting at First Baptist Church of Fort Mill, South Carolina. He always remembered the choir singing, “Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come. Twelve years later he was ordained to preach at that same church. 

When Lee was 21 he went to work on the new Panama Canal and upon returning enrolled at Furman University. Robert excelled in his studies and graduated magnum cum laude in 1913. Soon after that he married, Bula Gentry. Lee excelled so as a scholar that he was offered the chair of Latin at Furman. Many of his friends encouraged him to take the position but he decided to follow God’s call to pastor and preach. When he told his wife of his decision she replied, “That’s good! God never meant for you to dig around Latin roots. He meant for you to be a preacher.”

His ministry was one of love for his people and determined defense of the Word of God. In his resignation address, Lee voiced his profound dedication to the Bible: “You can count on me until my tongue is silent in the grave and until my hand can no longer wield a pen to keep my unalterable stand for the Bible as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God – giving rebuke to and standing in opposition to all enemies of the Bible, even as I have done for 50 years.” 

R.G. Lee was always and preeminently a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His sermons were eloquent and often long. Lee had no problem poking fun at himself about his hour to hour and half sermons. He often told this story on himself: “Once at Bellevue a man came in late for the service. I was in the midst of my sermon. In a whisper he asked the usher, ‘How long has he been preaching?’ ‘About forty years,’ was the answer. ‘Then he must be about through.'” Few remembered the length of Dr. Lee’s sermons as nearly as much as they did their depth. 

When Lee resigned his pastorate in 1960 a reporter for the Memphis, Commercial Appeal wrote: “For half a century he has thrown punches at the devil, punches containing the same power and vengeance as those of Billy Sunday, George Truett, or C.H. Spurgeon. In all these years he has never quit slugging. He says the devil never sleeps. So he has worked night and day to bring the gospel to as many people as possible.” 

Lee preached another 18 years after his retirement. He traveled 100,000 miles a year preaching in small and large churches and places like Hyles-Anderson College. Every generation of Elisha’s need their own Elijah to look to for guidance and example. Lee was that Elijah to many including myself. He will ever be remembered as the man who warned the world that there will indeed be a “Pay Day Someday!”

Dr. Lee went home to be with the Lord in 1978. I had the wonderful privilege of hearing him preach and converse in person many times.  My wife was the Secretary to Dr. Wendell Evans, Chancellor of Hyles-Anderson College.   As a result she had several opportunities to be a hostess for Brother Lee.   He sent my wife several hand written letters and we conversed with him many times.  At his home going he had pretty much been forgotten.   Only a few bothered to check on him.   Dr. Jack Hyles never forgot his friend and until Dr. Lee’s death called him regularly. A museum of Dr. Lee’s effects were brought to Hammond by Brother Hyles.

I wonder if we have forgotten those who have more wisdom in their little fingers than we have in our whole bodies. The aged among us who have served for a half century or more are sitting alone somewhere ready to help.  If only someone would seek them out maybe we could tap into wisdom that may just empower us to do more for God. Beverly Hyles is one I am thinking of.  She can tell us more by accident than many can do on purpose. Those grey hairs have all been earned by those dear saints of God who are left sitting alone somewhere waiting to be used again.  Maybe it might be worth tapping into those who paved the way for the rest of us.  


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