As a child, I would often run out to the car on Sunday nights following church and turn on the radio (In the early 1950s the radio of our car was not dependent on the ignition key.) I loved to hear the raspy voice of the host … and if I got to the radio in time, I could often hear a quartet sing before the voice of The Landmark Hour began speaking.The unique voice of Dr. John Rawlings was silenced about 8:15pm Wednesday night, 30 January 2013—the day after his 99th birthday. While the last enemy that man faces is death, I have it in my mind that for Dr. John, death came as a friend to release him from the frail frame that held him captive in this world.
While my relationship initially, as a child, was with a voice on the radio, it did not remain at that level. I first met Dr. John at a radio rally at the Fountain Park Baptist Church on Inskip Road in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was speaking and The Landmark Quartet was singing in the early 1960s. I loved hearing him preach, in part because he always told a lot of stories.
High school years gave way to college, but following undergraduate, when I began vocational ministry, my path would once again cross that of Dr. John Rawlings, pastor of the Landmark Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I soon learned that Dr. John was not only filled with stories, but advice for preachers—young and old!
For example, while leading the music for a conference on evangelism one evening in the early 1970s at Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, I seated the audience, and then took my seat on the platform beside Dr. John. He immediately turned to me a filled my ear with what I should be doing musically as a young minister. That was only the beginning!
Through the years, I have cherished the friendship that we shared—and I remember the phone call when it first dawned on me that we truly had a friendship. A tragic and personal event had rocked my world and I was not taking Dr. John’s persistent calls for a couple of weeks. When I finally called him, he immediately confronted me, “Son, why haven’t you been taking or returning my phone calls?”
I took a deep breath and simply said, “Doc, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed, and I didn’t want to face you.” Then his reply—“Dale, am I not your friend?” I have cherished those words. Dr. John could be as tough as nails, but he also knew how to be tender.
The Saturday before Christmas 2006, I received a voice mail message from Dr. John. My son Justin had been killed in Iraq on October 1, and he had called at least once a week just to check on me. On this day, he left a voice mail stating that he knew this was my first Christmas without Justin, and that he loved me, was thinking about me, and praying for me. I saved that voice mail every 21 days until just a few weeks ago, when I inadvertently erased it.
Neither time nor space allows me to adequately convey my love for Dr. John and his influence in my life. In fact, I just turned and said to my wife a few minutes ago, “It seems that almost all my mentors have now died on me!” (To which she smiled and said, “But honey, you’re not 30 anymore!” I suppose the implication is that I’m getting old, but regardless of my age, life won’t be the same without Dr. John in it.
BTW, do you pray? If so, would you join me in praying for the extended Rawlings family? Dr. John had four sons—Herb, Harold, Carroll, and George—who will miss their dad.
Hi , very interesting story I will pray for those boys
Dr John was our pastor for a few years. Our prayers are with thefamily. Paul andSwan Archinal
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