By Cecil Willis
On March 15, 1977, I officially tendered by letter to the Board my resignation as President of the Cogdill Foundation and as Editor of Truth Magazine. I have had the pleasure and responsibility of editing Truth Magazine since August, 1962, a period of nearly fifteen yeas.
In the early Spring of 1975, Brother Connie Adams and I made a second preaching trip to the Philippine Islands. While there, I experienced great difficulty in coping with the heat and humidity that prevailed during their hottest season of the year. Once I collapsed and was taken to a nearby hospital and instructed to eliminate the remainder of my personal schedule of preaching in the Philippines, though I did preach another sermon or two while there.
Two days before I left for the Philippines, my family doctor had strongly advised me to cancel my part of the trip. But knowing that there was insufficient time for anyone else to obtain the necessary authorizations to go in my stead, I ignored his advice and went on the trip to the Philippines. From the Philippines, I went to Australia where I had intended to conduct three gospel meetings. While in Australia I experienced a more severe attack than the one that occurred to me in the Philippines.
After spending ten weeks preaching on that trip, shortly after returning home, I went for meetings in Salem, Ohio and in Cullman, Alabama. While in Cullman, I experienced another attack. So I closed the meeting early there, and spent several days in the Cullman hospital with what a local doctor had diagnosed as a stroke. Upon release from the hospital, I flew to St. Louis where I might be under the supervision of Dr. Levy Maravilla who is a diagnostician. After extensive testing, it was concluded that the attacks I had experienced were “strokes,” technically called hypertensive encephalapathy.
There was a decided weakness on the left side of my body, particularly in my arm and leg. This persisted for several months. The passing of time revealed that I was allergic to one of the medications that was being given to me. The allergic reaction resulted in a decided slurring and distortion in my speech. For several months I was fearful that the speech distortion was connected with the “strokes.”
In the Summer of 1975 my son, Steve, and his wife Shirley, moved to Marion in order that some of the paper work-load and correspondence might be lifted from me. We sought to accomplish two things by that change or addition to the work force. We sought to lighten my work load, and also provide me time to take on an additional writing project.
Since 1955 1 have been bothered by an unimportant heart irregularity, but more importantly by a chronic high blood pressure problem. Dr. Levy Maravilla put me on limited work schedule, and required that I take some rest during the day. At one time, in the Fall of 1975, I was compelled to stay in bed all the time with the diastolic portion of my blood pressure constantly so high that it was well into the “stroke zone” region.
Last Fall, my family doctor for the past ten years, advised that I immediately take a six month leave of absence from all of my work. The church in Honolulu did not then have a preacher and I thought I would be able to work with them and recuperate at the same time. But the congregation in Honolulu had serious internal problems and evidently my presence among them did not help to solve them. So I only stayed there a few weeks. But during that time I suffered the strongest “stroke” that I have had to date. As soon as possible, I came from Honolulu to Houston, Texas to go through the Dianostic clinic there. My work load was still very limited. During this time, my brother Mike of Dayton, Ohio fully edited the paper and has continued to do so until the present. With very few exceptions, all the articles that have appeared in Truth Magazine from me for the past two years have been radio sermon manuscripts which I prepared when I was 21-23 years of age.
One of the very discouraging aspects to me of my sickness has been the fact that I seem to be gaining virtually no additional strength, and the slightest amount of work wears me out. I had thought that six months off, or a few months of a lighter work load would solve most of my health problems. Also during the past three years, I have had to undergo three operations, two of which would be called major surgery. About the only thing that I did continue to do as usual was to hold a sizable number of meetings.
After the stroke which I suffered in Hawaii the day before Thanksgiving, 1976, at its next annual board meeting in January 1977, the Board of Directors of the Cogdill Foundation suggested that I go on a complete leave of absence. Six months leave of absence (until July 1st) was the duration mentioned, though no mandatory time for leave was set. After about three months had passed, I began to realize that I was not regaining my strength. Still the slightest amount of work was tiresome to me, and also worrisome. So I decided that it would not be fair to the Foundation to continue my leave of absence for a full six months period and then resign. So I made up my mind to terminate my relationship as an employee of the Cogdill Foundation, and did so on March 15th. Privately I had suggested that terminating my salary Arpil 1, 1977 was satisfactory with me.
Another major factor or two contributed to my making the decision to terminate my Cogdill Foundation relationship. A serious problem had existed in my family for several years and it came to a head in November. This factor rendered me infinitely less suited for the office as editor of Truth Magazine. I felt as the sincere brother does who decides that he no longer is qualified to serve as an elder, and resigns for conscience’ sake. The same compulsion said to me that I should resign as editor of Truth Magazine. Other contributing factors, I will not here relate, contributed to my decision to resign.
There is more work that goes into editing a paper than anyone who has never edited one can imagine. But I must say candidly that I enjoyed that work. I had thought that the remainder of my active life would be involved in editing and writing. For the first seven years that I edited Truth Magazine, I did so entirely without pay. Gradually, with the merger with the Cogdill Foundation and my added duties, I began to be paid. For the past several years the Cogdill Foundation has paid me a full-time wage for the work done with and for them.
No paper ever represents the work of one man. Hence I want to thank all of the members of the Board of Directors, who may have served at any time, for their loyalty and encouragement and help in the work being done. Being a member of the Board of Directors is about the most thankless job that one can have. Men are chosen because of their wisdom and evident dedication in their own fields. They become as members of the Board of Directors the strongest backers that the organization has. They invest their valuable time, and usually a sizable amount of their own money. I want every single one of them to know that I personally appreciate their effort, encouragement and sacrifice. At a very recent Board Meeting, the following motion made by James Adams, seconded by James Yates and passed unanimously regarding my resignation was appreciated: “The Board of Directors of Cogdill Foundation reluctantly accepts Cecil Willis’ letter of resignation as it is written. His salary will be terminated as of April 1, 1977. This is accepted with the hope that Cecil might be later re-instated as soon as he is able to associate with us once again.”
Over the years there have been many very close associates in the publication of Truth Magazine. I shall never forget a single one of them. With some of them, I have had some differences that might appear to the public completely to have estranged me from them. If such an estrangement exists, it exists on their part and not on mine. There is and ever has been a group of hard-core backers who steadfastly promoted the paper in every righteous way that they could. Perhaps they could not make a big contribution or send in a list of one hundred subscriptions, but their heart has been 100 percent with us, and not only did they always put in a good word for our efforts, but regularly a few subscriptions would come as a direct result of their efforts. With these close associates and strong backers, there has been built a strong tie. Some of them are among my closest friends on earth. These also I never can forget.
Throughout the years many hundreds of men have contributed articles to the pages of Truth Magazine. A typical year now contains the writings of about 200 different brethren. At the top of this list is our staff of writers who always have provided the bulk of what has gone into the pages of Truth Magazine. They have made it what it is. Writers in Truth Magazine have never been paid a cent for an article which they have written. Theirs strictly has been a labor of love. Some have written prolifically, which means that nearly each week they have poured a little bit of themselves into that which makes up Truth Magazine. Some men may have written only one article, and that may have been one to criticize something we had said or done. But every article printed represented someone’s interests and conscience, and such must never be over-looked. Especially to those who have been loyal and productive staff writers do I express my gratitude.
Then there are some others whom we must not forget. They are the readers of Truth Magazine! No matter how well written or printed, a paper that is published but not read has been in vain. There has been a loyal corps of subscribers who have been taking the paper from its very first issue. Many former regular readers have now passed from the scene of life. But I know we have readers! The volume of mail tells me that. So I also want to thank those of you who have read Truth Magazine and to thank those of you who have taken the time to write.
Speaking of letters, I feel I must also include an apology to those who have written to me, because of my long-delayed response or no response at all in some instances. I have felt keenly the duty to reply to someone who was interested enough to take the time to write a letter of commendation or disagreement with something which we had said publicly. Most of the years I have worked with no secretarial help at all. My volume of personal mail (not counting the Bookstore’s) has often been around 200 pieces per week. When I would be away from home several weeks in a row, I never could catch up on my mail. At times, I have had to prepare as many as ten issues of the paper in advance. At such times I became hopelessly behind with my correspondence. When I would devote a full day to answering mail, I never could exceed thirty letters by very much in a day. At times I have devoted four days straight to trying to answer all the mail that came. But to hundreds of you, I must just use this means of asking your forgiveness for failing to answer your letters. In my experience, attendance properly to the mail that came constituted fully one-half of the work load involved in editing the paper. To God, and to all of you who have helped to make this fifteen year stint as editor whatever it has been, I offer my fullest and sincere gratitude.
What of the future? At the moment, my personal future plans are most indefinite. But more importantly to you, what about Truth Magazine? Brethren Whitehead, Robertson, and Cogdill will continue to attend to the necessary business matters attendant to publishing such a paper, and the other publications such as the Cogdill Foundation has sought to publish.
My youngest brother, Mike Willis, unanimously was asked to become the regular editor of Truth Magazine. The fact is that he has been its editor for the past six months. Mike is fifteen years younger than me. So he now is precisely the age I was when I began to edit Truth Magazine. There are four brothers and three sisters in my family. I am the oldest of the clan. Mike is next to the youngest. He was only two years old when I went away to college, and hence he and I have had very little opportunity to enjoy the brother-to-brother relationship. After he got out of college, he moved to Alexandria, Indiana for his first local work. I lived then at Marion. Hence ours has been mostly a preacher-to-preacher relationship. In fact, he has helped me on most of the major projects which I have undertaken in the last ten years. He helped me to prepare the manuscript for the Inman-Willis debate, when he first moved to Indiana. In fact, he did nearly all of that work. Then he has been one of the most important assistants in any debate in which I have been involved in the last ten years. Larry Hafley has been my main helper. But Mike, John McCort, and Morris Hafley have been the ones who did much of the work in actually preparing charts, etc.
Of course, it was not my prerogative to choose my own successor. But had I been given that right, Mike would have been my choice. Of all the men who have in recent years been associated with Truth Magazine, Mike was in my judgment by far the best suited in every way to take over the task. This is not to say that no one else could have done the job. But the fact that the Board of Directors was unanimous in offering him the editorship is indicative that I was not alone in my thinking. Some others are prolific writers on our staff. But I did not think they would be disposed to take so much of their own time away from their own work, and to devote their energies to the writings of others. Much, much of an editor’s time is spent on working on other people’s material. So true is this that I sincerely felt that my own writing deteriorated when I began to edit a paper. What I wrote had to be written hurriedly so that I could correct, and often re-write the articles of others. Then there was the proofing, and paste-up to attend to.
All four of us Willis boys make an effort to preach the gospel. Each one of us is different in the area of his strength. For example, Don is the best man in doing local work and is expert in personal work. Lewis, from a speaker’s point of view, is the best speaker. But considering every factor, it has long been my honest judgment that Mike was the ablest, overall, of the four Willis brothers. He is possessed of a superior mind. He is a diligent student, and has an excellent library to help him in that work. He is an able man in controversy, and has kept himself informed on what was going on around him and prepared himself in the field where the heat of battle was raging. Furthermore, Mike is a work-horse and possessed of strong determination. He will not be intimidated. A few letters of criticism will not cause him to run off somewhere and hide in a hole. In short, he is a true soldier of the Lord.
Mike is only six years older than my oldest son, Steve, who also helped me extensively in editing the paper. Steve worked with me for a year. Bat I said that merely to say that anyone or everyone could consider me a prejudiced witness in the assessment of Mike’s ability. I did not attend the meeting at which the letter of my resignation was presented. But I thought a good deal about whom they might choose to edit the paper. To save my life, I could not think of another viable alternative to Mike. Hence, I rejoice in his selection as editor of Truth Magazine and trust that you friends of truth will hold up his hands as you have held up mine. My best wishes to one and all.
Truth Magazine XXI: 20, pp. 308-311
May 19, 1977