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Robert Hastings dies at 72; was longtime Illinois editor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–Robert J. Hastings, editor of the Illinois Baptist newsjournal from 1967 until his retirement in 1984, died unexpectedly Jan. 17 at a Springfield, Ill., hospital. He was 72.

A native of Marion, Ill., Hastings led the Illinois Baptist to the top rating in a 1978 study of state Baptist newspapers by Syracuse University school of journalism professor Roland E. Wolseley, who cited the paper for its emphasis on human interest and content reflecting interests of Illinois readers.

Hastings was a former president of the Southern Baptist Press Association.

He had authored more than 15 books, including “A Nickel’s Worth of Skim Milk” about his boyhood in southern Illinois during the Depression, which received an Illinois State Historical Society award of merit in 1973; a 160-page manual, “How I Write;” “Tinyburg Tales” and “Tinyburg Revisited;” and, most recently, “Samuel: The Amish Boy Who Lived,” about an Amish couple’s eight-week beside vigil at their critically injured son’s bedside.

His other writings include a 250-word essay, “The Station,” which was widely reprinted, including twice by Ann Landers in her syndicated column, and a syndicated weekly column, “A Letter from Home,” once carried by 85 newspapers in Illinois.

Hastings also received an Illinois State Historical Society award of merit in 1982 for 40 photo essays he did of Illinois churches to mark the 75th anniversary year of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Of his How I Write text, Hastings once reflected, “Much of the manual is autobiographical. I simply tell some of the things I have learned from experience, and do so in a fun sort of way.”

Hastings had been a visiting teacher at Golden Gate, Southwestern, Midwestern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries. For several years he was the principal speaker at the Baptist Sunday School Board’s annual workshop for prospective writers.

In ministry, he was the first pastor of University Baptist Church, Carbondale, Ill., serving there from 1950-55 and from 1965 until being named editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Before assuming his Illinois editor’s role, Hastings was secretary of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s department of stewardship promotion, 1960-65, and assistant director of church finance at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Nashville, Tenn., 1955-60.

He was a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, who later earned a doctor of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

He is survived by his wife, Bessie; two daughters, Ruth Anne Jessup of Larkspur, Calif., and Nancy Sue Schumacher of San Anselmo, Calif.; one son, Timothy of West Frankfort, Ill; and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by one son, Thomas.

Burial will be Jan. 21 in Carbondale, Ill.

Memorials may be made to the Illinois Baptist State Association, Springfield.

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