Aaron W. Dicus (1888-1978)

By Irvin Himmel

Solomon said, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children. . .” (Prov. 13:22). The subject of this sketch left a rich moral and spiritual heritage to his three sons, his six grandchildren, and his six great grandchildren.

The earthly pilgrimage of Aaron Dicus began at Festus, 1Viissouri (near St. Louis) on May 30, 1888. His family moved to Indiana when he was quite young. In the state of Indiana he grew to manhood, received his training, and entered his chosen work.

Seventy Years A Christian

He obeyed the gospel in the fall of 1908, becoming a member of the Normal congregation in Grant County, Indiana. A. W. Harvey was preaching in a meeting, but it was J. S. Johns who did the baptizing. The twenty-year old Dicus was the first person Johns ever baptized.

In 1910, Dicus married Bertha Jane Quick. Her father, David Quick, who lived at Swayzee in Grant County, was a Christian and gave encouragement to young Dicus to preach. His first sermon was delivered in 1913. He held his first meeting in 1915. He filled regular appointments at Cloverdale, Crawfordsville, Traders Point, Bloomington, Bedford, and Indianapolis, all in Indiana. Most of the preaching was done in those days by men who traveled in circuit to keep appointments with various congregations. Dicus held meetings in many places in Indiana and Illinois.

In 1912, he received his B.S. degree from Marion Normal at Marion, Indiana. Later he received the A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Indiana University at Bloomington. He taught in high schools in Indiana and Illinois; including seven years in Indianapolis. He then was elected to teach science in the University at Bloomington.

In January, 1930, he moved to Cookeville, Tennessee, to become professor and head of the department of physics at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute. He continued at T.P.I. for twenty years. At one time he was President of the Tennessee Academy of Science, a member of the Southern Association of Physicists, and a member of Sigma Psi, a national scientific honorary society.

During his years at T.P.I., Discus continued to preach by appointment, holding many meetings in the summers. He commuted to Chattanooga regularly in the late 1930’s. Preaching the gospel was a work he loved.

In January, 1950, he moved to Temple Terrace, Florida, to become the dean of Florida Christian College. He set up an academic program that helped the college to gain admittance to the Southern Association in a relatively short time. The young school was then in its fourth year, and that was the first year of the presidency of James R. Cope. Dicus brought valuable experience and academic qualifications needed in a young struggling college.

After the move to Temple Terrace, Dicus’ wife passed away. In 1953, he married Flora Braden. The following year they moved to Winter Haven, FLorida. Later they moved to Miami, then in 1957 they returned to Temple Terrace.

Gospel Preacher

Aaron Dicus served the following congregations by preaching on a regular basis: Lincoln Street, Bloomington, Inc., 1922-25; Ridgedale, Chattanooga, Tenn., 1937-39; Brooksville, Fla., 1950; Waters Ave., Tampa, Fla., 195152; Winter Haven, Fla., 1954-55; Southwest, Miami, Fla., 1955-57.

The church began meeting in Temple Terrace in September of 1950. Dicus and his first wife were among the few in the original membership. They attended the Wednesday evening services (and on Sundays if someone else happened to be preaching at Brooksville). They were active in the planning of the Temple Terrace congregation. Services were conducted in the Community Building. In 1951, Dicus designed and supervised the construction of the building in which the church still meets. He did much of the work with his own hands. A few years later he supervised the construction of the class room building behind the auditorium.

In his early years as a preacher, Brother Dicus was influenced by E.M. Zerr. There was no foolishness about Zerr. He was a self-made scholar who knew the Bible well. Samuel Piety also had a strong influence on Dicus. Piety had been a lawyer but decided to devote his life to preaching. He was somewhat like the prophet Amos-blunt and to the point. J. S. Johns, J. C. Roady, and A. W. Harvey were among the other preachers who touched his life. Then there were the Sommers. Dicus was well acquainted with Daniel Sommer and his wife Kate. He preached at the old North Indianapolis church and was a guest in the Sommer home. He had high regard for Daniel’s son, Chester. According to Dicus, it was Chester who wrote the “Rough Draft,” an outline and plea for unity, which became a center of controversy even in the Sommer family. Dicus had no respect for Allen Sommer.

When he moved to Tennessee, there was a keen awareness of the differences between churches of Christ in the North and congregations in the South. After some hesitation, he placed membership with the church at Cookeville, and, as he would express it with a twinkle in his eye and a slight smile, “That made the Cookeville church all right!” During his Tennessee years he became good friends of such outstanding preachers as N. B. Hardeman and Foy E. Wallace, Jr.

Inventor, Author, Song Writer

A. W. Dicus was a man of many and varied talents. He invented a number of gadgets. He was credited with inventing and securing patent rights for the automobile turn signal in 1920. His signals were manufactured at the Dicus-Schelmier plant, of which he was co-owner, in Indianapolis. The plant closed in 1921, and in 1937 his patent (No. 1,359,341) expired. He invented an electric pencil sharpener, an automobile speed governor, and a skill saw.

He wrote and published three books-A Brief Commentary on Romans and Hebrews, Church Leadership, and a volume of Sermon Outlines. He prepared some others works in manuscript form.

He was successful as a builder. In addition to the meeting house at Temple Terrace, he built homes for himself, some apartment houses, and a building at Florida College -which served for years as the class room building but is now a dormitory for boys and known as the Dicus Building.

In his old age, somewhat as a hobby, he took up song writing. He produced about thirty hymns, writing both words and music. “Our God, He Is Alive” has become a very popular song. It is used all across this country and in foreign countries as well. It will be, in all probability, Dicus’ most remembered work.

Funeral And Family

Death came to A. W. Dicus following a gradual decline due to old age. He passed away Sept. 2, 1978, being slightly more than three months beyond his ninetieth year. A memorial service was conducted in the Temple Terrace meeting house September 5th. J. D. Evans, one of the elders, led the assembly in singing two of Dicus’ songs. This writer read the description of the new Jerusalem in Rev. 21:1-22:5. L. Griffin Copeland, another elder, made a short talk about Brother Dicus’ many accomplishments in life. Robert N. Morris, also an elder, led prayer. The worn out mortal body was laid to rest in Garden of Memories Cemetary in Tampa.

Brother Dicus is survived by his three sons-E. A., an elder and preacher at Lorain Ave. in Cleveland, Ohio; David E. of Chattanooga, Tenn.; James T. of Agoura, Calif. His wife, Flora, resides at 201 S. Greenfield Ave., Temple Terrace, Fla. 33617.

Personal Friendship

Brother Dicus had a distinct independence about him. His convictions ran deep. Sometimes he appeared stubborn. He enjoyed a good argument. He possessed one trait, however, on which many preachers seem short. He would not fall out with someone who did not see eye to eye with him.

This writer first met A. W. Dicus in 1950. 1 was a student at Florida Christian College when he came to be dean. One day I walked into his office with a problem that to me was serious. I fully expected to be treated as a statistic. Much to my surprise he was warmly interested. He was a man with a heart. He exercised the powers of his deanship to work out a solution to my academic problem.

For the past ten years he listened to me preach week after week. Seldom did he leave the meeting house without some word of encouragement. Occasionally he would call. on the phone to express appreciation for some point in a lesson. I have never had a more appreciative listener. He loved the word of God and thrilled to hear it preached. He was able to be in attendance on Sunday mornings, though feeble and nearly blind, until a few weeks before his death.

So long, friend Dicus. I hope we may meet in the heavenly city!

Truth Magazine XXII: 43, pp. 697-698
November 2, 1978