Joe Blue (1875-1954) was born in northern Arkansas. He was one of twelve children. He lived most of his life on their farm in Fulton County, Arkansas, on the Missouri border. This is the county where Salem and Mammoth Spring are located.
Joe’s father was a gospel preacher, but he did only limited preaching near home. Joe obeyed the gospel at age sixteen. From that time, he read the Bible every day.
When he was twenty he began traveling with two experienced gospel preachers conducting gospel meetings. They did the preaching, and Joe read the Scripture and worded the prayers. Joe preached his first sermon in 1896.
In 1897 Joe began traveling and preaching on his own. In his saddle bags he had only the Bible and one other book. That book was T. W. Brents’ Gospel Plan of Salvation (first published in 1874).
Joe married Mary Montgomery in November, 1897. They reared three children. Joe said, “Mary is the bridge that has taken me over.” They were married fifty-seven years. Joe and Mary spent their first year of marriage working long hours together on the farm.
At first there were only six members of the church of Christ in the community where they lived. There were four denominational churches. The Lord blessed Joe Blue’s preaching with great success. Many people left the denominations and obeyed the gospel. All the denominational churches were soon gone. The church of Christ was the only religious group remaining in the area.
Joe was so underpaid in his preaching that he often went hungry and cold when he was traveling between preaching appointments because he could not afford food or a place to spend the winter nights. Yet he never made an issue of asking for financial aid, for fear someone might think he was preaching for the money.
In his almost sixty years of preaching, Joe Blue preached in 870 gospel meetings. In some of these he preached each day and night for two weeks or more. He participated in an amazing 107 debates with great success.
He baptized ten thousand souls into Christ for the remission of their sins! Joe’s and Mary’s own children grew up to be faithful, active Christians.
Joe did much of his preaching in Arkansas, especially in Fulton County, his home county. But he was also called upon to preach in gospel meetings in a number of other states, even as far away as California.
At Coal Hill, Arkansas, he once stated that he knew the Scriptures by memory well enough that if anyone read a Bible verse, he could quote the verse that preceded it and the verse that followed. His daughter tested his claim. It seems she was convinced he could do it!
Joe quoted many Scriptures in his preaching and in his debates. His favorite verse was the words of Jesus recorded in John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
It should not be surprising that Joe’s love for the truth (and the clear, plain way he proclaimed it) would arouse opposition from those who were hostile to the truth. This intense antagonism often led to violence.
“I have been stoned, beaten with green walnuts, and with eggs. I have had dynamite put under the pulpit while I was preaching [Note: The fuse was lit but thankfully it went out before it got to the dynamite.]…. I have had them to threaten to take me out of the pulpit and fix me so I would never be able to get into another one. I have had them threaten to hang me…. I am now 68 years old and want to preach many more years. To God be all the glory for the great Victory.”
Joe H. Blue died in 1954 at 79 years of age.