By Foy W. Vinson
After the death of my mother in October 1981, my father wrote a loving and moving tribute in memory of her which was read at her funeral and published in some of the papers thereafter. Now with the passing of my father I thought it appropriate to pen a tribute to him in view of the life he lived and the fact that he was known and respected by so many. It has been said with tongue in cheek that, in view of the tremendous impact that parents have on children, both physically and spiritually, one should select his father and mother very carefully. Of course, one is not afforded the luxury of such a choice; however, had I been so afforded, I could have not have made a better choice than those who gave me life and reared me to manhood.
Dad was born to a poor farmer and his wife, John H. and Dolly Vinson, in Sand Flat, a community a few miles south of Grand Saline in Van Zant county, Texas on July 5, 1906. Shortly thereafter the family moved to the Danville community, a few miles southwest of Longview. Following this there were brief moves to West Texas and to Oklahoma as my grandfather struggled to scratch out a living where the opportunities seemed best. Finally the family returned to the Longview area, this time settling in the Peatown community where my dad completed his youth. As a young man he also farmed and his sister said he was one of the best at successfully bringing in the crops.
Dad was baptized into Christ in the summer of 1922 by John W. Hedge. The baptism took place in a small creek in Danville that had to be dammed up to collect sufficient water for immersion. He first began to preach in 1929, speaking a few times at the church in Longview. Brother Hedge and brother John W. Akin were instrumental in getting him to begin preaching. Public speaking did not come easy for this young farm lad and I can remember my mother speaking of how nervous he was in his early attempts, even to the point of trembling. His first “meeting” was a weekend affair in Kosse, Texas beginning on a Friday evening in December of 1929 and running through Sunday night. It was on that Friday evening, December 6, that he saw for the first time the young lady that was to become my mom. As he said: “I was first attracted to her by her physical beauty, the most beautiful eyes I ever saw; but I loved her, and love her still, for her inner beauty, her spiritual character.”
That meeting led to an exchange of letters and four or five trips back to Kosse for purposes other than preaching. The following summer they were married on July 30, 1930. Shortly after the marriage Dad lost his government job of tick eradication (cattle dipping). In the meantime, due to the depression, hordes of people were out of work, but along about that time east Texas was blessed with the discovery of oil. This resulted in a considerable influx of people into the area and the Longview Post Office began giving tests for positions. Dad took the test and was the first local resident during that period who was employed out of some 200 who took the test. He went to work for 75 cents an hour and continued working for the post office the next twenty years. I was born in early 1932 and my brother Bryan made his arrival in July of 1934. During the years of my childhood and almost until my last -year of high school Dad continued to preach with considerable regularity and also served for a time as an elder in the Longview church.
I remember as a small boy and young man often going with him on Sundays to such places as Athens, Mineola, Big Sandy and Hallsville where he would preach, sometimes for rather extended periods. Those years were very formative for Dad as a Bible student and preacher. He would work long hard hours delivering mail for the Post Office and then spend hours each evening pouring over his Bible and various religious books. He was a voracious reader, and next to the Scriptures he delighted in reading and imbibing eagerly from restoration literature, especially the writings of Campbell and Lard.
In the spring of 1948 Dad left the Post Office and moved to Dallas to begin his first “full-time local work.” A year and a half later he moved back to Longview, not convinced that local work was what he wanted to do, and returned to his Post Office job. However, he was clearly not happy back there, so he returned to Dallas in 1950 and for a time spent his time conducting meetings. In 1951 he moved to Denton and preached for the Pearl Street church there. Then in the spring of 1953 he began work with the Norhill church in Houston and said later that this was the most enjoyable local work he ever had. In 1956 he moved to Tulsa to work with a new congregation and then returned to Longview in September 1957 to preach for the newly formed church meeting on Judson Road. He was with them for some three years, after which he retired from local preaching and remained in the Longview area until his death.
My dad was a unique man in many ways – anyone who ever heard him preach would grant me that. He was a stem, but loving, father whom I feared but dearly loved from my earliest recollections. He was a most devoted husband who never ceased to remind Bryan and me of what a loving and sacrificial mother we had. As a teacher and preacher of the Word he was indeed exceptional. He was no scholar in the formal sense of the term, his formal education being limited to about a year of college due to his circumstances, but he was a scholar in the true sense of the word. He knew the book! He said that when he first began to preach he would memorize fifty or sixty verses of Scripture for each sermon. He later said that this was not the way to preach, that there is a difference between “quoting” and preaching. He thought some preachers put so many Scriptures in their sermons they had little time to actually preach. His vocabulary was incredible, but it was not pretense or used simply to impress. He didn’t write one way and speak another. This was just Dad. His long sentences and big words were such as he had learned from pouring over the writings of Campbell and others, and though he challenged his hearers with what he had to say and the way he said it, he could be understood and doing so was always worth the effort!
I have heard it said that when an old person dies it is like a small library burning down. In my father’s case it was more like a large one burning down. I never ceased to marvel at the storehouse of information which he so readily drew from up to his last days. I often thanked my heavenly Father for my earthly one, and now I’m so grateful for his completed life, for the heritage he left me that is beyond my aptitude to describe. I’m thankful that he has now “crossed the bar,” that he has gone to be with his Lord, and that as good as his life was here, it is now “far better.”
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 11, p. 343
June 1, 1989