Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Rue Porter
Roland Rue Porter was born near Green Forest (Boone County) Arkansas, April 4, 1890. His mother was a widow and the family knew the hardships of life in that Ozark Mountain area in the early years of this century. The community offered little in the way formal education, but Brother Porter seems to have made good use of what was available.
His great accomplishments as a gospel preacher, writer, editor, and debater proved that in every respect he was a well educated man.
In July, 1908 he obeyed his Lord in the first principles of the gospel, and soon began to take an active part in the work of The Church. He was baptized by James Brinkley, a gospel preacher in Green Forest who was also a blacksmith. He was married to Nancy Thomason on May 21, 1913, and four children were born to them. They are: Roy Doy, who died in 1939; Noline (Mrs. Jack Ricketts) T. Coy and Dr. V.F. Porter.
On January 31, 1911 he preached his first sermon in a rural community near Harrison, Arkansas and he kept busy to the end of his life. His preaching carried him into at least thirty of the U.S. states where he immersed about eight thousand people into Christ, including all his own family. Like many other preachers he had to provide a part of his own support, which he did, working as a carpenter. Most of his preaching was in meeting work, but he did do some local work in Bristow, Oklahoma from 1919 to 1928. While there, he not only helped to build a strong church there, but helped in the planting of the New Testament church throughout Northeastern Oklahoma. In 1931 he moved to Neosho, Missouri, where he made his home to the end of life. He preached the gospel on more than fifty radio stations in all parts of the nation. He wrote for several different papers, and served this paper (The Christian Worker) as its editor for some years, beginning in September 1955. He also wrote a number of books and tracts and had the pleasure of knowing that some of these led some to The Lord.
He lived in an age when gospel preachers either defended what they taught, or were forced "out of business." He stayed "in business!" In more than 40 debates he met some of the most capable exponents of error in the various sects, including W.E. Sherril, Manuel A. Welch, W. C. Austin, Vernon Barr, and W. Carl Ketcherside.
Brother Porter was held in high esteem by his fellow preachers, and was a close personal friend to many of them. I remember hearing C. L. Wilkerson, who was a close personal friend, speak many times of his greatness. I never knew him well but did meet him several times in the late years of his life. I first met him in a rural community West of Mammoth Springs, Arkansas in the summer of 1930. I had been in two meetings in central Arkansas and was on my way to another in Grove, Oklahoma. In Mammoth Springs I learned that Brother Porter was in this meeting, and that my route went right by the place where it was being held. It was late in the afternoon, so I stopped to hear him preach. He invited me to spend the night with him, which I did, and it came at a most opportune time for me, for the depression had started and my support had been quite meager in those meetings. I had planned to sleep in my car that night, He not only made it possible for me, a stranger, to have a good nights lodging, but also a good breakfast the next morning. I never forgot that kindness. Younger preachers, as well as those no longer "younger", should remember what his generation has done for us. Far better than I, he knew what meager support meant - but I was learning. He tells of a time when illness laid him low for some months. All support was cut off, and he had a family to support. They actually reached the place where they did not know where the next meal was coming from, but this did not cause him to want to give up the preaching of The Word. He knew what it was to "endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ Jesus."
Brother Porter was a "preacher of The Book." Jack Shackleford says: "He regarded himself as one of the last "one book preachers." I never knew him when he could not quote any verse or verses from either the Old or the New Testament. His son, T. Coy, also a gospel preacher, writes: "On several occasions I have, without his knowing it, counted the number of passages he quoted in a sermon. A very conservative estimate would be that he quotes a passage a minute. It would probably be more accurate to estimate that he quotes no fewer than sixty verses per sermon. His remarkable memory of Scripture is, to the thinking of many, his strongest asset. Undoubtedly this ability to give book, chapter, and verse, and quote the passage itself, has enabled him to convert many people who would not have been converted by a preacher who was less familiar with the Bible."
Brother Jack Shackleford, of Gore, Oklahoma, lived in Neosho and was closely associated with him from 1949 to the end of his life. He said Brother Porter was often spoken of as "The favorite preacher of the Ozarks." One of his favorite expressions was, "You may not like what I say, but you'll like the way I say it." Evidently, many people did like his way of saying it. Here are some excerpts from a letter from Brother Shackleford regarding him: "Brother Porter preached with pathos and power." "One of the strongest recollections that I have of him is that of seeing him sit with a portable typewriter in his lap, a little portable radio going with the St. Louis Cardinals playing base ball, and Brother Porter carrying on an intelligent conversation at the same time. He had peculiar eating habits. He would drink no water anywhere away from Neosho. He liked soft drinks, such as Seven-Up, iced tea and coffee. He would drink no milk and eat no butter. He would eat no kind of fowl such as chicken or turkey. All who knew him knew he chewed tobacco. Many years ago when the question box was in vogue for meetings, he was often asked if it was wrong to chew tobacco. His standard response was that it was alright as long as it was Star Navy. He was exceptionally moody at times, not wanting to talk at all and at other times he was a great talker, story teller and entertainer. I think he knew more preachers and more members of the church in every part of the country, by name, than any one before or after him. He carried on a large correspondence and answered every letter he received." Brother Shackleford says that when he lived in Neosho, Brother Porter would tell people that there were "two preachers in Neosho - one five feet fifteen inches high (him) and the other, five feet fifteen inches around. (me)"
the twenty fifth of September, 1967, at the age of seventy-seven
years, the Lord saw fit to terminate his work on earth. For
fifty-six years he had faithfully preached The Word. What was mortal
sleeps in the Hazel Green cemetery near Neosho, marked by a simple
marker. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
Rue Porter Is Dead
Death came to our beloved Brother Porter August 25, 1967. According to his request of almost twenty years, I conducted his funeral in the beautiful new church building, in his home city, Neosho, Mo., last Lord's day afternoon, assisted by the local preacher, Don Deffenbaugh. A large crowd assembled to pay respects to a great man. Brother Porter, according to the announcement, had baptized more than 10,000 souls during his nearly sixty years in the pulpit. Multiplied thousands of lives have been touched by his. To me, it was a very humbling experience to speak the last words over his body. We had been close friends for then forty-five years. Rue Porter loved Neosho and her people. He loved the church there and her members. He loved the preachers, elders and their work. His body rests under the spreading branches of a mighty oak, in one of the most beautiful rural cemeteries I have ever seen. In fact, this cemetery, on the summit of a high hill, is too scenic for me to describe. Besides thousands of brethren and friends, he left his wife, Nancy, two sons, T. Coy, Nashville, Tennessee, Vonnie Frank, Memphis, Tennessee, and a daughter Noline of Kansas City, Mo. These are highly respected children and will, of course, be sustained by the God who deals kindly with the brokenhearted.
Rue Porter served as Editor of the Christian Worker for many years. He was one of our best writers. He held a good many debates and did his work well. He was never vindictive and cruel toward those from whom he differed. His policy was to "Smother the opposition with kindness." This course of conduct led men to love him in spite of difference of belief and teaching. Like the lamented T. B. Larimore, he was probably loved by more little children than any preacher among us. In fact, a large percent of his beloved brethren, learned to love him when they were little children. Their love grew through the years. "A Prince and a great man is fallen in Israel." (2 Sam. 3:38.) His motto was "Preach the Word." Preachers of his sort are dwindling in number, to the shame of the Lord's cause. Rue Porter was uneasy and worried about a shortage of chapter-and-verse preachers. Elders should demand that the man who does the preaching get busy and preach the Word of God. This is no job for mental sluggards.
-Sterl A. Watson, Gospel Advocate, September 14, 1967, page 581
Porter-R.R. "Rue" Porter, veteran Ozark evangelist, debater, writer, editor, was laid to rest here today after a memorial service in the last new chapel where he attended a dedication service recently in his home city of thirty-nine years residence. He died early August 25 in a rest home near Joplin.
Don Deffenbaugh and Sterl Watson officiated. Brother Watson, a protege of Rue Porter along wit scores of preachers praised his sacrificial and dedication to gospel preaching, teaching, debating, and writing. Watson said that Rue Porter preached in forty-six states, baptized 10,000 into Christ, and that during the Depression was not a "drop-out" from continuous preaching, for when there was not a dollar offered or paid he preached with the same enthusiasm and full devotion as when given remuneration. All his surviving family was present, Mrs. Nancy Porter, his widow; T. Coy Porter, preacher of Nashville, Tenn.; Dr. Vonne Porter, Dean of Southern College of Optometry, Memphis, and his only daughter Mrs. Noline Ricketts of Kansas City.
T. Coy Porter said of his father, "Two things must be remembered about Rue Porter, his absolute and exclusive devotion to preaching of the gospel, and his unvarying habit of saying something good about every man, friend or foe, colleague, or detractor." Brother Watson said, "Rue Porter never touted himself as a great defender of the faith, always pointing out his and our dependence on Christ being our Defender and Savior, and the need of every man to know he is a sinner in the sight of God." The Christian Worker of Wichita, Kansas, of which Brother Porter was editor twelve years and a writer for more than forty years, will publish tributes September 7.
Omar L. Bixler, Gospel Advocate, September 14, 1967, page 591
Rue Porter, On The Ideal Preacher
In a book called, I Remember, by Rue Porter, he wrote an article called Preacher and Preaching where he discusses the various aspects of the preacher's life. In it he identified what he felt was the perfect preacher. His analysis denotes his humor and clever wit as he describes the ideal preacher made up of the qualities of a veritable who's who among well known preachers of his day. He said,
In truth Rue Porter was as well-rounded and a greatly loved preacher in his own right as any of those mentioned above. His actions spoke louder than words. Baptizing 8000 people and preaching for 56 years, appearing on over 50 different radio stations across the country, speaks to the quality man of God he was, much deserving of the memory and praise of men.
Directions To The Grave Of R. Rue Porter
Roland R. Porter is buried in the Hazel Green Cemetery in Missouri's southwest corner, east of Neosho in the community of Boulder City. In October, 2004, I visited with Don Deffenbaugh, preacher and writer of "Uncle Rue" A Biography Of Roland Rudolph Porter. Don most graciously took out time from his schedule, and took me out to visit the grave. Print map below to find the cemetery. If coming from Neosho you will come into Boulder City on Hwy D. As soon as you cross Hwy. H you will make your next left on Reindeer Rd. Turn left up the hill and around to the right to enter the cemetery that is hidden from the road. When entering the cemetery go up the first drive to your right and the Porter plot will be just on your left under some trees. If visiting Brother Porter's grave, do not miss the opportunity to visit the grave of Albert Brumley, the noted songwriter, only a few miles further down the road.