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10/23/97 Harold Graves dead at 85; led Golden Gate 25 years

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Harold K. Graves, former president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif., died Oct. 21 at Marin (County) General Hospital after a prolonged battle with heart difficulties. He was 85.
Graves served as president of the seminary for a quarter century, from 1952 until retirement in 1977. He guided construction of the 130-acre campus in Mill Valley, moving the seminary from a single building in Berkeley, Calif.
The title of president emeritus was conferred upon Graves by the seminary’s board of trustees shortly before his retirement.
“As we seek to shape effective Christian leaders for the churches of tomorrow, I hope we will always instill within our students the kind of character and vision evident in the life of Dr. Graves,” said William O. Crews, current president of Golden Gate Seminary. “This is a great loss for the seminary, for our community and for the convention we serve. He was a dear friend and a Christian gentleman in all he did to serve our Lord faithfully.”
Besides his leadership role at the seminary, Graves was active in community affairs, serving with Rotary International, Marin General Hospital, the Marin Council of Boy Scouts, the Commonwealth Club of California and other community organizations. In 1989, he was named Distinguished Citizen of the Year for Marin County.
“As active as he was in serving the church and the seminary, he always gave time to be a part of the community,” Crews noted. “His influence extended far beyond the walls of his church and the halls of this seminary.”
Senior professor of New Testament studies Clayton Harrop, whom Graves enlisted to teach at Golden Gate, paid tribute to Graves: “He had a deep love for students, for the churches and for our denomination. It was his desire that through his work here the message of Christ would extend to the ends of the earth.”
Religious education professor Jerry Stubblefield called Graves the “pastor to Marin County.”
The seminary has a scholarship fund named in honor of the former president to provide tuition assistance to outstanding students.
Graves was a graduate of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1933, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., where he earned a master of theology in 1937 and a doctor of theology in 1940.
Ordained by First Baptist Church, Herron, Ill., in 1935, Graves served as pastor of Hempridge (Ky.) Baptist Church, Buffalo Lick (Ky.) Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, Jeffersonville, Ind., and First Baptist Church, Chickasha, Okla. In 1945, he became pastor of First Baptist Church, Bartlesville, Okla., and became involved in numerous state and national denominational leadership positions, including the presidency of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. In 1952, Graves was inaugurated as third president of Golden Gate Seminary.
During his presidency, the seminary received accreditation from both the Association of Theological Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. He also led in the development of the seminary’s Southern California Campus, now located in Brea.
Following his retirement from Golden Gate, he served as interim pastor of various churches. He also taught seminary courses at the Mill Valley campus and in Phoenix. He served as acting president of California Baptist College for several months in 1984 and also as interim president of Golden Gate for several months before Crews became the seminary’s sixth president in December 1986.
Graves authored two books, “The Nature and Function of a Church” and “Into the Wind,” a history of Golden Gate Seminary.
Graves was born in Sale Creek, Tenn., the second of five children. He married the former Frieda Kommer in 1933. In addition to his wife, Graves is survived by two children, Nancy Mclaughlin and Harold K. Graves Jr., four grandchildren and six great grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Oct. 25 at Tiburon (Calif.) Baptist Church at 1 p.m. Burial will be private at Valley Memorial Park, Novato, Calif.

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  • Cameron Crabtree