By Theron N. Bohannan
Roy E. Cogdill gave up this life of dwelling in his tabernacle of clay soon after the close of the Lord’s day, May 12, 1985, following his 78th birthday, April 24, 1985. Brother Roy had suffered much for years with cancer. He submitted to the scalpels of outstanding surgeons in Texas and at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, many times. Each time, he would tell me and my wife that he had no intention of ever letting the surgeon’s knife touch his body again. Each time he had surgery, I was at his side by telephone prior to, during, and immediately afterwards (as soon as he was able to communicate by phone). We visited, prayed and cried together. When he was better, we would have good laughs together. I was always able to contain my emotions until I could get off to myself. Oh! How I (we) loved that man, as such, and even so much more for his work’s sake.
Roy E. Cogdill was not only a great general in our Lord’s army, but a great human being. As a young man, he had to work hard to contribute to the support of his widowed mother and her five fatherless children. Roy’s father died of gas inhalation in an unfortunate accident while cleaning a large tank. As a result, Roy’s mother, a Christian and a gracious lady, was left with five children to rear, educate secularly, and teach how to live a life which would make Christians of them. Roy had four sisters, but no brothers.
The Cogdills lived on a farm just out of Hobart in midwestern Oklahoma at the time of the father’s death. Hobart, Oklahoma is practically unknown to most faithful Christians, but many of you have passed about forty miles north of it as you passed through Weatherford and Clinton on old highway U.S. 66 (now 1-40) on your way to or from California about 100 miles west of Oklahoma City. Hobart is also 21 miles south of Cordell. A two-year college operated by brethren was located here. This is where Roy received his first college work. I have visited it many times. It was called for a number of years, “Cordell Christian College” (a name I do not endorse). These facts will help the reader locate Roy’s early life geographically.
Roy Cogdill was not one who went to some (sic) seminary to learn how, what, and what not to preach. He did not, like so many today, and their numbers are increasing, think he had found an easy way to make a living. At a later point in his life, Roy studied law and became a reputable attorney. However, the great text book in Roy’s life was always the precious word of the Lord. His Bible always got the most study and meditative time during these years. Morning, noon, and night, the Bible came first. In his practice of law, Roy became the anchor attorney for one of America’s great corporations, the Folger Coffee Company. As an attorney, Roy was successful, but even during the years of law practice, he continued to preach as much as possible.
At one point in his career as a lawyer, Roy was called to Washington, D.C. to serve as a consultant to the government. Roy was never to learn exactly why he was called or who was the occasion for his having been called. His association with the Folger Coffee Co. as a successful legal representative no doubt is the answer. Roy had much experience in dealing with our foreign neighbors to the south, South America and other coffee bean bearing countries. Roy has told me that he met with the highest ranking officers at the Pentagon on several occasions and even consulted on one occasion with the Supreme Court. What an honor! It is impossible for me to place all these matters chronologically, because I have surrendered all of my materials to those who have been working on Roy’s biography over the past several years: first Cecil Willis, then Yater Tant, and now Steve Wolfgang. Roy and I have traveled much together: debates, lectureships, and helping settle troubles in congregations. Without the notes mentioned, I cannot always be certain as to exactly when these things occurred. On all of these occasions, most of our time was spent discussing the deeper Bible teachings. I was always a good listener having long before realized I was being privileged to sit at the feet of one of the greatest teachers of our time.
Among those things which I have turned over to Roy’s biographers has been a rather extensive correspondence with Roy covering years of time and some pictures made with men such as Foy E. Wallace, Jr., C.R. Nichol, and Guy N. Woods. Most of these men had been forced to sleep with me (before I was married) in my father’s home-Thomas F. Bohannan-while holding meetings in our area. I think G.H.P Showalter was among this number on two occasions. Also, Roy and I crossed paths with the great old general, W.W. Otey of Winfield, Kansas.
I think I first met Roy E. Cogdill in 1938 at the old Tenth and Francis congregation in Oklahoma City where he was holding a meeting. I also met his first wife, Lorraine Cogdill, at this time. We later met her on several occasions and learned to love and admire her for she was an exceptionally intelligent, sweet, and wonderfully gracious Christian. We wish we could have known her longer and better before the Lord called her away.
I had been a reader of the original Gospel Guardian published by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., in the mid-thirties. When digression began to raise its ugly head among the congregations in the late forties, brother Roy became involved in leading the fight against it. He joined with Foy E. Wallace, Jr., in using the Bible Banner (the old Gospel Guardian had ceased publication and after a time brother Wallace had begun publishing the Bible Banner monthly) as a medium in the fight. In 1949, brother Roy and brother Yater Tant as publisher and editor respectively reactivated the Gospel Guardian as a national weekly through which to wage the growing battle. They obtained other top and sound brethren, all being of the finest vintage of gospel preachers and gifted and talented writers such as: James W. Adams; the late Luther Blackmon; Cecil B. Douthitt; C.R. Nichol; Hoyt H. Houchen; and many more.
After the death of his first wife, brother Cogdill married Venita (Nita) Williams Faulkner, a recently widowed Christian with two young children. She was a faithful member of the Tenth and Francis congregation in Oklahoma City. Roy had moved to Oklahoma City and was conducting meetings from there. On the return of Nita and Roy from their honeymoon in Hawaii, Roy dropped off to conduct a meeting for us at Canoga Park in southern California where I served as one of the elders. Nita continued on to Oklahoma City. Roy stayed with Lennis and me in our home during the meeting of ten days. I think he also conducted another meeting while he was there and continued to make his home with us. Roy made his home our home numbers of times when he was holding meetings in southern California. Whether we were home or not, Roy had a key to our house.
In about 1961, Roy, Nita and their children moved to Canoga Park to work locally with us at Winnetka Avenue. After Roy had been with us a year or two, a congregation a couple of hundred miles north called brother Roy and insisted on his coming up and helping them with a rather nasty internal problem. They told him to bring Theron Bohannan with him to help. Roy and I stayed at the same motel. Roy met and worked with about half the congregation before noon and I the other half. We then swapped groups in the afternoon. Then, come evening at 7:30, everybody met in the meeting house and brother Roy Cogdill preached to all, and did he preach God’s truth with courage and his great power without favor to any! With God’s blessings, the congregation was saved and started growing and has grown through the years. They were a really taught congregation!
One afternoon, about two hours before s0vices, I had dozed off to sleep. Roy was studying. We had not brought a concordance with us. Roy could not remember a verse of Scripture he really wanted to use, so he awoke me and said, “Get up from there and either tell me where that Scripture is or help me find it.” We never did find it, and the matter became humorous to me the last thirty minutes before time for services. Roy, still mumbling and grumbling (I was under no pressure), turned to me and in his bass voice asked, “What are you laughing about?”
I told him, “I am really going to enjoy seeing you work yourself out of this one.” With brother Roy at the helm, I was not worried although it was an important verse with reference to the point of that night’s lesson. I could relate many such incidents. How I, as well as thousands of others, loved that man for his work’s sake!
About a year ago, Lennis and I spent a day and a night with brother and sister Cogdill in their home at Katy, Texas (greater Houston). We had not seen them since they moved from Conroe. I had kept in touch with Roy by telephone. I could listen and talk to Roy by the hour without tiring, and I believe the feeling was mutual. I remember so well that 1984 visit. My wife, Lennis, also loved Roy like no other man outside her own family for many reasons. Not desiring to tire Roy too much and having a board meeting of the Guardian of Truth Foundation (I am the senior member of the board) to attend, we pulled out but not until a number of pictures had been made of the four of us, Roy, Nita, Lennis, and me. Before Roy became ill, I had worked with him on the board of the Cogdill Foundation of which he was the president. He never treated the board like unlearned and insignificant subordinates. They were no big “I’s” and little “You’s.” Brother Cogdill possessed that peculiar power of leadership that many years of hard study, prayerful meditation and experience produces. The last is the best teacher of all, the wit has wisely said. Roy Cogdill’s great heart and love of all men wanted to hear and understand every word and those big, blue eyes peered, as he listened, right through words as they were spoken to the heart of a person realizing the full impact of the Lord’s meaning when he said, “. . . from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mt. 13:34).
When so many who loved Roy showed up to “give honor to whom honor is due,” at his last “birthday celebration,” April 23, 1985 (his birthday was April 24), Theron and Lennis Bohannan were among the number. Actually, it was a worship service with a number of different speakers with scriptural subjects befitting the name of the Lord and commending an old general of the Lord’s army for being so truly dedicated to the cause of truth for so many years. It honored this writer mightily to accept an insistent invitation to the Cogdill home to talk with brother Roy. I sat at his bedside for about five hours talking. Most of the time we were alone. From time to time sister Nita would come in to see about her patient. Roy and I did our best to cover about fifty years of reminiscence. We laughed, cried, and prayed together. After the first forty-five minutes, Roy rolled over on his side; his color turned from a chalky gray to a nice, normal pink, and sister Cogdill told me, “You should have come three or four weeks ago; look at the color in his face, and he hasn’t rolled over like that for weeks without help.”
When Roy passed away, in keeping with Roy’s wishes, I was among the first to be called. When Nita told me that Roy had died just as the Lord’s day was ending, I knew that his death had come just as he would have wanted it. He had gone to worship both Lord’s day morning and evening (which he had not done for some time). He was tired, so retired early and awoke about midnight suffering massive heart failure. He was laid to rest at Hobart, Oklahoma at noon, May 15th in a family plot only a short distance from his sainted mother’s grave.
The last Sunday we were together this side of eternity, I asked Roy, “If you were beginning your life all over today, would you live and follow the same lines you have thus far in your life?”
He answered something to this effect: “Yes, I wouldn’t know any other way and would not learn it if there were another.” Then he quotes 2 Timothy 4:6-8: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
Then he said, “Brother Theron, I have made many mistakes, and I am far from thinking I have been sinless, as the apostle Paul said in Romans, ‘All have sinned.’ You and I have talked of these things in the past at great length in one way or another. I don’t know about being ready to be offered, but I have fought a good fight and kept the faith, and I think I have about finished my course, and there is no doubt in my mind about a crown of righteousness which the Lord has for me in that last and great day, as well as for all them that will love to see His coming again to claim His own.”
Those who love the Lord and His precious cause ought to hold souls, like this soldier and fighter for the truth of the cause of the cross of our King, in high esteem. We should strive even more to go to heaven just to be with our brother who will be there. There we can all talk to our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus as an elder brother, and to all the good, obedient souls who have ever lived in this old world of woe and tears and sadness. Roy Cogdill kept this writer (and many others) from slipping into the looseness of man’s ideology, so-called “liberalism,” while it was still in its infancy many years ago with his powerful and loving teaching, so it has been a joy for me to write (along with others) about the Lord God and standing foursquare for the cause of Christ and the willingness to give up friends and kinsmen for His cause in a memorial issue of Guardian of Truth dedicated to Roy’s life and service.
May the Lord bless sister Nita Cogdill and all other members of the family in their hours, weeks, and months of sadness and loneliness.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 14, pp. 432-434
July 18, 1985