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Former N.C. editor Gene Puckett dies

RALEIGH, N.C. (BP) — R.G. “Gene” Puckett, 80, longtime editor of the Biblical Recorder, died May 12 in Raleigh, N.C., after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

“He has a variety of outstanding talents,” BR editor Marse Grant said of Puckett in 1982 when it was announced he was coming to the Recorder, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s newsjournal. “He can write, he can speak, and he is a person of courage.”

Puckett was 49 when he was elected by the Biblical Recorder’s board of directors to succeed Grant who was editor for nearly 23 years. Puckett was the Recorder’s editor from 1982 until his retirement in 1998.

Puckett was editor of the Maryland Baptist from 1966-79 and earlier had been editor of the Ohio Baptist Messenger, when he became the youngest editor of a state Baptist paper at age 25 in 1958. He subsequently worked as associate editor of the Western Recorder (Kentucky Baptists’ newsjournal). While in Maryland, he assisted in the birth of the New England and Penn/Jersey Baptist papers by volunteering his services without salary as managing editor for the two new conventions, Baptist Press recounted in 1998. He also was a president of the former Southern Baptist Press Association.

From 1979-82, Puckett was executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State based in Washington, D.C.

A native of Kentucky, he attended Campbellsville College (now University) and was a graduate of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Puckett was a trustee chairman at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; trustee chairman of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.; and board chairman for Associated Baptist Press.

He was part of the founding faculty of Campbell University’s divinity school in 1996-97; a visiting professor at Gardner-Webb University’s divinity school; and an advocate for the development of Wake Forest University’s divinity school.

He was a member of First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. After being ordained to the ministry in 1952, he also was a pastor of churches in Kentucky, Ohio and Florida.

In his retirement letter, Puckett, an outspoken opponent of the rise of conservatives in Southern Baptist Convention leadership positions, described the Recorder as having been “on the cutting edge of issues, unafraid to take a stand — however controversial….”

Puckett’s funeral home obituary reported that Puckett was working on a history of the Biblical Recorder at the time of his death.

Puckett is survived by his wife of 58 years, Robbie; two daughters, Janet Wade of Charlotte and Jeanne Fishwick of Roanoke, Va.; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service was held May 18 at First Baptist in Raleigh.
Compiled from reports by the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Baptist Press; and the News & Observer in Raleigh.

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