An Oral History Interview of Robert Inman Johnson

by Arthur L. Walker

March 22, 1978

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Audio Visual Archives

Archived CA 11-12

Transcribed by Michele B. Fowler

Walker: This is an interview with Professor Robert Inman Johnson conducted in room 250D of Norton Hall on March the 22, 1978 at 11:00 a.m. The interviewer is Arthur Walker. Prof. Johnson is on a campus for a visit and will speak in chapel on Thursday, March 23. This tape is a part of the oral history project done on Prof. Johnson by the action of the president's advisory council.

Prof., in your book you mention Dr. Robertson's gift of an overcoat to your father, and other stories about Robertson speak of how austere and demanding he was. How do you perceive him and his personality?

Johnson: Dr. Robertson had two sides to him. He was very austere in his classes. I've seen him sit a man down very harshly, but he was also very soft. When I was a child, my father was a student in the seminary. We lived on Walnut Street right across from the stables of Frank Fehr's Brewery and my father had a church up the river over in Indiana aroundVeyvey. You'd go up on the boat on Saturday night, back Monday. Somebody at one time stole his overcoat on the boat. Dr. Robertson heard about him, gave him one of his used overcoats. Dr. Robertson would come in class in the big classroom. First thing he would do was look at the thermometer, and often time some boy would get the thermometer and hold it out the window, let it go way down cold, and hang it up right before Dr. Robertson came in. He'd get that thermometer and say, "BRRR. Too cold in here today. Class dismissed." But also I was very fond of Dr. Robertson. I was in his home a great deal because I knew the family. He knew my father. I sang in the wedding of Eleanor, his daughter.

Walker: To whom was she married?

Johnson: Allen Easley, who taught at Wake Forest for a long time. He pastored down in Glasco, Kentucky after he left the seminary. I went down and sang in a revival meeting with him. But what was I saying. Dr. Robertson maid would be late bringing the steak in for dinner, he'd grab it out of her hand and slide the steak almost off onto the floor. One day I spoke in chapel--now the first time I spoke in chapel was downtown at the old building. My subject was the 23rdPsalm. But I spoke in chapel out here at the new campus. Dr. Robertson came up and put his arm around me. He said, "You can preach. Can't you?" [laughs] I appreciated that. While he could be very austere, he had a very soft heart.

Walker: You were a student at the downtown campus.

Johnson:Yes. I was a student at the downtown campus, so was my father. I remember going to my father's graduation. It was a hot May night, I assume now, a hot night and my father was a pastor out at Cox's Creek in Nelson County. Brought me in and I was on the back row, I think, with my aunt or somebody, and my shoes hurt me. I wasn't used to wearing shoes. Shoes hurt me, and I remember very simply they had to take me out because I hollered about those shoes. That was the old chapel down at old Norton Hall.

Walker: Tell me about the dining hall in the New York Hall. How was it operated?

Johnson: Well, Mr. Vick who had retired in the denominational service to run the dining hall. He and his wife ate up in one corner. William was a cook who brought the biscuits in, about two inches thick--black on the bottom often and raw in the middle. We paid $11 dollars a month for room and board, and it really wasn't worth it. But biscuits, and the cornbread was so hard. I remember one fellow was almost knocked out being hit in the head with a cornbread pone one day. The syrup we had was made of brown sugar and water boiled down. We called it zip. One little fellow from Georgia went home to Georgia for a few days and came back and said he certainly was glad to get back to get some of that good zip. I developed stomach trouble eating in there and I went to the doctor and he pumped out my stomach. He said, "Great guns, man! Where do you eat?" I told him I ate in the dining hall over at the seminary. He said, "Well, quit and you'll be alright." So I started eating over in the YMCA cafeteria and I didn't have any stomach trouble after that.

Walker: The dormitory was in the same building, New York Hall.

Johnson: The dormitory was in the same building, and if you stubbed your toe on the way to breakfast you might as well turn around and go back. It'd all be gone before you got down there.

Walker: How was the dormitory operated? Was there someone assigned to

Johnson: Well, Mr. Vick had control of the dormitory. They had old oiled pine floors, you know and had a little single light hanging in the hallway and only one little light hanging in the rooms with a clear bulb in that. I remember, though, when my father was a student the rooms were heated largely by coal fires. You had to go out and get your coal. But they had an old janitor. I forget his name, but he was one-armed. That is, his one arm was cut off up to the elbow. He would carry the trash trailer around with him and a broom. He'd run around and swept that trash onto the tray and go on and leave about as much on the floor as he had otherwise. We had a great time with that black boy. Old man he was--gray-headed at that time.

Walker: Who were your contemporaries as a student? Who stands our in your mind?

Johnson: Contemporaries as a student. Well let's see. Most of them that were contemporaries I taught because I started teaching before I graduated. Matter of fact, I don't...Well, L.O. Leavell was in my class--Greek Level we called him. I didn't have time to think about that. I really don't recall now.

Walker: Alright. Now you mention in your book your voice teacher in Milan, Italy. How did you come to study in Italy?

Johnson: When I came to the seminary, I thought a man's voice had a good bit to do with his success in the ministry. I'd been on the Glee Club on Richmond College, so I had a voice teacher in town who was from Italy--John Sample--and two or three of us went down to take voice lessons from John Sample went down to take voice lessons from John Sample, to develop my speaking voice. I had no ideas of going into music or anything like that. John Sample thought that I had some possibilities. Then when, one day he called me to come down to the studio. He wanted me to sing for somebody. This is after I had come back after the war. I was in the army--officer training school, came out as a second lieutenant in the field of artillery. He called me one day and told me to come down. I had, incidentally, I had finished out the year after the war 1918 or 19, I had finished out as a teacher of Old Testament and New Testament at Richmond College and YMCA secretary in Richmond College. So when I came back over here, I was pretty broke. And Dr. Carver gave me a job in the gymnasium, $12 a month. That gave me a dollar extra from that $11 I had to pay for room and board. So, I don't know where I got the money to go down to take lessons from John Sample because they were two dollars a lesson. But when he called me, he said, "I want you to sing for somebody." And I went down. I sang for E.B. Jenkins who was organist out at Fourth Avenue Methodist Church. I sang one song. He said, "How much you want?" I said, "Do you want to hear another song?" He said, "No. I don't want to hear another song. How much do you want for singing before the Methodist Church?" I said, "Well, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia has just offered me $50 a month for baritone soloist when I came over here." He said, "We pay $5 a Sunday, and two services on Sunday." I said, "Well, I'll take it." [laughs] I had no other course.

So, I had been in the Methodist church about two or three months when the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, a block away, offered me $10 a Sunday. I told the Methodist church I would sing Sunday morning at my last service, and go down to the Presbyterian church Sunday night. So that Sunday morning that was supposed to be my last service at the Methodist church. E.B. Jenkins, the organist, said, "Will you stay here if I get you $10 here?" I said, "Yes, I would. I think." So he played no postlude, but went down in the audience/congregation, came back and said, "I've got your $10 a Sunday. Ms. George Gaulbert will put up the extra money for you." Ms. George Gaulbert did put up the extra money and when I would come back in the fall of the year to the seminary, she would have me out at her house on Third Avenue, send me down to the seminary every morning in aPierce Arrow with a chauffeur, and when I got ready to go to Italy she put up the money for me to go to Italy. I was at dinner at her house, I suppose, two Sundays out of the month pert near all the year. At that time--well, I sang for almost 20 years in Fourth Avenue Methodist Church as baritone soloist.

Walker: Even after you came to the faculty you continued?

Johnson: Oh, yes. I think I went over to Walnut Street in about 1941 or 2. When I left the Methodist church they gave me a solid sterling coffee set--so glad to get rid of me. But I've known five generations of the Gaulbert family.

Walker: You wrote in your book that Dr. Sampey and Dr. Robertson were great inspirers. Can you think of an example of what you meant by that statement?

Johnson: Well, of course, when the seminary was theseminary in those days, the only seminary in fact to people east of the Mississippi, and a professorship in the seminary was a high, VIP calling. All of everybody looked up to those professors. I remember Dr. Sampey had a beard when I came out here, and we were all scared to death of him. But when I was asked later by one of the young professors a good many years afterward if Dr. Sampey and Dr. Robertson could teach, my answer was that if they couldn't they had us all fooled. For that time, they could teach. But Dr. Sampey was one of my heroes. Dr. Robertson was a compiler of books. Mrs. Atilla Cox, one of the Gaulbert daughters, was teaching his book on Luke down in the Fourth Avenue Methodist Church to the women. She asked me, "Doesn't Dr. Robertson ever say anything on his own? Looks to me like he's just quoting someone else all the time."

[glitch in tape]

I was one of Dr. Mullins' proteges. I consider myself his protégé. He had me up to his house quite frequently to dinner. He had me playing golf with him several times. The only two times I ever saw him get mad was when we were playing golf and there was a foursome of women in front of us and they slowed us down. Dr. Mullins said, "I declare. These women ought not be allowed on the golf course." [laughs] And then in later days after he'd been affected by sickness, just before he died, he got mad at me one day and he said, "Why didn't you sing in chapel this morning?" I said, "Nobody asked me to." He said, "You don't have to be asked. Whenever we have a VIP here in chapel service, I want you to sing."

Walker: He expected you to know what he wanted.

Johnson: I think Dr. Mullins was right proud of me in those days.

Walker:You wrote in your book that you felt that Dr. Mullins has not received due credit as seminary president. What areas of his administration do you feel need to be further...?

Johnson: Well the fact that I had referenced to was that Dr. Mullins died; he was forgotten almost immediately. See the older faculty members, we got them every day or so. In chapel, we'd get Boyce, Broadus, Manly, and so on. We'd get them every day or so; get them from Dr. Sampey. But when Dr. Mullins died and Dr. Sampey became president, Dr. Sampey never mentioned Mullins, seldom mentioned Mullins, and I never understood why.

Walker: Was there some feeling of...?

Johnson: Well, Dr. Mullins was...Yes, there was feelings. Of course there was feelings between Dr. Mullins and Dr. McGlothlin. Two big men on the faculty. Dr. Mullins had a nickname of "Pope". This seminary was supposed to be run by the faculty after the University of Virginia. Dr. Broadus brought that style over. But as a matter of fact, Dr. Mullins ran the seminary. Dr. Carver said to me one day, "Dr. Mullins bough the beeches property out there without ever asking my opinion about it." Dr. Mullins was called "the Pope" and he went ahead and did what he wanted to do for the seminary. He was a forerunner of Dr. Fuller. The procedure was changed by the trustees when Dr. Fuller came in. I always...Dr. Mullins...Their was somebody teaching music and he quit school or something. It was a student that had a little music class. Dr. Mullins called me in. I was trained in voice; he knew that. And I was singing in the Methodist church by that time. He called me in and wanted to know if I would take over that music class. That was in January or February of the year I graduated. I graduated in '20, I believe. Yeah, 1920. Incidentally I started in winter and Dr. Dobbins came in the fall, so I was ahead of Dr. Dobbins. But Dr. Mullins said, "Will you take that over?" Then the elocution had been taught by Dr. Hall, pastor of the Presbyterian church here in town. He had died and Dr. Leavell had taught it for a year. He was not coming back because he was with the Sunday School Board. Dr. Mullins called me in and asked me, "If you will go...If you'll come back and teach speech--elocution it was in those days--and music, I'll send you to Boston to the school this summer." I said, "Okay."

Walker: That seemed to be a rather usual practice, to send new faculty members or new faculty members off for further study.

Johnson: Well, as far as that's concerned, Dr. Dobbins came in from the Sunday School Board one year. John Buchanan, Ellis Fuller, Walter Pope Binns went to Dr. Mullins and let him have it about Dr. Dobbins--said he didn't know anything but Sunday School Board stuff. So Dr. Mullins sent Dr. Dobbins to Columbia University the next year. That was one reason he went to the university because the boys complained so much.

Walker:You came back then after a summer at Boston.

Johnson: I went a summer up at Emerson School of Oratory and Expression and Voicethen came back and started teaching. I think Ellis Fuller, Walter Pope Binns and John Buchanan would be about all of my first class that I taught. One man, Dr. Estes, who pastored the old Church of Broadway later, told me one time when I had him up on the floor, says, "You don't know how to teach speech. I'm not getting anything out of this." I said, "Okay, man. You can go somewhere else and get it and I'll give you credit for it." That was early in the fall when he'd been pastor for fifteen years, been in pretty good size churches. He stayed in the class and I called on him regularly like that too. Came commencement time and he came to me and said, "You know, you're a gentleman. I acted like a jack ass. I'm sorry. You proved yourself to be a gentleman. You never mentioned it after that." He and I were some of the best friends we had at that time.

Walker: You had a rather distinct method of teaching. How did you develop this particular philosophy and approach to speech? The emphasis on muscle control and...

Johnson: I wasn't really teaching platform speech. My specialty was oral interpretation of the scriptures because I used to tell the boys I thought it is more important what God said than what they said about what God said. And its very easy to put Mary, Joseph, and the Babe all three in the manger. "and they came and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger." And its also easy to make, well... "He maketh me to lie, down in green pastures." That's bad. And also, "And Joseph went up to be taxed along with his espoused wife, being great with child." That puts Joseph in a bad position. But I also tried to develop a voice so they could hear them, and I have a good many men who said I've helped them out.

Walker: Well, so many of them have stories about your helping them to loosen up throat muscles and emphasizing the diaphragm and they talk about your hitting them in the stomach to loosen them up and this sort of thing.

Johnson: To tell you the truth, I don't know how I developed all of that. I studied in Italy for two summers with an old man, Luigi Luchezi, who had sung opera all over the world. He had sung with a Caruso and he was a bosa profundo and a heavy voice. I don't know how much I learned from him. I think I learned more when I began to teach than I learned otherwise. But I was known as a young promising singer here. I had two rich layman in the town. One said he wanted me to go to New York and study to make a musical career. As a matter of fact the second year that I came back from Italy, I auditioned for the concerts in New York City, and auditioned for the Lewison concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The list was narrowed down to two, and Nelson Eddie beat me out. He'd had a bit more experience than I'd had at that time anyway. I wouldn't have made a success of singing with the orchestra, I don't think. Well Nelson Eddie beat me out on that after it was narrowed to the two of us. But as to how I...I developed a lot of my technique I think by experimentation on men.

Walker: I did not mention this in your question. How did you meet your first wife, who was an opera singer?

Johnson: I met her in Italy.

Walker: And she had a career in opera as I understand.

Johnson: She had a successful career in radio and a small opera company; she never made the Met but her health broke down really before she made the Met.

Walker: What was her name by which she sang?

Johnson: Louise Bave. B-a-v-e. Louise Bave (bav) in this country, but to put the accent on it like in Italy, Bave (bah-vay). When I was in Italy, I lived in Florence, studied in Florence part of one summer and right across the street from Toscanini and...I forget the opera composer's name now. I studied Italian, though, with the granddaughter of...some big opera writer. Another evidence of my senility I can't think of those names back there. [laughs] Cila Verasi--I said it in Italian--Cila Verasi who sister Jilda Verasi had just toured the United States as an actress and I had heard Jilda Verasi in the Brown Theater here in Richmond before I went over. The first time I went over to Italy, I went over on a boat. I stopped over a night in New York City; five dollars a night in the McCalpin Hotel and went over by myself. I had to be by myself, and there was a group of young college people under the auspices of Canada University of Art professor going aboard. The Chief Justice Hugh's daughter, Catherine, was in the crowd and the daughter of the chancellor of Vanderbilt University was in the crowd. The daughter of the chancellor of Vanderbilt University was in the crowd and I had mutual friends. So we became quite friendly. They got off at Naples and I went on to Genoa where John Sample, who was over there, met me and I studied for the summer with the same teacher that John Sample was studying with.

Walker:You taught for a number of years before being named to the faculty in 1938. What was the rationale for waiting?

Johnson: I guess I didn't make any advance or anything. Dr. Mullins was going to put me on the faculty just before he died and he never got around to it. And then one day way late Dr. Dobbins said to Dr. Sampey, we ought to put Professor Johnson on the full faculty. Dr. Sampey said, "I thought he was on the faculty." Dr. Dobbins said, "No. He's not on the faculty." He said, "That's right. He doesn't come to the faculty meetings, does he?" Dr. Sampey told me, "You know I thought you were on the faculty the whole time." Incidentally, Ellis [...] and I are the only men to ever make full professor without having an earned doctorate degree. When I got an honorary doctorate degree, that was harder to get than an earned one I think--took longer.

Walker: Much is made of the first triumvirate of Boyce, Broadus, and Manly and the second triumvirate of Robertson, Sampey and Carver. How did Mullins relate to this second three of Robertson, Sampey, and Carver?

Johnson: As I say, they all called him "Pope." They went along with him; they were friendly. Any executive has to stand off. That happened with Duke all along. When Fuller came up here, he told them one day, "You know they don't love me here like they did down in Atlanta at the church." Any executive is off by himself.

Walker: It would appear than Mullins might have been closer to Robertson and Sampey than to Carver. Do you feel this was true?

Johnson: It may have been. I'm not sure. Dr. Carver had a pretty bad temper. He didn't mind arguing with you, so Dr. Carver and Dr. Sampey were having an argument in a faculty meeting one day. I think that's recorded though in Parsons and Profs.

Walker: Do you remember what the matter was over?

Johnson: No. I don't know what they were talking about, but Dr. Sampey just got red in the face--as red as an old gobbler's snout. And somebody pulled Dr. Carver's coat tails and said, "They're waiting to take you to the railroad station." So he had to leave before they came to a fist fight. Dr. Sampey saw them in the hall the next day and said, "You know, Dr. Carver's just a great Christian, great Christian. He got off a train up in Lexington and sent me a telegram of apology."

Walker: Was there some continuing type of controversy between Carver and Robertson?

Johnson: Not that I know of. I was in the homes of both of them a great deal, and I never sensed anything like that.

Walker: W. J. McGlothlin, Jr. spoke here on Founder's Day and he alluded to some problem that may have been related to his father's leaving the seminary.

Johnson: The problem was, I suppose, that McGlothlin's son...I was in Dr. McGlothlin's home for dinner a good deal, too. I knew the family. I knew that when he left, it was a matter of talk on the campus that it was a matter of friction between Dr. McGlothlin and Dr. Mullins. Dr. McGlothlin, by the way, was considered to be the best teacher on the faculty--history teacher. He wrote a book, and at that time there were 17 different Baptist groups in this country which he located, and now I think there are over 30.

Walker: When Mullins died, you say that Dr. Robertson and Dr. Sampey were both considered as possible successors.

Johnson: Let me go back here. When Dr. Mullins died, they asked me to sing at the funeral at old Broadway Church down town. It was one of the most difficult things I ever did because when...I almost choked. I forget what hymn I sang now, but I may think of it later. I almost choked up. I barely got through singing on it because, I say, Dr. Mullins had sent me to Italy and I was a protégé of his. Hal Tribble was also a protégé of Dr. Mullins--went into the theology.

Walker: Mullins influenced the faculty a great deal, then, because he brought you and he brought Dobbins. Tribble was a protégé of his.

Johnson: Kyle Yates was a protégé of Dr. Sampey's, of course, but he came on the faculty at the same time. Dr. Mullins was a great person, and a great man. He carried himself like an aristocrat. He was a good preacher.

Walker: You mentioned to me earlier that you consider that there have been three aristocrats here.

Johnson: Boyce, Mullins, and McCall. Some Virginians would say Broadus was, but....[laughs]

Walker: Do you want to comment on that further?

Johnson: No. I think he was very close to being an aristocrat, but he was an F.F.V., I guess.

Walker: You say in your book that Robertson though Sampey would make the best president. What was your opinion?

Johnson: I didn't have any opinion on that score because Dr. Robertson told it afterwards--I heard him tell it--that, no, I believe Dr. Sampey would tell it, that when the question came up, Dr. Robertson said, "Dr. Sampey, my friend, will be a better president than I will be."

Walker: Robertson and Sampey were fairly close?

Johnson: Oh yes. Very. As far as I know, they were very close.

Walker: You tell that Dr. Sampey, or you quote Dr. Sampey as having said that he had to hold the faculty down sometimes. What do you think he meant by that?

Johnson:Well, I suppose he was talking about when they did the scrapping in faculty meetings. That was quite frequent in those days. They'd get to arguing in a faculty meeting and he'd have to cool them off. But, Dr. Sampey told me one time, that was before I was on the faculty, too. He says, "You know, I've told this to every member of the faculty but one. Now I want to tell you about it." I don't remember what it was. But he said, "If I tell that one about it, it'll be all over the city of Louisville before tonight." [laughs] I knew who that one was.

Walker: You're not going to share that one?

Johnson: Kyle Yates.

Walker: You mentioned early in this interview that Dr. Mullins had instituted a more executive type of administration. When Sampey became president, did he go back to earlier form?

Johnson: He depended on the faculty more, I think, than Dr. Mullins did. He took the advice of the faculty--He asked the advice of the faculty more often.

Walker: Mueller, in his history of the seminary, quoted Dr. Carver as writing that Sampey had tried to limit responsibilities and functions of the president while increasing the responsibility and standing of the faculty.

Johnson: Dr. Sampey came back with more of the University of Virginia type where the faculty operated the institution. I think he shared his responsibility with the professors more that Dr. Mullins did. Dr. Mullins was a pope.

Walker: Did the faculty respond affirmatively to that?

Johnson: As far as I know. I think so, yes. Didn't always agree with him; he didn't always agree with them, but Dr. Sampey saved the seminary during the depression. The Citizen's Fidelity bank held the notes on the seminary, and they were going to call the notes. The seminary couldn't pay them. One of the men at Hilliard Company downtown told Dr. Sampey a way he thought he could borrow the money at a cheaper rate and pay off his debt. Dr. Sampey borrowed money from an insurance company in Newark, New Jersey, paid off Citizen's Fidelity, and they've been forever after sorry. But they were going to close down on us.

Walker: Citizen's Fidelity has been sorry since then?

Johnson: Yes, they've been sorry. Citizen's Fidelity was going to close down on the property downtown. They held the mortgage on the property downtown.

Walker: Mueller also cites Dobbins as having a good bit to do with the seminary surviving the depression. What was his role?

Johnson: I don't know. Dr. Dobbins was an interim, adjunct, interim president.

Walker: He was treasurer for a time.

Johnson: He had been treasurer for a long time. Acting treasurer. They had somebody in the office, of course, but he signed. He was officially the treasurer. I had forgotten that.

Walker: In 1930, Dr. Sampey found it necessary to reduce the faculty salaries. What was the general reaction to this?

Johnson: I think it was very good that they reduced it. They didn't reduce my salary, as I recall, because if they had, I'd have had to pay the seminary something. 'Cause I started first salary at the seminary was $800 a year. $100 a month for eight months. By the time that came along, though, I was making a little more than that.

Walker: Did the faculty have additional sources of income during the depression?

Johnson: Most of the faculty had country churches. Most of them did at that time. Although Dr. Sampey...Well, shortly after I was...or back in the early 1920s, Dr. Sampey was still pastor up in the country. Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and pastor up in the country up here. I went up to lead the singing in a revival meeting when he did his own preaching. I had a good time with him. He got me sick on eating ham; I couldn't keep up with him.

Walker: I read your story about his being able to eat ham and your questioning him about that.

Johnson: I don't want this soda; I want some more ham. [laughs]

Walker: Carver and the others all had churches as well?

Johnson: Carver had a church out in New Salem. The New Salem Church, by the way, is out of...They had Dr. Robertson one time. Dr. Robertson, Dr. Carver, Dr. Dobbins, Dr. Kyle Yates, and they've had good seminary students up until right recently. Doc Nelson, Wilford Tyler, Howard Spell, and had some good seminary students. It's a fine country church. My father was pastor of the Cox Creek Church which is about five or six miles distance.

Walker: When did you begin to feel that the seminary was coming out of its financial difficulties in the depression?

Johnson: I don't know that that had any effect on me. See, I was a...Dr. Sampey, Dr. Robertson, Dr. Carver all had the chair of missions, Old Testament, New Testament. Well I had the stool of speech, music and gymnasium, so I wasn't cognizant too much of what was going on in the direction of the seminary.

Walker: Did you continue to direct the gymnasium after you were teaching these courses?

Johnson: No.

Walker: You just went over there.

Johnson: Boys used to kid me about it, you know. They wanted to do doctorate work, major in gymnasium, and minor in music and speech. [laughs]

[side 2 of tape 11]

Walker: ....on March the 24th in room 250D.

Prof. , you were saying your first memory of coming to the seminary and Dr. Mullins' lecture.

Johnson: when I first came as a student, I came as a student in 1916, in the fall. Dr. Mullins in the opening address to the students, said, "Young men, having put your hand to the plough, don't look back." Dr. Mullins was a very aristocratic looking person. He wore a little goatee with a mustache. He used his handkerchief to wipe his lower lip. Well, the students were wiping their lower lips in those days, too. But that's how...Dr. Mullins was a pope; his nickname was Pope. The faculty called him Pope. The students--I don't know if they called it to his face, but [laughs] they called him Pope. And he did. The operation of the seminary had been, was supposed to be by the faculty after the custom of the University of Virginia. The faculty members were jealous of their rights, but Dr. Mullins ran the seminary and when the seminary was moved out to the beeches, he carried on the business all by himself. Because Dr. Carver told me one time that Dr. Mullins bought the beeches without ever inquiring of us what we thought about it. So that was...the faculty was a little jealous of Dr. Mullins. But Mullins saved Southern Baptist Convention, I think. I had some of his correspondence with Dr. Staley out in Oklahoma, and they carried on quite a lively debate over evolution and so on. And I must say that I had Dr. Mullins in my Biblical Theology and he was about as poor a teacher as I ever had. He'd say, "Mr. Johnson, will you give us A under section B under numeral 2." Or something like that. He didn't lecture. He'd quiz us, "If we left off yesterday at 2, where do we take up at 3? What is 3 we have?" And also in the last...

Walker: This was an outline of what?

Johnson: That was his book on Biblical theology. No, he wrote on systematic theology, didn't he?

Walker: The Christian Religion and its Doctrinal Expression

Johnson: That's what we had. But anyway, he'd say, "Take it up where you left off yesterday." And as a matter of fact when he would present at the convention, or getting ready to go to the convention, we had a quarter of two months, eight weeks, and he gave us only one month because he had to have the other month to get ready for the convention. My last, my senior year, when I had his Biblical Theology, I was out in revival meeting two weeks in Leeland, Mississippi with L.O. Leavell preaching and I got back and got called on once and had to answer unprepared because I'd just gotten off the train and come into his class. But I got by someway. I don't remember what mark he gave me. I remember that I was out in revival meeting in Senior Hebrew at the last of May and I had had and appendectomy in the fall and I had asked Dr. Sampey to give me all the exercises and so forth and so on to make it up in the fall--what I'd lost when I was in the hospital. When I came down to the end of the year, we got if we made ninety percent on our questioning, our daily class record, well we got out of the final examination. So in Hebrew, my last quarter in senior Hebrew, I made an eighty-nine and a half. I went to Dr. Sampey and he said, "well you didn't hand in one exercise last fall." I said, "I handed in everything you told me to hand in. It wouldn't do. He wouldn't give in on that half. I said, "Dr., I've made enough to pass the year anyway without taking the examination." He said, "Yes, you'll pass the course without taking the examination." So I think on my record I have about a 40 on my last year. I'd been out pert near all quarter in revival meetings. I wouldn't have, I probably couldn't have passed the exam any way. I did make a high mark on one Hebrew examination or Old Testament.

Walker: You mentioned that Dr. Mullins saved the convention in the evolution controversy. Do you remember anything about his involvement with the great discussion on the changing of representation in the convention?

Johnson: I had a paper I found. No, I didn't bring it over here. I had a paper that I sent to Duke on what's wrong with the Southern Baptist Convention. Sent it to Duke and sent it to Jimmy Allen. I haven't heard anything from Jimmy Allen; he didn't pay any attention to it. But I don't remember what it said in that. I don't remember reading it. And I don't recall...I was young in those days and having to make my living by private teaching, a lot of it. See they were paying me $800 a year.

Walker: And you had a number of private lessons?

Johnson: I made my living largely by private lessons in music. I was teaching music at that time.

Walker: Were these mostly seminary students or people from the community?

Johnson: Well, they were both. About 50/50 at that time. I think I was charging $2 probably for a lesson at that time.

Walker: Yesterday, March 23, I was in Little Rock and talking toW.T. Holland who said he took voice lessons from you. He was one of those private students?

Johnson: I had a world of them. I have a stack of letters so high that students have written me. Some of the students have written; some of their voices were good. One fellow told me "It certainly did do me a lot of good for my voice. I just had an operation on my throat." [laughs]

Walker: Dr. Sampey was quite involved in a number of ecumenical things and yet he was not very much interested in ecumenical activities, was he?

Johnson: I remember him talking about the meeting in Edinburghwhen he came home, wasn't it?

Walker: Yes.

Johnson: But I don't remember much about what he said. I know he was letting the dean have it over there, but...

Walker: He went to the conference on faith and order in Edinburg in 1937 and evidently was not too happy with what happened.

Johnson: That's right. I don't think they took cognizance of anything he thought they should've had.

Walker: What kind of discussion centered around the admission of religious education students in 1938 when this was first proposed here?

Johnson: Was that when the department of...?

Walker: No this was before they started having a department.

Johnson: I don't recall there was any opposition to it. Might've been. There usually is opposition to any change.

Walker: Your more immediate contemporaries were Hersey Davis, Frank Powell, Kyle Yates, McKee Adams, Harold Tribble, J.B. Weatherspoon and Gaines Dobbins

Johnson: and Edward McDowell

Walker: and Edward McDowell. Which one of these would you characterize as the leader of that group, or the most influential of that group?

Johnson: Hersey Davis.

Walker: He had the greatest influence on the students and the faculty?

Johnson: He had the greatest influence, I think, on the students. He was in my generation, that is--outside of Sampey, Robertson, Carver--Hersey Davis was one of the biggest minds I've ever run across anyway, one of the most photographic minds. Plus some creative thinking. But Hersey failed to write because he said he didn't want to get Southern Seminary in trouble because some of his views of the New Testament at that time would not have been accepted. But I was with Hersey Davis in a mountain preacher school down in Mars Hill College. He was teaching Hebrew to those mountain preachers. And one of the preachers said, "Dr. Davis, that's not true what you're saying, is it?" Doc said, "Look there it is. Read it right in Hebrew. It's right out of the text." He said, "That certainly does ruin a lot of my sermons." [laughs]

Walker: What about McKee Adams? Do you have any remembrances of him?

Johnson: McKee Adams. I believe he was a fellow when I was a student. He had a great lecture on Elijah. He showed Elijah going down the road, running from Jezebel with a long robe stuck out behind him. It was a great thing to go up and hear McKee Adams lecture on Elijah and Jezebel.

Walker: Frank Powell. Any particular reaction?

Johnson: Well, I was in Frank Powell's home a great deal. He loved to smoke a good cigar or two. Frank and Hersey Davis would not smoke on the campus, but they'd go to down to Andy Gump's restaurant down here every noon and get their cigarette smoking done. Frank ran into trouble with Dr. Sampey, of course which is a confrontation which is a long story that I could give something on it.

Walker: Do you want to tell us something about it?

Johnson: Well Dr. Sampey was one of the greatest Christians I've known. But some way in the very beginning he and Frank Powell got crossed up. Frank was one of these--I don't know how much church history you'd learn from Frank, but you'd learn a lot of other stuff. One of his expressions that he liked to tell--this is a Frank Powell--said he had a deacon when he was pastor out in Missouri, said he was as crooked as a tub of guts, and that's right crooked. But Dr. Sampey thought he couldn't teach. So he was trying to get Frank off the faculty, trying to fire him. And he confided in me a little bit one summer I was around, about the only professor around here or I wasn't a professor at that time I guess but I was on the campus. And one time I said, "Dr., Frank Powell's been here. He has tenure. If he couldn't teach he should've been told a long time ago. Why don't you tell him to do some better teaching?" He says, "An old dog can't learn new tricks." Of course, I've learned new tricks myself--old dog, it can be done. He finally got Frank out. He tried to get a moral charge on him, and John Buchanan and Walter Pope Binns went to Dr. Sampey, and this was involved also with Mr. Anderson from Knoxville who was chairman of the trustee board got John Buc and Walter in and told Dr. Sampey that he couldn't pull that moral charge in; they'd resist it. So he did not try to get a moral charge. He didn't have any basis for a moral charge I'm sure. It did involve some secretary who'd done some work for Frank. Dr. Sampey had the three W's, you know: wine, women, and war. Those were his subjects to preach ,and when his secretary was in his office, he left the door open. He wasn't going to be caught in his private office with a secretary. But after Frank Powell left the seminary, I used to take Dr. Sampey down to WHAS to broadcast the Sunday sermon once a month. Dr. Sampey was going to the Broadway Church, and he would talk to me about various things. He used to talk to me about Frank Powell. One day, I said to him, "Dr., don't let this become subjective with you." I said, "Keep this on an objective plane." That was the last time he talked to me about Frank Powell for a long time. One day, "I saw Dr. Powell the other day. Great Christian. Great man." [laughs] You see how we can change and forget things? So I used to tell my students, don't be too critical of your brethren because if you had your tail in the same split stick you might do the same thing.

We said Dr. Sampey would talk about wine, women, and war. Dr. Sampey was called on to head the committee to ordain the brother-in-law of Findley Gibson, pastor of Walnut Street. Dr. Sampey went down, had the committee, and ordained Findley Gibson's brother-in-law. Hansford Johnson, pastor of Broadway and L.O. Leavell, pastor of Deer Park were on the committee. Great furor in the Baptist paper: Great victory for Baptists--Methodist preacher converted to the Baptist Faith and Ordained by Dr. Sampey in Walnut Street Baptist Church. Well, about two weeks after that came out in the Texas Baptist paper, Dr. Sampey got a letter from a Methodist bishop down in Texas wanting to know if he knew why he'd been fired out of the Methodists. [laughs] So, Dr. Sampey said no he didn't know why he'd been fired. Well, the bishop said he'd been fired on account of a moral charge. Well that put Dr. Sampey right up in the top of the building. And he went down to Findley Gibson and said, "You gotta go down and get that license back. We got to take it away from him--the ordination papers." Gibson tried to resent him. My authority for this is Hansford Johnson, L.O. Level and Dr. Carver. He said, "Really, you could almost--Sampey held Findley Gibson's toes until you could almost smell the nails burning" He finally got the papers back, but Gibson then tried to get the church to ordain the man after that. Dr. Carver said Gibson almost lost the pastorate of the church, almost lost confidence of the church over that. They did not ordain him, but...

Walker: What about Harold Tribble? He was here and left.

Johnson: Harold came in...I believe Harold was in my class once. But he was from Virginia, or I believe he was a Florida boy, but he was educated at the University of Richmond. That's the reason I was so close to him. We were quite close the whole time he was here. He was Dr. Mullins' protégé and was highly respected here.

Walker:Dr. Sampey was the first and only president to voluntarily retire.

Johnson:He didn't exactly voluntarily retire. He retires [laughs], but he had some urging because I remember some of them talking about Dr. Sampey becoming senile. Dr. Sampey to me was a great Christian. He had his blindspot on Frank Powell, but he was a great Christian. I was in his home a great deal. When he married the second Mrs. Sampey, he took on a renewed life. It rejuvenated his life. He had a daughter who was a moral problem for him and she was out of the home They tried to bring her home sometimes, but she'd find her down-making; somebody digging a ditch on the street and she'd be making propositions to him. So on like that. She married a man she met in the dark of a movie theatre. He was half drunk. I think they went out and got married or something like that. Great sorrow to Dr. Sampey. He had tragedy in his life all the way. His wife was an invalid when I first came to the seminary. I never saw his first wife. But his second wife, Mrs. Sampey, who's still living in Birmingham was a beautiful person, beautiful person. She took care of Dr. Sampey.

I had a radio chorus at that time. We broadcast over WHAS for pert near twenty years. I'll give you some more on that story later, but Dr. Sampey gave us a dinner down at the Brown Hotel. I okayed the menu. After dinner, and I was assigned the check, when I signed the check--when I tasted the pie that came in, I looked at it a second time and tasted a second time, so when the waiter brought the check to me, I said, "What's the idea of giving these boys rum pie, these preacher boys, giving them rum pie?" He pulled the ticket out of his coat and said, "oh, no, not rum pie. That's fig pie." But I saw "rum" written on the card. So a few days later I was out at Dr. Sampey's home for dinner. I was sitting down by Mrs. Sampey. Dr. Sampey was up at the head of the table. As soon as grace was said, Mrs. Sampey leaned over to me and said, "What kind of pie was that we had at the dinner the other night?" Dr. Sampey hit the table with his fist and said, "I don't care what kind of pie it was. I don't care what kind of pie it was. It was good alright! It was good alright!" [laughs] Dr. Sampey was always talking a great deal about wine, women, and war. He'd talk about the rats in the beer keg, beer vats when you're making beer, but he always came back to that "Good alright! Good alright!" and then he had wine and his mother had wine when he was a child.

Walker: Fuller followed Sampey. How would you characterize your relationship with President Fuller?

Johnson: Pretty close. I was out with the widow of his grandson last night.

Walker: Of his son.

Johnson: The widow of his son last night. I was very close to the Fuller family because I went back to student days. I'm still very close to the Fuller family. As I say, the convention had great confidence in Fuller. McNeill Poteat made an address at the convention in St.Louis. McNeill had a wonderful mind. But he was president of Colgate Rochester at that time, Seminary. He made a speech and it was almost booed by the convention. The next day Ellis made the same speech and they just praised him to the sky, you know. It was a difference in the person. Almost the same thing on some social aspect of the gospel, you know. When McNeill--back then he was considered a heretic anyway by most southern Baptists. Most Southern Baptists had to have a heretic somewhere, had to have a whipping post.

Walker: How did it happen that the committee turned to Fuller at the time of his election?

Johnson: I'm not sure of that. He preached a sermon in, convention sermon, down in Texas where--I don't know if it was Dallas, Fort Worth or where. But, that may have turned the tables somewhat. Although there may have been a little politic-ing beforehand; I think there was considerable politic-ing beforehand.

Walker:I have heard the report the John Buchanan sought to have his friend who was president at William-Jewell.

Johnson: Walter Pope

Walker: Walter Pope-Binns elected as president of the seminary and that it came down to a decision between Binns and Fuller. Do you know?

Johnson:I don't know. I don't have any recollection because I didn't start going to conventions really until I became alumni secretary. By the way, I led the music at five southern Baptist Conventions and one American Baptist Convention.

Walker: How would you characterize the leadership of Fuller when he became President?

Johnson: Fuller came to raise money. He was a promoter and wanted to raise money, and he did raise some money for the seminary. But his background--Fuller never got his doctorate degree. I don't think he ever got his doctorate degree, earned degree. But he entered the program but I think he left without writing a thesis. He had a pretty good relationship in the city. He was characterized as a money-getter. With the faculty he was not too popular, as I told you. He told me he had to move in higher social circles than the faculty did.

Walker: And they resented this attitude that he had to move in higher social circles than they?

Johnson: He--well, you see, Fuller had a very poor background. He came out of a tenant farm--sharecropper or something like that---cotton down in South Carolina. You never heard Fuller talk about his father. Seldom you'd ever hear him talk about his mother. But once in a while he would mention his mother. But you'd never hear him talk about his father, although he had his father up here sometime after his mother died I think it was. He wasn't too proud of his background. He wasn't like some other people who would boast about it after they'd get out. "See what I've made of myself." Fuller had trouble with the faculty.

Walker: What seemed to be the source of this difficulty?

Johnson: Well, as I say, I think the trustees--I haven't read the minutes, but the idea was, and Fuller told me, the only way he would accept the presidency was he would run the seminary. He really thought he had the right to hire and fire professors. He really thought that was true, but he found out later that he didn't have that right. Really, the trouble that Duke inherited, McCall inherited, some of it arose way back in the Fuller era. Cause that was when the faculty wanted more voice in running the seminary. But the seminary was getting too big. It was becoming--You had to have an executive. Too big to be run by faculty.

Walker:As a worship leader on campus, and you were involved in the worship experiences during the time you were leading the singing, what do you feel were the major differences in the chapel emphases under each of the four presidents with whom you served?

Johnson: They were all about alike, as far as that's concerned. We had hymns, Scripture, and a sermonette or devotional talk or something like that. That is, a regular, every day service. Be a faculty member or a pastor in town--we used a good many of the pastors in town. As far as, there was only one man in the city of Louisville who could fill the seminary chapel. He was black. D.E. King. When it was known that he was going to do the chapel, and I mean the new chapel over--the big chapel, it'd be full when D.E. King was there. But the chapel did change--the atmosphere when it moved over--when the new chapel was built because in the old chapel the singing was magnificent with the boys in there. Duke McCall told me one time that he was a regular attender in that chapel. He heard all the speakers, but he doesn't remember a thing that any speaker says in chapel but he does remember the music--the singing of the boys. Somebody told me that since I've been here this time they remember the time when they had all men and no sopranos in it.

Walker: Were you involved in developing the plans for alumni chapel when it was built?

Johnson: No, no, no, I didn't have anything to do with it.

Walker: Charles McGlon came to the faculty during Fuller's administration and was brought into the area where you taught. What was your role in his coming?

Johnson: Well, my role in his coming wasn't so much as my role in his staying here. Charles came in with a scholastic degree in speech. All my work was more or less in interpretation, but Charles, really, his interest was in drama and stagecraft. And he put it out in his classes--told his students that I didn't know anything about teaching speech, didn't have any degrees in speech, anything like that. So I decided--and the boys would come and tell me--I decided that if anybody was going to hang Charles McGlon, that he was going to hang himself because I wasn't going to make any reply to it. Went on about my business. I don't know how long he continued doing that. But one day when I was broadcasting Sunday morning service with Dr. Fuller, Dr. Fuller said to me, he said, "Who can you get to take Charles McGlon's place?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I'm firing him." I said, "You can't do that. Too late in the year. He's got tenure." He said, "but I'm firing him." I said, "You can't do it." So, I went to bat for Charles McGlon, and I really saved his job for him.

Walker: Why did Fuller plan to fire him?

Johnson: Well, he--Some student had written his father, who was on the board of trustees, that McGlon wasn't doing his job and he was a mean teacher. McGlon had a temper; he'd lose his temper with them. The boy thought he'd gotten a dirty trick done to him and I don't know what it was. But that was Fuller's idea. So McGlon was Fuller's fair-haired boy until he began to find out some of the attitudes that were going on.

Walker:Fuller was instrumental in bringing him?

Johnson: Fuller got him, yes. Somebody recommended him. He was down in Nashville. He was at Woodmont Church and I believe Alan West made the first recommendation.

Walker:You were teaching in that department, but you were not involved in the decision to bring him?

Johnson: No, I wasn't involved in the decision. He came up here. I didn't make any decision either coming or going. The students were--Charles was highly jealous. Instead of dividing a division of the classes and going a whole year, he wanted to get at every student, so I did them two quarters and then he'd have them one--the same classes. As far as that's concerned, when they had the choice of what professor they would take, there was a line up in Norton Hall at four o'clock in the morning over here to get in my classes. But I'll tell you this--going on a little further--Charles--We were at dinner over at Presbyterian Seminary one night, and Charles was telling me that he had a heart condition. And I said, "Are you going up to the American Convention in Philadelphia? My brother is an open-heart surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, a professor." I said, "Why don't you let him check you while you're up there?" So he did. He went over to my brother for a check. Julian said, "You've got to have surgery right away." Charles said, "Can I go home and come back?" He said, "You can go home, but if you go home you better have somebody go with you. We don't think you're going to get home." So they did open heart surgery on him. My brother did. After that, Charles couldn't do enough for me. Even after I retired and moved to Virginia, every anniversary of his operation, Charles called me over the telephone and thanked me for having sent him to Philadelphia. We can change you know. Don't be too critical of your brethren. If you've got your tail in the same split stick...

Walker: What was your role in the development of the school of church music?

Johnson: Well, I don't know but what I was against it to begin with. Fuller wanted to develop church music. There was quite a controversy in the theological faculty. I can remember when Hersey Davis objected to it very strongly in the theological faculty, but Fuller said, "It won't cost the theological faculty any money. It won't cost the seminary any money. I'll raise it outside of the seminary income." Of course it did not happen. Fuller was expecting me to be dean of a music school, but I had better sense than to take that job because I wasn't musician enough to do it. In the second place, I wasn't an administrator and I knew I'd be a failure over there. So I stayed with the theological department, like Sid Stealey when Sid went to be President of Southeastern, to start the seminary. He asked me, "would you go down to Southeastern with me and set up a department? You'd be a fool if you do." I said, "I know I'd be a fool and I'm not going." [laughs]

Walker: What was the relationship after the establishment of the School of Church Music with the music, between the School of Church Music and music classes for the theology students?

Johnson: Well, my music classes finally faded out. I taught in the Music School for two or three years, taught voice over there two or three years, until the Winters came in you know. At that same time I was teaching in the Presbyterian Seminary and teaching music over there and it was too much for me. I don't remember. All I did in the music classes over here was try to give them enough music to enable them to direct congregational singing and I tried to teach them to choose hymns with a psychological basis for the service. I never got that across, seldom did, but I still get bulletins from a good many big churches. Even the music school now doesn't teach the men how to choose hymns for the service. They'll start out and have a devotional hymn first and then sing Onward Christian Soldiersright before the sermon. Which reminds me--I didn't record about Alistair Walker, did I?

Walker: No

Johnson: Well, I noted it, I have a record of about ten years when I led the singing of 93 revivals. I was up in Scottsburg, Indiana with Alistair Walker who was a student pastor. On the way home on the final night I was riding with him. He said, "You know I never had a meeting with a revival singer like you." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I always when I start to preach I always crack a few jokes to get the congregation loosened up and relaxed a little. But," he said, "when you get through leading the music I don't feel like joking. I feel like preaching." So that's what I try to do in a revival meeting. Very many of them though--the preacher would keep on joking and just sometimes I would just quit trying to get them into a devotional atmosphere. [laughs] But likeJ.D. Gray. I was in a revival meeting in Amarillo, Texas with Carl Bates as pastor and J.D. Gray preaching. After the service, J.D. would say to me, "What happened to the service tonight?" Well, he was a VIP and I was just a revival song leader so I didn't have nerve enough to tell him. He'd start preaching and then start wisecracking and just lose his audience. Incidentally in that meeting one night, I asked Carl to sing a solo. Carl Bates had been my assistant here in the seminary when he was a student. His wife, Myra, was sitting up in the balcony and when Carl got up to sing, or I announced that Carl was going to sing a solo, she got up and walked out.

Walker: [laughs] Do you still make the same comments about Love Lifted Me that you used to when I was a student here?

Johnson: Oh, me. At first I don't remember Love Lifted Me, but it got them up alright. The first time I ever heard Love Lifted Mewas in a student volunteer convention. I.T. Reynolds leading the music. It was in Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville. Well, you know, Iused to think I was pretty smart back in those days. I remember I. T. Reynolds and E. O. Sellars and we would talk about good hymns, good music in the church. Bob Coleman was putting out a little different kind than what we thought was good, you know. [laughs] And the Stamps brothers and all that kind, you know. I learned better than that. Pageant who was executive secretary of Baptists in North Carolina asked me to come down to Mars Hill to the mountain preachers' conference and do a class on speech and also a class on music. He said, "I had Sellars down some years back and he told the boys they had terrible music, singing terrible music. The boys down there told me not to have anymore music men." [laughs] He said, "That's been several years back. I think you can handle it." I got down there and the first day I didn't have but two or three in the music class. Well, I told them--The speech class was pretty full, but I told the two or three in the music class that day. I said, "Now I understand that, I don't know what you think is good music. Any music in the church which will add to the inspiration of the service and develop a religious background for people and give them some motivation. Any kind of music that does that in the church is good church music." I said, "You don't have to have Bach. You don't have to have [...]. It depends on who's singing, what they can comprehend." It wasn't long before they were coming up and putting an arm around my shoulder and saying, "Can you help us improve our church music?" I said, "Why I don't know what kind of church music you have." I says, "Let me see a song book, the hymn book that you use." They didn't have any, so they went out in the country and got a hymn book that they were using, and the only song I knew in the thing was--oh, shoot, I forget now. But there was only one song in the book that I knew. We got up in the social hall one night after the service. I said, "Let's hear you boys sing that song." He's the Lily of the Valley--that was the hymn. So, I said, "Let's hear you boys sing it." So they started, "He's the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star" [singing quickly] And they had the beat to it. I said, "Let me sing it for you." "He's the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star." [singing melodically] They're eyes popped open and they said, "We've never heard it sung like that." I think they happened over here at chapel yesterday. [laughs] I never heard Man of Sorrows sung like that. You weren't here yesterday.

Walker: No. I had to be in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Johnson: The choir was singing Man of Sorrows. "Man of sorrows what a name for the Son of God who came." [singing quickly and clapping time] When Fuller came to the seminary, he'd never heard that song. He heard me lead in chapel one day, and every time we had a VIP speak in chapel, Fuller wanted that song sung. "Man of Sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah. What a Savior."[slowly, melodically] Now Fuller wanted that sung at his funeral, and it was sung at his funeral, but it wasn't sung that way. It was sung just straight away. A great many pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention remember that song because I led it in chapel.

Walker: I remembered that it was Fuller's favorite hymn and that it was sung at his funeral.

Johnson: Yeah. But it was sung straight away at his funeral. My--you don't know where I got my training or anything--my interpretation of hymns comes from my study of interpretation of English literature, cause the hymn is the hymn--the English, not the music. The music is there only to reinforce the hymn.

[end of side 2, cassette 11]

Walker: your music class, that you always emphasized the importance of the words of the hymn.

Johnson: You need to accent the words just like you accent the words in English, in speech. We always sing, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.." That song, you know. Or the sing song, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound..." [going up on the end of each word}Like my grandfather sang it sitting in that split hickory chair down in west Tennessee. It can be done with a big audience too, because you can direct a congregation just like you do a choir. The choir was pretty stiff yesterday. They were--I didn't get much out of them.

Walker: Do you direct the singing at your church where you're interim pastor?

Johnson: Don't have anything to do with it.

Walker: You're just the preacher over there.

Johnson: I'm the preacher. We had for a long time a woman who taught music in the public schools who doesn't know any music, but she taught music in the public schools and she's not a member of that church. She's a member of the church down the road but she comes visits all the time and I have a hard time getting along without her. I got this new Baptist hymnal which came out just recently. I got that for the choir, hoping they'd sing some of the better new things, you know--and the first thing they sang was In the Garden [laughs] and the next thing they sang was Heavenly Sunlight[singing, laughs] I tell you this, I didn't say yesterday. Since we got the Baptist hymnal in 1970, and Ephesus Baptist Church, Dunsville, Virginia, on route 17 in Essex county has sung 291 hymns, 291 different hymns since 1970. We sang three a Sunday.

Walker: You keep a record of it?

Johnson: I keep a record of it. That's a remarkable number of hymns to be sung because I've asked the preachers, "How many different hymns do you sing in your church during the year?" I remember one fellow told me, "Oh, about 150." I said, "Let's sit down with the hymnal and pick them out." He got 30. They sing the same old things over and over. I was in Virginia the other day, and we went to a neighboring church. It was just 23 miles for me. I went to a neighboring church and the atmosphere was just as different as could be. They got up and sang the light, jingly gospel songs in the worship service. Ephesus has gotten to be a pretty high church, I guess since I've been over there. That 291 doesn't account for the different hymns we sing in Sunday School.

Walker: You seem to have an unusually good relationship with the president Duke McCall. What are the sources of this relationship?

Johnson: I knew Duke as a student. His mother's from northeast Mississippi, so is mine. Duke when he was a student, came to me one day and said, "Prof, can you help me?" I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "I can't preach two sermons on Sunday. Sunday night my throat just closes up on me. I can't talk." I worked with Duke for three years on his voice, private lessons. During that time he came to me, and Duke was not a good vocal student because he can't carry a tune; he's difficult to listen to. Duke was a good student when it came to interpretation because I listened to him yesterday as he read the Scripture; he knows how to publicly read the Scriptures. He talked to me yesterday, by the way, and said he was very grateful for that instruction. But he came over one day and said, "Prof, what would you do? The Broadway church wants to call me." This was when he was a doctoral student, about to graduate. I said, "Well, Duke, I'd take it because Broadway church is in such condition that if you don't do anything with it, it won't hurt you. And if you do anything with it, it will be all to your glory." So Duke took it. I asked Dr. Sampey one time, shortly after Duke was down there, "Dr. Sampey, how is Duke getting along?" He said, "He's just wonderful. Getting along just wonderful. I like him. He always confesses his sin in his prayers."

Walker: What was the condition of Broadway church at that time?

Johnson: Broadway was a downtown church and on the way out almost. I was a member of a Broadway from 1917 until I went over to the great community at Walnut Street, and then I went back to Broadway when I quit that. It had been a--Broadway was an aristocratic family church in Louisville, you know. The Norton family, particularly. The Nortons were about gone and the congregation had dwindled. The city was encroaching on it, and shortly after Duke left we moved out here. On the next pastor we moved out here; it moved out on Brownsboro Road.

Walker: Did you advise him on his moving from Broadway to New Orleans?

Johnson: No. I don't remember that particularly. I remember when it happened and a great deal of fuss in some areas about such a young man going to New Orleans. But I perceived in Duke a power which a lot of people didn't perceive. Duke had given his time. Duke has a bearing in the walk sometimes that people resent a little bit. I like it there. We were in a meeting together with a McGinnis in Cedartown, Georgia in 1940, late 1940s--whenever Southeastern seminary was about to be established. Duke and I played golf two evenings during the week. Other evenings, afternoons rather, he sat in my motel room talking about whether or not he ought to go to Southeastern as president. I reminded him of this yesterday. He said, "Well I haven't thought about it in a long time but he says I distinctly remember you telling me that 'I didn't want you to go down there because Southern Seminary was going to need a president before long and I wanted you to come to Southern Seminary.'" Well, he did not go to Southern Seminary.

Walker: Southeastern

Johnson: Southeastern. He did not go to Southeastern. So, that was in May, I believe. May or June. In the fall, Ellis Fuller died. Dr. Dobbins took over as acting president. The next spring Berquist was...Was it Millard Berquist was at....?

Walker: at Midwestern Seminary

Johnson: Yes. He was then in Tampa, Florida. Millard Berquist called me on a Sunday afternoon, called me at home. He said, "Prof., you going to be home this afternoon?" I said, "Yes. I'm here." He said, "I'm on my way home from a convention in San Francisco, and I want to come by to see you." When he left, he had not uttered the name of Duke McCall, but when he left I said to Elizabeth, "Duke McCall is going to be the next president of the seminary." So when I heard that the trustees were meeting, called meeting of the trustees, I called Duke in Nashville. I said, "Duke, this is Prof." He said, "Who?" I said, "Prof." He said, "Oh. I was looking for a call from somebody down at the board." I said, "When you come up to Louisville the next day or two, bring Marguerite and spend the night with us." He said, "Uh-uh-uh...well, Prof I'm glad you called. I talked to Dr. Dobbins the other day and I didn't say a word to him of this because the trustees have asked me to be President of Southern. I'm glad you called. What kind of a President do you all want?" I said, "Well, we don't want a promoter. I think we want a man who will develop a seminary from the inside. The curriculum and so forth." He said, "I'd like to try that. Will you get the faculty together so I can talk to them? I want to get the faculty together and see how they react to me?" Well, I saw Weatherspoon on the campus before he came up. I told him, "Duke's going to be the next president." He said, "They better leave him down in Nashville." I said, "Well, he's going to be the next President." There weren't many professors on the campus, but I got the professors together and Duke came up to talk to us. He came out--he did not bring Marguerite with him but he spent the night with me. He kept me up until 2:00 at night talking about it and then had to take a sleeping pill to go to sleep.

Walker: He took the sleeping pill?

Johnson: He took the sleeping pill, yeah. I didn't take it; I was dead sleepy [laughs] before he quit. That's some of the...

Walker:What sort of reaction did he get from the faculty when he met with them?

Johnson: It was alright. It was good.

Walker: You haven't mentioned much about Weatherspoon. This is the first time his name has come up.

Johnson: Weatherspoon was a great friend of mine, but he wasn't a friend of Duke's.

Walker: How do you interpret the confrontation of McCall and the faculty in the late 50s?

Johnson: Well, I--that rolls out of the same struggle that Fuller had, really. The group, I think wanted to make a university type of theological school. They were almost willing to pull it away from the convention or to make a divinity school out of it.

Walker: Who led that aspect of being willing to pull it away from the convention?

Johnson: Well, I tell you. All but one of those boys have been in my classes, and I asked Henry Turlington one day, I said, "Henry, what's going on around here?" He said, "Oh, Prof, wouldn't anybody talk to you about this thing." [laughs] He said, "We know where you stand. Wouldn't anybody talk to you about it." Ranson was one of the ring leaders, I think. He got Theron Price involved. Theron was one of the super minds I've known, I think. He had a wonderful mind, and he used to come down to my office and sit and talk about himself and about his desires, what his aims and purposes were. I thought Theron was getting religion. But it wasn't long after that that he called me a liar. I didn't disagree with him too much. [laughs] But I hadn't lied to him. The boy got pretty hot. Incidentally, one of them was Tom Hall who was in his first year of Southwestern, but I guess he had just been here one year when the thing broke. He got mixed up with that group and they procilated him. I can remember right where we stood when I told Tom, I said, "Tom, you don't have any business in this group. You don't know what's going on. You've been here a year. You don't know where your loyalties ought to be. Have no idea." But he stayed with them and got fired and he's in Richmond, Virginia now. I've seen him several times. He told me he wished, he should've taken my advice. He didn't know what was going on. But Tom's got an important job now on the faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He's a big boy over there, a good man. Last time I saw him he was at the garden party of the Virginia historical society, had a hot ball in his hand. Said, "Where can I get a soft drink for my wife?" [laughs]

Walker: What do you think was the ultimate result of that particular blow up?

Johnson: Well, the ultimate result was that the seminary is in pretty good shape. No, I tell you, I taught all those boys. I had high regards for most of them. The faculty wouldn't talk to me about it. That showed their relationship to me. I met a good many of them since. I've been in Bill Lumpkin's church or spoke in Bill Lumpkin's church. I went to hear Theron Price in Urbana, Virginia in a revival meeting one time and Theron didn't see me until after the service. He insisted that I go out with him to a member's home and have dessert. When I left that member's home, he hung on to my car. I thought I was going to take him with me when I pulled away. I've had some very nice letters from him. Hugh Wamble was pretty nasty around that time. But when I saw him at the convention at Miami Beach, he hollered at me, "Hi, Prof!" And was just all over me like nothing had ever happened. You know, a fellow can get converted. He can see things in another light at times.

Walker: What convinced you to become the alumni secretary?

Johnson: I didn't have to be convinced. Well, I remember Dr. McCall came out to my studio office one day and said, "What about so-and-so as alumni secretary?" I said, "I don't believe he'd make a good man." He said, "I'm glad to hear you say that. I'm going to appoint you." [laughs] So that's about the way I got on to be alumni secretary.

Walker: Did you continue to teach classes?

Johnson: Oh yes. I taught my classes all the time. The only difference was I had a secretary.

Walker: How old were you when you retired?

Johnson: Sixty--No, I was seventy. Retired in '65, yet I was 70.

Walker: Why did you decide...

Johnson: I had two or three retirements. I retired as alumni secretary and I retired as something else. I must have been director of gymnasium, but they accused me of having three different retirements and I don't remember what the three were. I hated that--I talked to Duke yesterday. For myself, I had a delightful career at the seminary. I started off just a little wheel, didn't have much steam. I closed out my career at the seminary; it was very satisfactory. I started slow and came on fast. I've seen so many boys, glamour preacher boys come to the seminary and then begin to peter out when they got a little older. Leave the seminary and never grow. I was very grateful for the reaction that my retirement had among the students. I don't want to talk about myself. They took up a collection among the alumni, at a dollar a piece, to buy me a tractor. They thought I'd go to farming. [laughs] I still have a list of those men and what they contributed. Some of the contributed ten, fifteen dollars. Most of them just one dollar's all they had. [laughs] I think it was about $1800 they gave me up in the convention in Atlantic City. I bought a Sears Roebuck six horsepower mower, and a 14 foot aluminum boat, and a six horsepower Johnson outboard motor. I plowed a river or two.

Walker: As you look back over your career with the seminary, there're several general impressions I'd like to record. How would you characterize the manner of dealing with civil rights and race relations at Southern Seminary during the years of your association?

Johnson: Kentucky had what they call a Daylaw, that no black person can be taught in a white school. I broke the law, we broke the law out here. The professors used to take black students in their offices and give them a course. But I took Garland Offutt, had him in my class. He later pastored down here in Chestnut Street Baptist Church I believe. I think he's dead now. But I had Garland, I took him in my class when it was really illegal. So the civil rights didn't bother us. The fact is that we would have liked to have more black students, but we couldn't get them. Of course when Martin Luther King, Jr. came up we had a lot of ruckus on that. Dothan, Alabama cut off the money, contributions to the seminary. One of the deacons down there, younger deacons, called me and said, "What about this man Martin Luther King, Jr.?" I said, "Yes. What about him?" He said, "Well I want to know what about him. What kind of man is he?" I said, "I think he's a Christian. The first time I heard him he was preaching at the American Baptist Convention in Philadelphia . He'd just gotten his doctorate. When I heard him, I said now there's a preacher. Have you read any of his books?" He didn't know he'd written a book. I said, "Well get some of his books and read them. He's a Christian." That young deacon took up some Martin Luther King after that conversation with me. He couldn't do anything against the headline, old timers down there, though. That young man had a cousin, girl, who was in the religious education school here at that time. She put him on to me. We haven't had much trouble with civil rights. Except I did hear Fuller say one time that they were going to have to have another nigger killing somewhere.

Walker: What doctrinal controversies stand out in your memory as having most affected the seminary and its faculty?

Johnson: Well, about the only big doctrinal was the evolution theory back when Dr. Mullins was here. I have some papers on that controversy somewhere. I don't know where they are now.

Walker: With the growth of the student body and our overlapping into the community, there'd been some community reaction to the presence of the seminary here. Do you remember what the reaction of the community was when they moved to this campus?

Johnson: Mrs. Speed who lived across here in a magnificent house, magnificent grounds, pink and white dogwoods on the drive up to the house. Mrs. Speed objected to the bells--the clock striking and the bells. But she used to walk over to the campus pert near every day, take a walk over the campus and I think we stopped the bells for a little while. I'm not sure. Maybe we didn't, but she finally got used to them. Of course Fuller tried to get money out of her and I think he antagonized her a little bit pushing her. Duke never was able to do anything on that score either. They were a very rich family.

Walker: There was a carillon given to the chapel. Do you remember the carillon?

Johnson: Over here. Who gave it?

Walker:I don't have that information.

Johnson: I remember something about it, yes. I remember when the chapel was dedicated, I mean the cornerstone was laid and I remember when the cornerstone was laid in Norton Hall--laid in this building. I led the singing out here. I had a picture up somewhere.

Walker: Do you see any lines of influence which reach to the various levels of the faculty that have been there from the time of your student days down to present?

Johnson: My remarks yesterday in chapel when I opened with, "God is. God is love. That's my text. Remember it. We may not come back to it, like Dr. Robertson used to say." One generation goeth and another generation cometh and there is no remembrance of the former generation by those who come after. That's about the influence on this present faculty, of influence of the other faculty. One of those thirteen dissident brethren asked me one time, "Could Dr. Roberson and Dr. Sampey teach?" I said, "Well, if they couldn't they had a lot of us fooled." [laughs] Of course looking back on it now, they did not have too good teaching methods. It was recitation. Can you answer this? Do you remember that and so on. They didn't get us to thinking; we just had to answer questions.

Walker: As you think back over your career, what would be the kind of memories that you have about Southern Seminary that you wish could be conveyed to this generation?

Johnson: Well, I don't know. I might have to think about that some time. I've seen Presidents Mullins, Sampey, Fuller, McCall, and the interim of Dr. Dobbins. I had a man, a student come up here to the library doing research work from New Orleans one time, and he said, "Do the students go down in the marketplace and preach and sing still like we do in New Orleans?" I said, "I think that they still do. I'm not sure." He said, "We go down. We preach and sing to the poor people." I said, "Well, we used to do that. We'd all take time to preach and sing to the rich people. We try to prepare boys to speak to a cross section of humanity and culture." And you know, seminary students in the past have come from more of less the lower level of society; not the low level, the bottom of the middle bracket--from farmers and from farms and from trade homes. They haven't come from the culture of the rich homes, in general. A great many of the boys, when they get into the presence of a rich man, they become inhibited. I had a deacon, a rich deacon tell me one time--I was out in a revival meeting, "You know my pastor never talked to me about anything but money. He never talked to me about spiritual things" so the boy had an inhibition about talking about spiritual things. But we're getting a little bit more affluent, a little higher culture in this seminary now, don't you think? I think so. But as to the influence, this has been the intellectual basis, the intellectual seminary. As a Southwestern boy said one time; well this is an old cliché--Somebody asked Dr. Sampey, "Why don't you teach missions out there like Dr.--what was the President's name down there, the first one?

Walker: Scarborough

Johnson: Scarborough. "Why don't you teach missions like Dr. Scarborough?" Dr. Sampey said, "Well, Dr. Scarborough learned his missions here at Southern Seminary." I've always considered Southern the top bracket, stable, levelheaded, scholarly, missionary seminary. Because Dr. Carver occupied the first chair of missions in any seminary, but he was a great missionary spirit. Southern Seminary has always been missionary but it hasn't been--it's been a stable missionary spirit. Neither conservative nor liberal. It's been down the middle of the road. Head up and tail on the dashboard, as Dr. Sampey used to say. I asked a student this morning, I said, "Do you know what a hamestring is? H-a-m-e?" "No, never heard of it." Dr. Sampey used to say, "Going head up and tail on the dashboard."

Walker: Which faculty member over the course of your association with the seminary seems to have had the greatest influence here?

Johnson: Influence here?

Walker: Yes.

Johnson: Not on me but influence here at the seminary. Oh I don't know about that. I take them as they come.

Walker: Which one has had the greatest influence on you?

Johnson: I suspect Dr. Sampey and Dr. Carver have been pretty well....Dr. Carver put his hands on my head when I was just a little child and said, "I want you to be a preacher." He and my father were great friends. They had neighboring pastorates. But I was in Dr. Carver's home a great deal. I was in Dr. Sampey's home after his first wife died. I was in it a great deal. I sang at his daughter's wedding, no not his daughter's wedding. I sang at Dr. Robertson's daughter's wedding. Those two when I was coming up had more effect. Dr. Carver came to me one day and said, "What do you think about putting Ed McDowell on the faculty?" I said, "Well that's a good idea." "Well," he says, "I'll take your word for it." So Ed McDowell came on the faculty. Had a little trouble getting me on the faculty. When the question came up, Hersey Davis--through Hersey I knew what was going on. He was the leak in the faculty. [laughs] There were a couple of the men on the faculty that objected to my coming onto the faculty. So Dr. Sampey asked Hersey Davis one day, "What's Kyle Yates got against Inman?" Hersey said, "He knows too much about him. That's all." Dr. Weatherspoon raised a little objection the first time. Of course I didn't amount to much around here in those days." I was elected over in Richmond, and the question came up in the board of trustees in the morning session. And when my name came up, somebody objected, and one of my good friends.

Walker: a faculty member?

Johnson: No, not a faculty member. A trustee. I'll think of his name directly. I've been to meeting with him since. Goerner was passed in the morning; he got passed in the morning.

Walker:That's Cornell Goerner?

Johnson: Cornell Goerner, yes. My name was continued to the afternoon and Hersey Davis took me to lunch and he said, "I don't know whether it's going through or not." But it did go through that afternoon. I came on the board as associate, not as an assistant professor.

Walker: If you had not been elected to the faculty after having served, would you have just continued in the position?

Johnson: I probably would. I probably wouldn't have had any more sense than to do that. No, I tell you. I had a great love for the seminary and I had a great respect for what I was trying to do. I probably would have stayed on as an instructor.

Walker: Is there any one faculty member with whom you had greater friction?

Johnson: Friction?

Walker: Yes.

Johnson: As far as I know, I never had any friction. Dr. Weatherspoon and Kyle Yates when they raised question about my being on the faculty probably had justification for raising the question.

Walker: You've gotten along well with your colleagues through the years?

Johnson: I have, yes. In the later years, I was particularly--Of course Dr. Davis was a freshman in Richmond College when I, I mean he was a M. A. student when I was a freshman. So I knew him when I was in college and then knew him over here. I used to go to Nag's Head with him in the summertime and so forth like that. He was my friend. Sid Stealy, Ed McDowell, we three were mighty close. One--I ought not tell all these things--But one night I remember down at Sid Stealy's, Ellis Fuller was down there. And Ellis Fuller said something. He said, "You know I never asked my deacons to raise my salary or anything like that. I never made a request for money." Old Sid says, "I doubt that." It wasn't long before Ellis left. [laughs] Old Sid could be pretty pointed.

Walker:Well, I appreciate you taking this time to discuss the seminary.

Johnson:I'm going to write some of these things down when I get going on them.

Walker: I hope you will.

Johnson: Yes sir.