History of the Restoration Movement

Lawrence Ray Wilson


Biographical Sketch On The Life Of L. R. Wilson

L. R. Wilson was born in Cord, Arkansas, about twenty miles East of Batesville on December 23, 1896. In 1909 his father died, and five others of his family, including his mother, were taken in the next three years. He, and the other three children who were left, lived with relatives, but he soon assumed full responsibility for his support, doing such work as a boy could do in the hill country of Arkansas at that time. Once, as he was telling me about this, I remarked on the great loss he suffered. He agreed, but since his family was not religious, he thought that he was perhaps better off away from that influence. That is real faith!

When he was nineteen years old he went to the Tupelo community South of Newport (Arkansas) to pick cotton. He said that he arrived there with his complete wardrobe on his back and three cents in cash money in his pocket. Somehow he had become interested in the Bible and with his first pay check subscribed to the Firm Foundation. The Tupelo postmaster was a Christian, but there was no church there. Together, they arranged for Z.D. Barber to hold a meeting. Brother Wilson obeyed the gospel in that meeting and waited on The Table the next Sunday. From this time he was kept busy speaking in Tupelo and nearby communities. He knew that he was severely handicapped by his limited education, but did not know how to change that.

When World War I came he enlisted and served in the Quartermaster Corp of the Third Cavalry. His unit was under fire briefly in France, but he never had to fire a gun in anger, for which he was thankful.

Upon his discharge from the Army he resumed preaching, more determined that ever to get an education. There was no G.I. Bill in those day, but Z.D. Barber again entered his life, showing him how he could attend Freed-Hardeman College at Henderson, Tennessee.

He entered school there as a Freshman in High School at the age of twenty three and stayed there for six years, supporting himself by odd jobs, Sunday preaching and summer meetings. He was usually in debt to the school at the end of each term, but managed to pay that off in the summer. Five of these years were spent in the home of N.B. Hardeman, who had a profound influence for good in his life. He also became a close friend of E.R. Harper, another student. This friendship lasted to the end of life and was a great blessing to each of them.

At the end of his Senior year he was married to Ruth Johnson, who was also a student in Freed Hardeman. Two children were born to them, Margaret Elizabeth, now the wife of Dr. Ray Ziegler of Waco, Texas, and L. R. Jr., now in the practice of medicine in Lubbock, Texas (1975).

After graduation from Freed Hardeman, he preached for the Central church in Jackson, Tennessee and completed the work for his B.A. degree, with a major in Greek at Union University. Following this he moved to jasper, Alabama, where he preached while earning a Master degree in history from Birmingham Southern College. From jasper he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he preached for the Laurel Avenue church and conducted one of the first Bible Chair programs among our people, in the University of Tennessee.

His meeting work took him into more than half the states, and he served some of the best churches among us as local evangelist. These include Central in Ada, Oklahoma; Tenth and Rockford in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Denver Heights in San Antonio, Central in Amarillo, and in Cleburne, all in Texas. He did much radio preaching on some of the most powerful stations in the land, and had two debates with the Baptists, and two with the Pentecostals.

In 1964 he moved from San Antonio to Florida to become the founding President of Florida Christian College. He served well there until 1949. Some of us had been trying to start a Christian school in Oklahoma, and when G.R. Tinius, Chairman of our board, learned that he had resigned in Florida, he went to see him about coming to Oklahoma to help us. He finally agreed to come, but he knew what he was getting into, so he said that he would make us only one promise: To do his best. He certainly did that!

In the first five years of the history of Oklahoma Christian College, he laid a ground work that is still bearing fruit in that very fine educational institution. When he went to Florida he owned a home in San Antonio. The proceeds from that home, together with two cars, went into Florida Christian College. He came to Oklahoma almost empty handed. He refused the salary the board offered him at Bartlesville, saying it was too much. Often some had to wait on pay day for their checks. He always waited and never complained.

His work in Amarillo and Cleburne followed his work with Oklahoma Christian. Soon after leaving the school, he was unanimously elected President Emeritus of the school. At it's first commencement as a Senior College, the school conferred on him it's first honorary degree, Doctor of Laws. On his seventieth birthday the gospel preachers of Dallas held a special meeting honoring him, at which he was presented a suitably engraved plaque. Being an humble man, he wore these richly deserved honors well.

With the July edition of 1955 he became Editor of the Voice of Freedom. This work was difficult and demanding, but again he was more than equal to the occasion. Throughout his life he was a capable writer, leaving some excellent works such as: The Adult Quarterly for the Firm Foundation from 1939 to 1946; books such as Aerial Bombardments; (radio sermons) The New Testament Church; The Never-Failing Scriptures; The Triumphant Jesus; Congregational Development; Roman Catholicism-Facts or Fabrications; a Bible work book for Bible teachers; Bible Exegesis. In addition to these, he has written many tracts and articles for the various papers among us.

Brother Wilson never knew the meaning of the word "failure." The spirit that caused him to support himself as an orphan child, then took him through many years of schooling under almost impossible circumstances, many years as a gospel preacher, the founding President of two Christian Colleges, and finally the very difficult task of producing a very fine and useful monthly periodical never failed him and characterized his whole life.

He was quite ill the last few months of his life, suffering much. On the last day of May in 1968 The Lord called him home. E.R. Harper, that life-long friend and brother, came from Abilene to conduct the final service. A few other preachers shared in the final service. What was mortal sleeps in the Restland cemetery in Dallas to await the resurrection. "He being dead yet speaketh."

-Gospel Preachers Of Yesteryear, Loyd L. Smith, Originally Published In The Christian Worker, 1975

L. R. Wilson Succombs In Dallas Hospital

Lawrence Ray Wilson, Sr., nationally known gospel preacher, editor and founder of two colleges, is dead. He parted this life quietly about 9 o'clock on the evening of May 31, in Baylor Hospital. He had been in and out of the hospital since surgery in January. He was re-admitted to the hospital for additional observation and treatment on April 1. All that medical science could do was done, but even this could not avert the grim reaper's scythe.

Brother Wilson had lived in Dallas the past twelve years and resided at 3324 Newcastle. He had lived in Oklahoma City for a number of years before coming to Dallas. He had founded and served as the first president of Oklahoma Christian College (formerly known as Central Christian College). He was also the founding president of Florida Christian College in Tampa, Florida, in 1946.

He was a native of Arkansas and served in World War I.

He was laid to rest in Restland Cemetery Monday afternoon, June 3. Services were conducted at the Walnut Hill Church of Christ, E. R. Harper officiating, assisted by brethren Joe Malone, Loyd L. Smith, Hardeman Nichols, Frank Dunn, James O. Baird, Adair Chapman, Hulen Jackson, P. D. Wilmeth, and a host of singers from the Walnut Hill church under the direction of Ken Hilterbrand. Gospel preachers from the city of Dallas served as pallbearers. Everyone offered and rendered a multiplicity of services. Brother Wilson is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Dr. L. R. Wilson Jr., Lubbock; daughter, Mrs. Ray Zeigler, Houston; sister, Mrs. Annis Perkins, Tupelo, Arkansas; brother, Elder Wilson, Monette, Arkansas and seven grandchildren.

I am conscious as I write these lines of a tremendous personal loss in the untimely passing of L. R. Wilson, beloved brother in the Lord and faithful friend. For more than a quarter of a century I have known, honored and respected him, and from him derived much assistance. During the past year and a half I have been as close to him as anyone outside his immediate family. From this intimate contact with him, I came to appreciate and regard him as I do few men living today. While he was still conscious, I wrote him a letter conveying these heartfelt expressions. It would be impossible within the limits of this article, to chronicle all the accomplishments of this great man of God. In the pulpit he exalted Christ and his Word. He was faithful to all the concerns of his life with an unwavering devotion. His pen was potent as is evidenced in the many books and articles that he wrote. Few men among us have yielded a greater influence. Himself, the target of much criticism through the years, he never retaliated; and, to this writer's certain knowledge, never felt the bitterness toward others which such criticism sometimes entails.


During his last years, and until almost the moment of his death, he was chiefly active in, and found his greatest satisfaction from editing the Voice of Freedom, a religious journal designed to alert, inform, and to awaken the people, both in the church and out to the twin threats of Catholicism and Communism, both religiously and politically. Some of his most brilliant efforts with the pen will be found in the columns of this magazine. It is our conviction that the stature of L. R. Wilson will continue to increase with the passing of the years; and, that he will take his place in the final estimate of history, among the greatest of recent generations.

Though dead, he will continue to speak to succeeding generations through his books, articles, tracts and the VOice of Freedom, bringing edification and light to countless thousands yet unborn.


In view of Brother Wilson's love for the magazine, the Voice of Freedom, and that for which it stands, it has been suggested by the family that memorials be made to the Voice of Freedom in his memory. This writer plans to make a substantial donation to it. The paper will be continued under the editorship of the present writer, and its mission will remain the same. It stands in needs of funds to aid it in alerting the people of this country to the ever-present danger of ecclesiasticism and totalitarianism. Every penny contributed to it will go directly into the fight to guard our people against the loss of liberty and religious freedom these alien philosophies threaten. Will not our readers join us in this effort? Will not you do this in memory of this faithfUl and beloved brother who died in the front lines of battle? We shall be glad to list the names of all contributors (the amounts will not be mentioned) in the Voice of Freedom, and each contribution will be personally acknowledged by Hulen Jackson of Dallas, a long-time friend and confidant of Brother Wilson. We feel there is nothing that we could do that would bring greater joy to the heart of Brother Wilson than such a donation to the cause he loved. Any amount will help. Make checks or money orders payable to Voice of Freedom and send these (or currency if you prefer) to: Voice of Freedom, P. O. Box 24836, Dallas, Texas 75224.

-P. D. Wilmeth, Gospel Advocate, June 20, page. 394

The Passing of L. R. Wilson

L. R. Wilson, faithful Christian, outstanding Gospel preacher, founder of two colleges, and Editor of The Voice of FTeedom has gone home to the Lord. Culminating a long illness, Brother Wilson died Friday, May 31, in a Dallas hospital, and his funeral was conducted by E. R. Harper at the Walnut Hills church in Dallas on Monday, June 3. He is survived by his wife, one son and one daughter.

Brother Wilson was author of several books, perhaps the best one of which was his outline study of the New Testament Church. Some of the clearest writing on the nature of the church that we have ever seen is in this book. In an age that is losing sight of the distinct and unique nature of the church Jesus purchased and built there is increasing need for the clear insight and precise language of Brother Wilson.

When brethren in Florida were attempting to build a college they called upon Brother Wilson to found the college. What was then Florida Christian College, and what later became Florida College, was the result of his efforts. We think it fair to say that Florida College did not have the peculiar doctrinal slant it follows today when Brother Wilson was connected with it.

Later, when an effort was made to establish a Christian college in Oklahoma brethren again called upon Brother Wilson. We attended some of the organizational meetings which preceded the beginning of what was later to become Oklahoma Christian College. Wilson was the unanimous choice to give guidance to the early efforts and much of the great progress the college has made can be traced to the wise guidance it received from his hand during those early days.

One of the crowning activities of his busy life was the promotion of The Voice of Freedom, a paper dedicated to the exposure of the errors of Roman Catholicism and Communism. Wilson was a patient and thorough writer. His writings were unusually well researched and documented. We doubt that there exists a more thorough examination of the errors of present day Roman Catholicism than his work which covers the last ten years of Roman Catholic history. The Voice of Freedom has been a powerful and militant voice. There has never been an uncertain sound about it. Readers knew what L. R. Wilson believed and they knew where he stood.

A few years ago we had the first test case in Texas courts challenging the validity of Roman Catholic nuns teaching in public schools of the state in their religious garb. The practice has in the past been quite common. In what has become known as the famous "Bremond Case" the practice was challenged legally, and Brother Wilson was one of the leaders in that fight. While the Roman Catholics capitulated before the thing was finally brought to trial, rather than allow the case to go to a court decision in which the outcome was already evident, the case attracted such attention that it pretty well terminated the practice.

We have known Brother Wilson well for the past forty years. He has been a staunch and stable ally of the truth. He was never a radical. He was never an unknown factor. Always humble and meek, he was always a force that you could depend upon to be there when needed. His contributions to the cause of Christ have been so many it would be impossible to enumerate them. We have heard many men referred to as "soldiers of the cross" but none have ever fitted the designation more perfectly in our own mind than has L. R. Wilson. He will be sorely missed in the battles we still have to face.

Editors have a special feeling for each other. Their problems are so mutual, and their tasks so much alike that they grow to know and appreciate each other. Brother Wilson was the kind of compassionate friend any editor would appreciate and enjoy. We feel a strong sense of personal loss in his passing, and extend to his family our deep sympathy.

-Editorial, Reuel Lemmons, editor, Firm Foundation, 11 June 1968, page 370.

Directions To Restland Cemetery

The Restland Cemetery is located at 9220 Restland Rd. Dallas, TX, 75243. Phone (972-238-8311). The cemetery is located just north of Dallas, NE of the junction of State Hwy. 75 and the I-635 Loop. Go north of I-635 on Hwy.75 and take Exit 22, Centennial Blvd. and turn right. Turn right on S. Greenville Ave. (Hwy.5) and head back south toward Dallas. You will see the cemetery on the right. Don't turn in until you get to Restland Rd. and turn right. Go into the main entrance. See Cemetery Map For Location Of Grave.

GPS Coordinates
32°55'47.6"N 96°44'35.6"W
or D.d. 32.929900, -96.743233
Garden Of Faith
Block C, Lot 279, Space 3,4

Ruth - 1905 - 1985
L. R. - 1896 - 1968

Restland Cemetery Map Here!

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