Honoring Hall L. Calhoun by James R. McGill

  Hall L. Calhoun (1863-1935) experienced repeated disappointments in his years of serving the Lord as a Bible teacher and gospel preacher, right up until the last great work of his life.

     His parents were religious.  His father taught a Sunday school class in the Methodist Church.  The family lived in northwest Tennessee at Conyersville in Henry County, near the Kentucky border.

     When he was twelve, his mother gave him a Bible.  He kept it with him wherever he went and read from it every day for the rest of his life.

     When Hall Calhoun was fourteen, he entered a school in Mayfield, Kentucky, where he remained for two years.   While in Mayfield he attended a series of gospel meetings being conducted by the church of Christ.   All that Calhoun had heard about the church of Christ was negative.  He had often heard them called “Campbellites.”  But he decided to investigate for himself.

Calhoun Obeys the Gospel

     The gospel meeting series included day and night sessions each day.  After Calhoun had heard forty-two sermons and realized that every one of them was in total harmony with the Scriptures, he responded to the invitation, repented of his sins, confessed his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and was baptized into Christ for the remission of sins.

     Hall L. Calhoun had the wonderful opportunity in 1888, at age twenty-five, to enroll in Transylvania University and the College of the Bible at Lexington, Kentucky.  There he studied the Bible under teachers he greatly admired, including J. W. McGarvey.  He graduated in 1892.

     The next year he was back at home preaching at Conyersville.  Later he preached in Paducah, Kentucky, and Franklin, Tennessee.  It took Hall Calhoun a long time to develop convictions against the use of instruments of music in worship and against using a missionary society to do the work of the church in evangelism.

     In the fall of 1900, when Calhoun was interviewed by David Lipscomb and James A. Harding for a possible teaching position in the Nashville Bible School (later renamed David Lipscomb  College), it was Calhoun’s unwillingness to take a stand on these two issues that disqualified him.   Thankfully, eventually he did take a stand.

     Following the Nashville Bible School rejection, he and Mrs. Calhoun took teaching jobs at West Tennessee Christian College (renamed Georgia Robertson Christian College), under President A. G. Freed in southwest Tennessee at Henderson.

     From Henderson in 1901 Calhoun wrote to J. W. McGarvey to apply for a teaching position in the College of the Bible at Lexington, where he had graduated.   He was advised that he should first acquire advanced degrees so that his teaching credentials would be impeccable.  The College of the Bible would help him financially with the understanding that he would repay the college by returning and teaching.

Lexington and Bethany

     Accordingly, Calhoun received an advanced degree in religious studies from Yale.  Next he enrolled in graduate school at Harvard where he received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in 1904.   Calhoun returned to the College of the Bible as promised.  He taught there until 1917, when he felt he had to resign because the board and the faculty had come to be dominated by unsound theological liberals.

     Calhoun next accepted a teaching position at Bethany College in West Virginia.   Bethany had been founded by Alexander Campbell.  Calhoun experienced a similar disappointment there.  He resigned in 1925.

     He thought his next opportunity would be just what he had been looking for.  He accepted an invitation to become associate president of Freed-Hardeman College alongside N. B. Hardeman.  His experience turned out to be a bitter disappointment.  He felt very mistreated by Hardeman.  Before the end of the school year, he left and was hospitalized for a time in Nashville to be treated for his shattered nerves.

Calhoun’s Crowning Work

     When Calhoun recovered enough to resume preaching, the opportunity of a lifetime opened for him.   The Central church of Christ had just been started in 1925 in downtown Nashville.  A. M. Burton, one of the Central elders, had bought a radio station.   It was one of only two stations in the city.  Since this was the first decade of radio, there was much excitement about the new invention.

     The church employed Hall L. Calhoun as their fulltime radio evangelist!  He spoke thirty minutes over WLAC each afternoon from 12:25 to 12:55.

     He proved to be a great communicator through this exciting medium.  The program had a very large and appreciative regular listening audience, covering a wide area far beyond Nashville.  Many people were taught and converted.  Congregations were established.   Calhoun received a great many letters from listeners.  This was by far the crowning work of his life.

     He continued through the years as the regular speaker on the daily program until his broadcast of September 3, 1935.  He suffered a heart attack the next morning and died that night.  He was 72.