Remembering Garland Elkins

Jim McGill

Garland Elkins (1926-2016) was born near Woodbury, east of Nashville, August 19, 1926.   He had four brothers and two sisters.  His father and mother and all his grandparents were faithful Christians living in the community.  His parents would often have preachers visiting in their home.

His father and the visiting preacher would stay up late, talking about Christ and the church, and his daddy would let Garland stay up and listen to their conversations.

Garland had been offered an athletic scholarship to a college he planned to attend.  But he heard N. B. Hardeman preach. He was so impressed that he enrolled in Freed-Hardman College instead, graduating in 1951.  He always continued to have a high regard for Hardeman.

The Elkins Family

Garland and Corinne were married 67 years.  Their three daughters, Connie, Denise, and Jan, have established a scholarship at Memphis School of Preaching in honor of their parents.

For the past twenty-six years until his recent death Garland served as the preacher for the Stanton congregation northeast of Memphis and as an instructor and Dean of Public Relations at Memphis School of Preaching.  In the current issue of the school periodical Yokefellow, Garland is featured as he was being honored on his 90th birthday.

Garland’s Preaching

In his early fulltime preaching, Elkins worked several years with the Linden, Tennessee church.  There had earlier been a church of Christ there, but it had gone into digression.  Interested Christians from neighboring communities joined in successfully re-establishing the Linden church.

Elkins later preached at Highland View in Oak Ridge and in Virginia at Roanoke and at Newport News.

When he came to Memphis, while working with the Getwell congregation he had the opportunity to co-edit the annual Spiritual Sword Lectureship books, and to be involved in planning the annual Spiritual Sword Lectureship and co-editing the Spiritual Sword Quarterly.

Garland was a good writer as well as a good preacher.  Whether in personal evangelism or in public preaching, writing, and debating, he was concerned with saving souls.  His was a life of personal purity and guilelessness, somewhat reminiscent in that respect of the late W. A. Bradfield.

He loved debating for the good it accomplished – but he was so good at it, and he welcomed opportunities to defend truth and oppose error.

Phil Donahue

When he appeared on the Phil Donahue national television program in 1984, he won a great victory for truth without ever raising his voice, completely leading his host in the kindest manner.  Since the program was also broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network, Garland received messages of appreciation from Australia, Japan, and various European countries, besides many from America.

When Garland debated the leading promoter of the state lottery on a Memphis television station, his opponent conceded his admiration for Garland’s ability.

With his great poise, he (along with men such as Alan Highers and Robert R. Taylor) was well suited to moderate the open forums in the great tradition established by the late Guy N. Woods at the annual Freed-Hardeman lectures.

The Crusade

On the opening night of the Billy Graham Crusade in Nashville, when Memphis School of Preaching students and others were distributing many thousands of teaching brochures, Garland was coordinating the effort.  He was seated at a little table on a sidewalk leading toward the stadium.  An angry woman spoke to him accusingly…

“Does Billy Graham know what you are doing?”                                            

Garland’s reply was immediate and, characteristically, as gentle as her tone was harsh…

“I don’t know whether Billy Graham knows, but the Lord knows.”

     Garland Elkins died in Memphis on October 28, 2016.  He was 90.