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Lonnie Wilkey, longtime Tennessee editor, announces retirement

FRANKLIN (BP) – The start of a new year will mark the end of an era for the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

Lonnie Wilkey, who has served as editor of the B&R for 26 years, has announced his plans to retire from his position, effective Dec. 31.

The Greenville, S.C., native first joined the B&R staff in 1988 as associate editor, holding that position for 10 years. Wilkey then served as interim editor for roughly five months before being elected as editor in September 1998. 

All told, Wilkey has spent the past 36 years as a member of the B&R staff and has become known by many as “the face of the B&R.” He has earned that reputation by being both a passionate promoter and a tireless ambassador for the historic newspaper.

An award-winning journalist and a past president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, Wilkey has covered many of the biggest events in Southern Baptist life — with a high priority on stories that pertain directly to Tennessee Baptists — for the past three-plus decades, winning a slew of national journalism honors in the process.

Wilkey has been equally diligent about providing coverage of the seemingly “smaller” stories, ranging from Vacation Bible School in Tennessee small towns to revival services at rural churches in the far corners of the state. 

Wilkey said though he will miss the excitement, he believes the time is right to begin preparing for the next chapter in his life.

“When I joined the staff in 1988, I never dreamed of the opportunities God would give me to serve Him through journalism,” he said. 

“I have been blessed beyond measure to have served 36 years with Tennessee Baptists. It has been an honor and privilege to have shared stories of how Tennessee Baptists have found ways to make Christ known, not only in Tennessee but around the world. May He receive all the glory and honor.”

Wilkey is the longest tenured B&R editor among those who began their tenures in the 20th century. He is the third-longest tenured editor in B&R history — behind only James R. Graves (who served in the position for 41 years) and Edgar E. Folk (28 years).

Chris Turner, director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said Wilkey’s wisdom and guidance have been invaluable to the newspaper and to the organization as a whole. 

“It is impossible to quantify Lonnie’s contribution to Tennessee Baptists through these past three-plus decades,” Turner said. “He is passionate about telling the story of Tennessee Baptists and has been faithful to report how God is at work through Tennessee Baptists and their churches from their communities to the ends of the earth.”

Wilkey and his wife Joyce have two grown children — Joanna Beasley and Daniel Wilkey — and three grandchildren with another on the way. After his retirement in December, Wilkey will live in Greenville County, S.C., where both of his children live.

Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said Wilkey’s passion and dedication for covering news and telling the stories of Tennessee Baptists has left an indelible mark.

“Lonnie Wilkey has been a great shepherd of the Baptist and Reflector, a Tennessee treasure,” Davis said. “He is a consistent, convictional, fair minded journalist and editor. For almost 15 years, it has been my great honor to watch Lonnie Wilkey work hard to serve churches by keeping Tennessee Baptists informed of relevant news and inspired by telling your God stories.”

“I love and appreciate this dear brother, friend, and Great Commission colaborer,” Davis said. 

Turner noted that Wilkey has overseen an almost countless number of changes and technological advances during his tenure, and has adapted with the times each and every time. Equally important, he has embraced the people behind the stories.

“There is so much more to Lonnie Wilkey than simply being one of the longest-tenured editors in the 189-year history of the B&R,” said Turner. “It is the relationships he’s made across our state. People love Lonnie Wilkey, and rightfully so.”

Turner noted that the impact of “Lonnie’s Legacy” will be felt for as long as the Baptist and Reflector remains in publication in any form.  

“Lonnie represents the best of his profession while exhibiting all the traits of a humble disciple of Christ,” Turner said. “Lonnie has been a great steward of the paper and a great editor. But more than that, he’s a great personal friend, and I will miss him and our close working relationship.”

This article originally appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.