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Disaster relief pioneer Archie King dies

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BP)–Archie Dennis King, a key leader in the early development of Southern Baptist disaster relief work, died May 12 at his home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., following an extended illness.

King, 86, was the first disaster relief director for the Tennessee Baptist Convention and one of only a few to attend the first national Southern Baptist conference on disaster relief, held in 1977 at Glorieta, N.M.

In 2003, King was honored by the North American Mission Board for his leadership in disaster relief as the third recipient of the national Bob Dixon Disaster Relief Award.

During King’s tenure, the state organization responded to 20 disasters — from floods, hurricanes and tornadoes to ice storms and droughts — bought mass feeding and other types of equipment, grew in numbers of volunteers and developed specialized response teams.

On Feb. 24, 1978, when an L&N Railroad propane gas tank exploded in Waverly, killing 12 and hospitalizing 40, Tennessee Baptist disaster relief leaders — including King and Al Shackelford, the late editor of the Baptist and Reflector — responded immediately, carrying a donation check for Maurice Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Waverly, to help transport burn victims to and from the hospital and doctor appointments. This financial assistance was the first response for Tennessee Baptist disaster relief.

“Archie King was one of the first people I came to know when I first joined the Baptist and Reflector staff in 1988,” said current editor Lonnie Wilkey. “It didn’t take me long to find out that Archie was the undisputed authority on disaster relief work in Tennessee.

“I also soon discovered that what drove his passion for disaster relief was his love and passion for people. He loved people and people loved him,” Wilkey added.

“Archie built the frame work that helped make Tennessee Baptist disaster relief the strong ministry it is today,” said former state disaster relief director Tim Bearden. “His loving, humble spirit was an inspiration to many volunteers. He was an easy leader to follow. Long after his retirement from the Tennessee Baptist Convention, he remained actively involved and a supporter of disaster relief.”

“There are people in my life who are on my ‘Hero List,'” Bearden added. “Archie King is very high on that list.”

“Good programs and good ministries come from good foundations. Tennessee Baptist disaster relief is a good ministry today, because it had a good foundation,” said David Acres, the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s current disaster relief director. “Archie King made certain that the foundation of disaster relief in Tennessee was laid correctly over 30 years ago.

“Tennessee Baptist disaster relief and the memory of Archie King will live on because of that good foundation,” Acres added. “Enjoy your reward in heaven, Archie, but we will miss you down here.”

A native of Hartsville, Tenn., King was a graduate of Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He served as the director of the TBC Brotherhood department from 1977 to 1988 and continued for an additional year in 1989 as the interim department director.

King is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mary Catherine Riggs King of Murfreesboro; five sons, Dennis King; Claude King; Philip King; Avery King; and Keith King; one daughter, Marsha King Flinn; 12 grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.
Marcia Knox writes for the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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  • Marcia Knox