A Personal View Of Roy E. Cogdill: A Friend And Brother

By Clinton D. Hamilton

It was about 43 years ago that I first saw and heard Roy E. Cogdill at Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee. N.B. Hardeman, the president, announced his appearance and indicated he was one of the most powerful and effective preachers among us. When he appeared, he was a powerful speaker, well read, highly regarded, and aggressive in defense of truth. With a robust body, a regal bearing, and an emphatic and resonant voice, he spoke with conviction and positive assurance in the rightfulness of his message.

Little did I know at the time that time and circumstance would converge to bring us into close association in later years and that a lasting friendship characterized by trust and confidence in one another would result. My family and some of his were to become personal friends in very close association. Our work as preachers of the gospel sharing a common faith and unfeigned confidence in the truth kept us united in belief and effort. When I first heard him, his confidence was reassuring as well as abundantly evident. Through the next few years he used his great ability as a logical thinker and powerful speaker in defense of truth against error both within and without the church of the Lord. He exercised great influence and ever stood ready to defend truth. Within five years after I first met him, the gathering storm of traumatic rupture of the body of Christ was well under way. Ultimately the issues would separate those who had been his friends and allies. Foy E. Wallace, Jr. and N.B. Hardeman both had been his friends and commended his dedication and defense of truth. But as the controversies over carnal warfare, congregational cooperation, church support of human institutions, and related issues continued into the early fifties, friendships were strained and broken. Among those so ruptured were those between Roy Cogdill and N.B. Hardeman and Foy E. Wallace, Jr. In spite of their being divided in views as to right and wrong, Roy Cogdill kept a warm spot in his heart for both of them. In private conversations between us, brother Cogdill expressed sadness over the rupture of their friendship and never expressed bitterness against either one of them. However, he lamented the personal displeasure they expressed on occasion toward him.

Roy E. Cogdill could not understand, he more than once said to me, why brethren who disagreed sometimes became bitter against one another. He was hurt at the bitter, harsh, and vituperative comments made about him and remained sad over the situation which he could not change, although he did not remonstrate in kind. In this respect he had a mild disposition, but he kept inviolate truth to which he had committed himself.

In spite of brother Cogdill’s tender feeling for those with whom he disagreed, he never compromised what he believed to be right. He would speak with aggressive conviction, undaunted faith, and uncompromising fervor. This staunch defense of truth with firm confidence in the rightfulness of his course caused many to conclude that he was cold, indifferent, and uncaring. Many hesitated not to assert that he was hard-hearted and basically lacking in human affection. But to hold this view of him is to betray any real knowledge and acquaintance with him. One holding such a view has a distorted view of him. To know him well was to learn that he was one of the most caring and tender-hearted persons one could ever know.

Upon learning of his passing, my wife and I were talking about him. I inquired of her what she believed to be one of his most prominent characteristics. She thought a moment and said, “His caring.” I believe, she spoke the truth. He did care deeply for people and his heart opened to those in need. Multiplied thousands of his money and untold hours of his time were expended in behalf of others. He cared.

When people erred, he would condemn the wrong but could feel for them. On occasion we discussed such situations. He was able to see and understand the human element. He could be sympathetic with the infirmities of others. He cared.

Roy Cogdill was a good thinker. His legal training and diligent study resulted in his developing a logical reasoning process and disciplined mind. Upon review of an issue, hee would search for the fundamental predicates and the consequences belonging to given predicates. Methodically, logically, and carefully he developed his arguments on any given topic. Once he had thought about a subject and then presented it, he did so with clarity, erudition, and fervent conviction. In his powerful, resonant voice, he would with clear logic and scriptural argument present his views.

His sermon on the trial of Jesus was a masterpiece of cogent logic, eloquence, and powerful marshalling of evidence. It was a most moving experience to hear it. One could not be indifferent after having heard the powerful presentation of the Jewish and Roman trials of Jesus. His legal training shone through the presentation brilliantly.

Roy Cogdill was a balanced person. He had a keen sense of humor. But he knew also that everything has its time. Accordingly, he knew when to be serious and when to be humorous. A well-rounded person, he c6uld converse on broad range of subjects. In a private setting, he could capture attention and make powerful points by means of humor, at which he was most adept. Many are the times that my wife and I have enjoyed invigorating laughter by listening to his humorous stories that helped to renew the spirit. But when he spoke on issues of truth he did so with fervor, seriousness, and with the gravity meet for it.

As an attorney, he could have been extremely successful and, no doubt, could have had a financially lucrative practice. But there was an overwhelmirg desire and commitment to preach the unsearchable riches. On the legal profession, he turned his back to devote his life to the proclamation-and defense of the gospel. His sense of values was undistorted and his dedication to the gospel was unashamedly open and emphatic.

A devoted family man, Roy Cogdill was intensely interested in their welfare. Moved by his desire to preach the gospel, he often was absent from home. Therefore, his family had to make great sacrifices also as he traveled widely, spoke frequently all over the country and abroad, and debated points of dispute. In these efforts, he spent large amounts of his funds. Often he was poorly paid. He persisted, nevertheless. He cared about truth and hesitated not in defending it.

Although he was self-confident, he was always willing to receive assistance and was not reluctant to seek the view of those he respected. In 1957, in Birmingham, he debated Guy N. Woods and again, I believe in about 1963, in Newbern, Tennessee. Prior to this latter debate, he requested me to read all that brother Woods had written and to give him the result of my analysis of his writings. I agreed to do so. Upon reading and analyzing the materials, I prepared charts showing his changes of positions and submitted them to brother Cogdill. In the Newbern debate, he used the material. He was interested in truth and wanted any enlightenment from whomever he could secure it. This showed his humility. Brother James W. Adams told me that on occasion brother Cogdill requested tapes and notes of his lessons for him to listen to and to study on a particular topic. Thoroughly versed in Scripture and well read, brother Cogdill desired always to learn more.

He was a friend who encouraged others to do what he disciplined himself to do. He wrote extensively and did untold good through his pen. His books The New Testament Church and Walking By Faith have done great good. He repeatedly urged me to complete a book I have begun on books of the Old Testament. He used the first volume I produced in the class context and reported his great satisfaction with it. I must get back to the writing desk. He encouraged people to do what they could to further the cause of truth.

His powerful voice was an articulate one against premillennialism and corruption of God’s order for the work of the church. Always vigilant against error and positive in his proclamation of truth, he convicted many in error, admonished watchfulness, encouraged the fainthearted, and consoled the heartbroken. In midst of doing all this, he often faced tragedy, suffered wrong at the hands of his enemies, and bore personal trials patiently. Philosophical about opposition, he never let his opponents depress him to the point of weariness in defense of his Master’s cause. He seemed perpetually refreshed at heart in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ.

From all that I have said here, it is certainly the case that I believe it was good that he was here.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 14, pp. 424-425
July 18, 1985