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Longtime conservative leader loses battle to Alzheimer’s

BREMEN, Ga. (BP)–A number of Southern Baptist ministers and laymen are scheduled to appear at a March 25th memorial service honoring the life and ministry of William A. Powell, a leader in the movement that returned the Southern Baptist Convention to its conservative roots.

Powell, 74, died March 9, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Among those scheduled to speak at the First Baptist Church Bremen service are Larry Lewis, Herman Parker, Randy Pate, Burt Card, R.L. Hymers, J.D. Waddle, Eddy Evans, and Bill Powell Jr.

Powell’s denominational service included work at the Home Mission Board, now known as the North American Mission Board. He founded the Baptist Faith and Message Fellowship in 1973 and edited a conservative newspaper called the Southern Baptist Journal.

Many Southern Baptists credited Powell’s work at the Journal with the success of the conservative movement, including retired Texas appeals court judge Paul Pressler.

“Bill Powell understood better than almost anyone else what was happening in the Southern Baptist Convention and the solution to the problem,” Pressler told Baptist Press. “He correctly saw how liberalism was seeking to take over our institutions and the resulting injury that would have occurred.”

“He was a great man,” Pressler added. “It’s the end of an era.”

Powell was born Sept. 15, 1925, in Dothan, Ala. He was a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and served as a pastor in Alabama and Illinois. He also ministered as a missions superintendent in Chicago and in the department of survey and special studies at the former Home Mission Board.

Powell eventually became a consultant in the division of evangelism until his resignation on Nov. 1, 1973. Following his resignation, Powell was named editor of the Southern Baptist Journal. He retired from that position in 1985.

Powell is survived by his wife, Betty; one son, William Powell Jr.; two sisters, Mary Lou Shively, of Highpoint, N.C. and Lucille Cullbreth, of Ormond Beach, Fla.; two brothers, Odell Powell of Dothan, Ala. and Wallace Powell, of Athens, Ala.; and two grandchildren, Elizabeth Powell, of Cedartown, Ga. and David Powell, of Athens, Ala.

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  • Todd Starnes