Baptist historian, college president Morgan Patterson dies - Word&Way

Baptist historian, college president Morgan Patterson dies

NOVATO, Calif. (ABP) — Morgan Patterson, a historian who taught at four Southern Baptist seminaries and was president of a Baptist college, died Nov. 19 at age 85. A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28 at Tiburon Baptist Church in Tiburon, Calif.

A native of New Orleans, Patterson graduated from Stetson University in Deland, Fla., before earning master's and doctor's degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He did post-doctoral work at Oxford University.

Patterson was president of Georgetown College in Kentucky from 1984 to 1991. During that period the college had the highest enrollment in its 162-year history, doubled its endowment to $16 million and undertook renovation of five buildings.

Before that Patterson served from 1976 to 1984 as dean of academic affairs at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif. He taught church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., from 1959 to 1976 and was acting dean of the School of Theology in 1971. He was assistant professor of church history at New Orleans Seminary from 1956 to 1959.

Patterson was pastor of Stapleton Baptist Church in Stapleton, Ala., and Progress Baptist Church, in Progress, Miss. He also served as an interim pastor of numerous churches in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi.

In 1969 he wrote Baptist Successionism: A Critical View, in which he challenged a doctrine widespread among 19th century Baptists — and that still lingers in some pockets — that modern-day Baptist churches stand in a direct line of succession from New Testament times.

He also co-edited Professor in the Pulpit, a collection of sermons preached by faculty in chapel at Southern Seminary. He was a contributor to the Baptist World Alliance Centennial volume published in 2005 and to Pilgrim Pathways published by Mercer University Press in 1999.

After retiring from Georgetown College, Patterson was visiting professor of church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisiana College and New Orleans Seminary. He also taught at Oklahoma Baptist University. He served several years as scholar in residence at Campbellsville University in Kentucky and taught as a senior professor at Golden Gate Seminary. He and his wife, Ernestine, returned to California in 2009.

Stetson named him a distinguished alumnus in 1992. The following year received a distinguished service award by the Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

He was a member of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, American Society of Church History and the Conference on Faith and History.

Patterson is survived by his wife, Ernestine, and two adult sons, Morgan and Jay. A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28 at Tiburon Baptist Church in Tiburon, Calif.


Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.