In recent weeks, Alabama Baptists have said goodbye to two outstanding Christian gentlemen who served our Lord so faithfully. On Christmas Day, Dr. Earl Potts passed away. He left us quietly that morning at eight o’clock and went home to be with Jesus. His life and legacy are remarkable. At 93, Dr. Potts had lived a long and fruitful life impacting numerous people along the way in his journey with Jesus.
Earl Potts was best known as the executive director of the State Board of Missions, serving from 1984 to 1990. Prior to this place of service, he had been on staff at the SBOM for almost 15 years. As a state missionary, Dr. Potts was a servant to the churches and a friend to pastors and other ministers. His warm personality and gentleman-like charm allowed him the opportunity to build bridges for Christ.
Before coming to the SBOM, Earl Potts ministered effectively in the local church. His most lengthy pastorate was at McElwain in Birmingham where he served for 20 years. This was the place where his memorial service was held as a tribute to his life so well lived.
Dr. Potts was a friend and an encourager to me. As a freshman student at Samford, he helped me stay in school following the unexpected death of my father. I will always be indebted to him as a pastoral influence in my life. Later, as a young pastor, I worked alongside Dr. Potts in convention life. He was the consummate Christian gentleman, and I will never lose my appreciation for him.
In 1997, Earl Potts penned a poem which speaks of his abiding faith. He wrote, “Lord…so long as I have strength of body and semblance of a mind, I want to love you and serve you. And when they fail me, I will still love you, Lord.” This is an apt description of a life so well lived.
Another Christian gentleman left our family of faith recently. Dr. William Weaver, founding president of the University of Mobile, passed away at age 95. He stood tall among Alabama Baptists at a time when statesmen were needed. In the days when our state convention wanted a witness for Christ academically in the Mobile/south Alabama region, Bill Weaver stepped to the forefront of leadership and led us in an admirable way.
Like his friend Earl Potts, Dr. Weaver was a pastor. He served several churches in an exemplary way prior to becoming the first president of the University of Mobile. His pastoral experience helped the university get off to a healthy start. He pastored the staff, the faculty and student body in those early years in a way which no other could have done.
Think about that challenge for a moment. A pastor becomes the first president of a college. The world of the local church and that of academia are, in many ways, miles apart. Yet, Bill Weaver made the transition smoothly. He became an effective administrative and academic leader for the new college, later to become a university. Very few pastors have been able to make this kind of transition, but Dr. Weaver was an exception.
Bill Weaver was always kind and considerate toward me as a young pastor. Although we were decades removed from each other in age, Dr. Weaver took time to encourage me personally and he was a sage-like counselor in times of need for me. This was true of so many in my generation.
When people live to be in their 90s, often they outlive their friends and family members of their generation. These two men made indelible impressions on multiple generations, and their legacies give testimony to that fact. I loved Earl Potts and Bill Weaver. I learned much from them, and I believe I am the better for knowing them. I hope I can do in my ministry some of what they did in their time. That is my prayer and my passion.