News Articles

William J. Reynolds donates music library to Southwestern

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–William J. Reynolds, distinguished professor emeritus of music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has donated his personal music library to the Bowld Music Library at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.

Reynolds was general editor of the 1975 Baptist Hymnal and the “Companion to Baptist Hymnal,” which recounted histories for each of the hymns in the ’75 edition. He also wrote a column, “Hymns We Love,” with such hymn histories for nearly 25 years.

Reynolds donated a significant portion of his music library to Southwestern Seminary’s music library when he retired in 1988, and then gave the remainder late last year when he and his wife, Mary Lou, moved to Nashville, Tenn.

The collection contains more than 1,500 volumes of hymnody, including hymnals, biographies of hymn writers and histories of congregational hymn singing, focusing mostly on Southern Baptist life in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Reynolds’ collection also includes an archive of more than 750 files containing biographical and historical information about hymns, hymn writers and composers of hymn tunes, material carefully gathered by Reynolds during his 60-year career as a church musician and historian.

One part of the archive, for example, is the correspondence between B.B. McKinney and his wife, Leila Irene, as he traveled to crusades and revivals during the first half of the 20th century. McKinney, also a graduate and one-time sacred music professor at Southwestern Seminary, was the writer and composer of such beloved hymns as “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go.”

C. Berry Driver Jr., Southwestern Seminary’s dean of libraries, referred to Reynolds as “Mr. Southern Baptist hymnody” and said that his collection will provide a “goldmine of information” for students and scholars of Baptist musical history complementing the library’s existing collection of more than 30,000 books, 10,000 recordings, 140,000 octavos and 80,000 scores.

“In my lifetime I know of no other hymn history specialist who has preserved such a compendium of knowledge and tradition,” Driver said of Reynolds. “He is our greatest contributor to and preserver of the Baptist hymn tradition.”

Reynolds’ personal history is intertwined with the history of Southwestern Seminary. Reynolds’ uncle, I.E. Reynolds, founded the church music school at Southwestern in 1915 when L.R. Scarborough was the seminary’s president.

Driver added that Reynolds’ commitment to Baptist musical life is far-reaching.

“Not only did he have this vast knowledge of the hymns, composers and arrangers,” Driver said. “He also had so many connections to so many churches. He knew about the music ministries of churches all over. There’s no telling how many times he was called to lead music in revivals.”

For 25 years he served with the church music department of the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1980, he was appointed to the faculty of Southwestern Seminary as professor of church music, serving there until his retirement in 1988.

From 1946-55, Reynolds served as minister of music and youth at First Baptist Church in Ardmore, Okla., and later as minister of music at First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

Reynolds holds a bachelor’s degree from Southwest Missouri State College, a master’s degree in sacred music from Southwestern Seminary, a master’s degree in music from North Texas State University and a doctorate from George Peabody College for Teachers (now the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University). He also did additional study at Regent’s Park College at Oxford.

Among his many achievements, Reynolds was the first Baptist elected as president of the Hymn Society of America and he is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).

He was the music director of the annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention 12 times, from 1972-86, and the meetings the Baptist World Alliance four times in 1960, 1965, 1980 and 1985.

Reynolds also has a special interest in the southern tradition of Sacred Harp singing, a unique kind of a cappella singing made famous in the 2004 movie “Cold Mountain.” Reynolds was a consultant in the publication of the Sacred Harp Songbook and he organized the first Sacred Harp sing gathering at Southwestern 21 years ago; the annual gathering was named in his honor last year.

Reynolds said he hopes his donated collection would “bless students in the future,” helping scholars engage in musical and historical research at the Bowld Library.

When asked why he made the donation to the Bowld Music Library, Reynolds said, “I love the school. My uncle founded it, and I enjoyed the years I spent there and taught there.”

Reynolds also commented, “When I meet my uncle in heaven, I don’t want him to ask me, ‘Who’d you give your library to?’ and my answer not be ‘Southwestern.’”

Driver underscored the value of Reynolds’ collection to Southwestern, noting, “The Bowld Music Library in itself is a national treasure, and the William J. Reynolds’ Collection will be a significant contemporary contribution to its holdings,” Driver said. “It will help us preserve our unique identity as Southern Baptists and as a Southern Baptist seminary [by] preserving the cultural milieu of hymnology as it developed in our churches.”

    About the Author

  • Marc Rogers