Basil Abney Overton
Obituary From The Florence, Alabama Times
Beloved and respected Church of Christ minister Basil Abney Overton, of Florence, Ala., passed away Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, at the home of his daughter and son-in-law in Richmond, Ky. He was 87.
Brother Overton is survived by his daughters, Tessa (Bill) Berryman, of Richmond, Ky. and Florence, Ala., and Gretchen (Jace) Melton, of Florence, Ala.; and son Gaius (Mary) Overton, of Smithville and Nashville, Tenn.; grandchildren, Jeremy (Amber) Barrier, Jennifer (Jeff) Wilson, Dale Berryman, Jennifer Berryman, Brandon Mayfield, Stacy Mayfield, Joseph Overton, and Cornelia Overton; great-grandchildren, Elizabeth Reeves, Easton Wilson, Will Barrier and Joshua Barrier; and sisters, Martha Priestley and Betty McDaniel, of Greenfield and Martin, Tenn., respectively. He was predeceased by his cherished wife and life partner of almost 65 years, Margie Medling Overton; their son, Timothy Medling Overton; his parents, William Raymond and Mary Abney Overton; sister, Stella Swindell; and brothers, Billy and Gene Overton.
Basil Overton grew up on the Overton family farm outside of Greenfield in West Tennessee. He knew the labor of hard work in his daddy's fields; he plowed with a team of mules from the age of nine; he swam in the cool waters of the Obion river; he was surrounded in love by his community, church, and the great gift of extended family; and he never tired of family stories and the history of the rugged Overtons who migrated to West Tennessee from Virginia to carve out a homestead in the early 1800s. Beginning in 1944, after his schooling in Weakley County, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during the final year of World War II, including at the battle of Iwo Jima. Witnessing so much death and destruction during the war sealed his determination to marry his sweetheart back home and dedicate his life to the ministry. Hemarried Margie Medling from Greenfield on leave from the Navy in 1945 and, when discharged from the military in 1946, began his higher education, attending Freed-Hardeman College, Henderson, Tenn., Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, receiving his B.A. from Eastern Kentucky State College, Richmond, Ky., and his M.A. from the University of Kentucky, Lexington. In later years he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Morehead State University, Morehead, Ky.
Having taught the Gospel informally from a young age, and even baptizing a fellow sailor in the Pacific Ocean during the war, he preached his first official church sermon when only 19 at a Church of Christ congregation in southern California while still in the Navy. Among the churches he served over the years were the Trent Church of Christ of Trent, Texas, the Gleason Church of Christ of Gleason, Tenn., Murrell Boulevard (now Central) Church of Christ of Paducah, Ky., Baker Court (now Richmond) Church of Christ of Richmond, Ky., the Southside Church of Christ of Lexington, Ky., and the Tusculum Church of Christ of Nashville, Tenn. He was appointed associate editor of the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tenn., in 1968, before moving to Florence, Ala. where Brother Overton helped found International Bible College (IBC, now Heritage University) and served as its vice president and on its faculty beginning in 1971. At IBC he founded, wrote for and edited the church newspaper, The World Evangelist, for nearly 32 years. Each month, his popular editorial "Mule Musings," which included sage words of wisdom, practical advice and a scripture lesson, was eagerly anticipated by his many readers around the world. During his IBC years, he also authored numerous books on theology, scriptural interpretation, and church history, and, with his Margie, he traveled the U.S. preaching invited Gospel meetings, nearly 600 of them over his lifetime, for congregations across the country.
Brother Overton was a thoughtful, engaging, sought-after speaker, a much-loved teacher and professor, a world-famous Gospel writer and a nationally and internationally famous Church of Christ minister. Yet, beyond the professional esteem in which his church held him, he was a warm, gentle, sweet man whose home and table were always open to friends and friends-of-friends alike, with whom he kept in close personal contact through phone calls and beautiful handwritten letters. His mind and memory were keen up to the very end of his life-he never forgot a person's name and face, even among the thousands of people he came to know in every state, all of whom he counted as dear friends, and his knowledge of history and scripture were encyclopedic. In his years of strong health, he loved keeping chickens and gathering brown eggs, working hard outside in the dirt in his bountiful vegetable and flower gardens, chopping cabbage and canning sauerkraut in the kitchen, and grinding wheat to make his own whole wheat flour. He never forgot his roots and the values from growing up a farm boy in West Tennessee. His humble love of earth, ancestry and the Lord he passed on to his children and grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday afternoon, March 2, 2013, at Stony Point Church of Christ in Florence, Ala. The funeral service will be at 3, immediately following visitation, in the church sanctuary, with burial thereafter, next door at the Stony Point Cemetery. (stonypointchurchofchrist.com)
The funeral service will be officiated by Church of Christ ministers and close family friends Alvin Alston, Kenneth Davis and Kippy Myers. The six pallbearers are Brother Overton's five grandsons, Jeremy Barrier, Dale Berryman, Brandon Mayfield, Joseph Overton and Jeffery Wilson, along with close friend Jim McAdams. Eight honorary pallbearers include dear family friends Lawrence Alexander, Bill Bagents, Jamie Crowe, James Farris, Wayne Kilpatrick, Delbert Knight, Richard Taylor and David Underwood.
An online guest book may be viewed and signed at greenviewmemorial.com.
Funeral arrangements are being handled through Greenview Funeral Home, Florence, Ala.
-Published in Florence Times Daily on March2,2013
Margie and Basil Overton
Out Of My Memory
How many times I have seen that title through the years as I perused my latest copy of the World Evangelist. It was one of my favorite columns to read because it afforded me the opportunity to visit with the memories of one of my greatest teachers and friends, Basil Overton. Just the mention of his name conjures up so many recollections of good days long past.
I first met brother Overton in January 1986. I was a new student at International Bible College, now Heritage Christian University. He was a most likeable fellow from the beginning, a sort of down home type individual who was open for new acquaintances. He was a country boy who mixed well with city folks, literally a man for all seasons.
There was such a respect within brother Overton of all things holy. During his class on Christian Evidences he would often use powerful, yet simple illustrations to show the foolishness of the evolution model. His arguments from design were so clearly convicting that it was impossible to consider anything other than that God exists and that He created the world. Such a love and esteem for God was in him that every time he invoked the name of “God” it literally sent chills up my spine, and caused the hairs on my neck to stand at attention. How often I recall him telling an enthralling illustration of the beautiful design in nature to prove God’s existence only to follow by saying, “Now put that in your boney-box and think about it.”
It was my pleasure to have brother Overton for Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. In this class, I was determined to soak up every bit of advice I could get. The biggest thing that still stands out to this day is the need to reach everyone in a crowd, something he seemed to be able to do with such ease. He said we needed to feed the cows, but to preach in such a way that the calves could get it as well. To him it was important to preach in such a way as to make the message of the gospel impactful to anyone at any age that hears the message at any time.
Basil Overton believed that the providence of God so impacted his life, and he related it time and again to his students. In an obvious play on words he would often say to his preacher boys, “Fellows, we don’t know what we’re doing!” While the hearer may initially raise the eye, this was to remind everyone that there is no way to clearly know all the ways God is using each of us to impact the lives of people. Only God really knows the extent of what we all do for His cause, and in it we truly do not know what we are doing!
Who did not just love his stories? From Mule Musings to meeting work, he always had a good story to tell. As we had a mutual appreciation for all things historical, especially the church, his stories about church history were fascinating. While I never sat in a class of his on Restoration History, everyone learned about the past when they were around him and when they read his articles. Stories about living in the home of A.B. Barrett while a student at Freed-Hardeman College, classes he took with N.B. Hardeman, L.L. Brigance, and W. Claude Hall, always seemed to find their way into conversations. I can recall sitting in his office to discuss a certain matter of mutual interest, and every discussion ignited powerful imagery from his past to shed light upon the present concern. He was a walking, talking, history book. In classes he often related his experiences in evangelism. He told stories about those he taught and baptized.
Once I recall him being very animated as he told of a man he baptized while serving in the Pacific theater during World War II. He talked about how the man had been a faithful Christian ever since, and that when he passed, he was able to be with the Lord. Brother Overton often reflected on his time in the South Pacific in the naval fleet during the war to end all wars. He served on two different vessels and traveled over 35,000 miles upon the surface of the ocean. He saw the entire battle of Iwo Jima where over 6000 of his fellow patriots died. He wrote and often recalled witnessing the burial of over 1600 men in a mass grave dug by a massive bulldozer on the sandy beach of Iwo Jima. He explained they were stacked one body upon the other like cords of wood in that mass grave, a memory that stayed with him all his life.
He was the perfect example of a true intellectual. He was nothing short of brilliant in his knowledge and education. He had a photographic memory that allowed him the wonderful blessing of remembering the names of all he met, and with a snap bringing them to remembrance at subsequent meetings. In the classroom no one had a deeper understanding of the subject under discussion, and was more able to relate the information in a meaningful and understandable way than he. While many smart people are aloof to those in their surroundings, Basil Overton was able to connect with old and young alike. He was smart and likeable, two essential elements in my estimation of being awarded the title of intellectual.
He loved preachers and he loved preaching. One day in chapel, a student was preaching his "senior sermon," and in the course of his lesson he made light of the word "preach." He expressed that he was not a fan of the word "preacher," or "preaching," and the like. After the speech, brother Overton, quite off the cuff, proceeded to stand where he was and most kindly, but sternly, expressed that the word, "preach," was a Bible word, one that deserves great respect, and a word to not take lightly in the least. He preached for a good thirty minutes, quoting about every verse in Scripture where the word appears, and expressed that we should love the words "preaching," and "preacher," and anything related to the honorable task of proclaiming the word of God. Brother Overton was the kind of man who always lifted up all things that had to do with the godly practice of preaching.
Over the years, I enjoyed hearing him preach at different churches. Several times I had the pleasure of leading singing for him in gospel meetings. He was not what you would call a dynamic orator. Such does not take away from the fact that he had an amazing ability to hold everyone in the congregation in the palm of his hands. In his sermons he had no put-on preacher voice, but it was the same one you heard when you talked with him face to face. When he stood in the pulpit you knew a friend of God stood among friends of men to share a friendly and entirely Biblical message. His illustrations were short, clear and concise, only used to illustrate a Scriptural point. The vast majority of his time was in the Biblical text, relating it to the practical man, woman and child in the pew.
He loved the Restoration Plea. Some of the most precious volumes I have in my library were once in the library of Basil Overton. A few years after his retirement as Vice President of International Bible College, he met C. Wayne Kilpatrick and me over in his office, where many of the books from his library we still kept. He invited us both to go in and get any and as many books as we wanted. It was such a special day with him. I shall always remember how I would pick out a book and ask him about it, and he would relate a story of his times at Freed-Hardeman College as a student or something special about an interaction he may have had with the author.
One of the books I cherish was written by M.M. Davis entitled, “How The Disciples Began And Grew.” It was a text book he used while a student at Freed-Hardeman College. In it was a quote from L.L. Brigance saying, “If we do not stand for something that is vital for the salvation of souls which no other organization teaches, then there is no excuse for our existence.” It was dated 11 March, 1948. This was obviously an apologetic-type purpose statement for restoring New Testament Christianity in the present age. Basil Overton believed that the Restoration Plea was foundational to the purpose of the church of Christ in our day. He believed that the church of today is not a reasonable facsimile of the church of the New Testament, but it is in fact, that church. He lived it, taught it, and died in the belief of it. To him Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott, “Raccoon” John Smith and so many others were old friends though most of them died over 50 years before he was born. He had learned their stories, and they served to impact his life and so many others under his tutelage.
In 1960 the Overtons moved to Lexington, Kentucky and reorganized the work there through the Southside Church of Christ on Nicholasville Pike. His efforts there will long be considered the first fruits of many great blessings to the strength of the church in the state of Kentucky.
The printed page was where Basil Overton shined the brightest. He wrote many books and biblical tracts to strengthen the church. While living in Kentucky he sent several reports on his work there as well as submitted articles on various subjects to the Gospel Advocate. In 1967 he wrote a twelve-part series of articles that were in subsequent issues on the subject of evolution that were published by the Gospel Advocate in a book entitled, Evolution or Creation? In 1968 he was offered the position of associate editor of the Gospel Advocate, and soon began preaching in Nashville for the Tusculum church. While there he also taught courses at the Nashville School of Preaching.
It was around the end of 1971 when Basil, Margie and the family moved to Florence, Alabama were he became vice-president of the newly formed, International Bible College, now Heritage Christian University. Then, in August of the following year he began the World Evangelist publication. I remember well brother Overton explaining that the purpose of his paper was evangelism. He determined that the church had enough papers where brotherhood issues were dealt with in a public way, not so with the World Evangelist. Every issue was to have at least one article to explain God’s plan of salvation, and it did. IBC was started, and for years promoted the evangelistic theme, “into all the world by the year 2000.” He determined that his paper would be a major way in which it would made possible. Literally thousands of copies every month were sent throughout the U.S. and overseas. Stories came in, sometimes years after an issue had been published, of a person somewhere on the African continent finding a copy of the World Evangelist. Often tattered and worn, they would read every word, and write to brother Overton to have him send more issues. Literally, he did not know what he was doing, for only eternity knows the fruit of the labor of this humble man of God.
It was my sincere pleasure of visiting in their North Florence, Alabama home several times over the last years of his and sister Margie’s lives. Every time I went by, it was a pleasure to be with them both, to sit, to talk, and always to pray. Sister Margie was as much an inspiration to all who knew her, as was brother Overton. For years she helped in so many ways to raise funds for the school through the IBC women’s organization. She was as much engaged in the work of the Lord as was her husband. She fought long and hard with cancer, and finally succumbed to it 20 May, 2010. It was such a difficult thing for brother Overton to lose his precious Margie. But then, it was hard for all of us.
After a time, brother Overton moved to the Anniston area to live with his daughter's family. This is where he lived until he departed this life 23 February, 2013. He was laid to rest beside his Margie, and their son Tim, whose death 3 January, 1974 they mourned all the days of their lives following. It is fitting to know that their bodies were laid in the cemetery of the oldest continuing congregation of the church of Christ in Northwest Alabama, Stony Point.
Thus ended the great life of a great man of God! When Tim died, he dedicated the next issue of the World Evangelist to his son, and wrote a poem that speaks not only of the kind of son Tim was, but also the kind of father Basil Overton was. In it he also expressed how we all feel about the time we had with Basil and Margie Overton.
WE ARE GRATEFUL
We are grateful:
That not on a brutal battlefield
Wielding sword or gun;
Left in smoking silence
Did we have a fallen son.
We are grateful:
He lived not by lingering pain
Suffering ceaseless horror;
Subdued by the awful thought
Of the same on every tomorrow.
We are grateful:
He lived not as a friendless pauper
Cut off from the boundless joys;
Of the daily tasks and laughter
Of many girls and boys.
We are grateful:
For many friends and kindred,
Who help to bear the load
Of normal, natural sorrow
Along the difficult road.
We are grateful:
That he knew the Lord of life;
That hope is sweeter than before
He made the quiet departure
To that eternal shore.
We are grateful:
-Scott Harp, 11.26.2013
Joins Advocate Editorial Staff
With this issue, Basil Overton joins the editorial staff of the Gospel Advocate. He bas written for this paper eighteen years. He has preached the gospel twenty-three years. Most of these years he has spent in mission fields. He has been in the mission fields of Eastern Kentucky thirteen years, having labored in Richmond four years and in Lexington the last nine years. In Lexington he and about eight others organized the Southside congregation in the fall of 1959 and started meeting the first Sunday of 1960 with thirty people present for the first service. Recently, the last Sunday Brother Overton was with Southside church, there were four hundred and fourteen present for the morning service. Southside is the largest church of Christ in the eastern half of Kentucky.
Brother Overton is married. His wife Margie, has stood by him faithfully and helpfully in his work. They have four children, Timothy, Gaius, Tessa, and Gretchen. Timothy is married to the former Margaret Ann Neal. All the children are students at David Lipscomb College and Elementary School. Overton was born in Weakley County, Tennessee. He is one of the six children of Raymond and Mary Overton who still reside in that county. He thinks that his best schooling was the guidance of his hardworking parents who taught him to work as be grew up on the farm.
Brother Overton attended Freed-Hardeman College three years. During those three years he sat at the feet of the inimitable N.B. Hardeman and other good teachers. He attended Abilene Christian College two semesters. He was graduated from Eastern Kentucky State College (now university) with a B.A. degree, and he was graduated from the University of Kentucky with an M.A. degree.
Brother Overton has preached in about 165 series of gospel meetings besides doing regular work with several congregations. He preaches in about five or six meetings each year. He is preaching regularly for the Tusculum church in Nashville. He has lectured several years in many places defending the Word of God against the attacks of skeptics, infidels, and evolutionists. He joins the editorial staff of the Gospel Advocate "set for the defence of the gospel."
It is my fervent hope and prayer that Brother Overton, as associate editor of the Advocate, will always have the fine cooperation of the brethren that the "Old Reliable" has enjoyed for more than a hundred years. Brother Overton is sound in the faith. He is well qualified in every way for his new work. We hope many wil1 write him letters, expressing their loyalty, cooperation, and good wishes. Better still, send him a club of subscribers to the Advocate!
-Gospel Advocate, September 12, 1968, page 578.
Thanks For The Memories
In Class At International Bible College, Now Heritage Christian University
Basil Abney Overton
Directions To Stony Point Church Of Christ & Cemetery
Basil and Margie Overton are buried at the Stony Point Church of Christ Cemetery. The are buried next to their son Tim, who preceded them in death. From Florence, Alabama head north on Hwy. 157/Cloverdale Road to the Petersville/Underwood Community. As Cloverdale Road bend toward the left, Hwy 22, Lauderdale County Road 24 will go straight. Take Hwy. 24, and you will pass their old home place as you make your way out toward the church building. Continue on Hwy. 22 and the church and cemetery will be on your left. Enter the cemetery and make your way toward the rear and right of the cemetery. The Overton Plot will be in this vicinity. Photos below can give you a clearly location in the cemetery, as does the GPS info below.
GPS Location of Graves
View Larger Map
Photos Taken 09.14.2013
Site Produced 11.26.2013
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Special Thanks To Tom L. Childers. Several years before the passing of Basil Overton, Tom underwent the dubious task of scanning every issue of the World Evangelist. The paper ran from August, 1972 until May, 2004. It was produced in newspaper style and most issues ran 20 to 22 pages. In the course of scanning the issues of the World Evangelist, Tom was also able to scan over 800 photos that brother Overton had. It is a pleasure to have several of these published on this site because of Tom's efforts. If you are interested in your own searchable copy of the World Evangelist for the low price of $25, go to his website at the following link.