By S. Leonard Tyler
Granville’s Settling Down to Real Life
Granville completed his high school work at the Tallahatchie Agricultural High School at Charleston, Mississippi and entered David Lipscomb College at Nashville, Tennessee in the fall of 1932. He soon had his time filled with gospel meetings in Nashville and Hickman County, his home county. In 1934 he completed his work at David Lipscomb College and after his meetings that summer, moved to Russellville, Alabama to work with the Washington Avenue church until the fall of 1935. He enrolled at Harding College. These were very meaningful years in his life.
Frances Elliott, from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was in her junior year when Granville arrived. They soon became friends. This friendship grew as the school years passed and Granville asked Frances to become his wife. She accepted before they graduated. Granville returned to Russellville, Alabama and took up his work with the Washington Avenue church until October. That was the month arranged for the wedding, and he returned to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to claim his beloved bride.
October 26, 1937, in a beautiful home wedding of her parents (Dave and Addle Elliott) in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Granville and Frances were joined together as husband and wife. Brother Dean Sears of Harding College read the touching and appropriate ceremony. They promised to love, honor, cherish, and to keep themselves to each other only, so long as they both shall live. Avanelle, her sister, was her bridesmaid and I stood as best man as they said their vows.
Granville and Frances, after a short honeymoon trip, returned to Russellville, Alabama and Granville assumed his work with his true helpmeet. They enjoyed their first work together, and no people could have been more helpful and encouraging. Four years flew rapidly by and the time came when the decision was make to move and work with the Central church in McMinnville, Tennessee. Brother T.Q. Martin, a well known gospel preacher, was retiring and planned to live there. He and Granville had much in common and worshiped and worked very cooperatively together. Granville was writing Bible study lessons, handing them out, having members fill in the proper answers, and then studying them together. I was in a meeting with the Eastside church in McMinnville; and we, Sammie Ruth and I, stayed with Granville and Frances during the meeting. Granville and I discussed the need for such lessons to be published and agreed that he had started already. We commented on the type of questions, and he began his work. He designed and published as the years went by and he used them first in a class himself. His lessons became very popular and sold well. They are challenging and test one’s interest and knowledge of the Bible and offering more.
It was also here on June 24, 1942 that Elliott, their only child was born. It was a momentous occasion and the joy characterizing their heart was inexpressible. In 1944 they moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee to work with the Red Bank church for two years. This was a good work and the church grew and enjoyed unity. However, in 1946 an invitation came from the Washington Avenue church in Russellville, Alabama, and they decided to return to Alabama for another stay this time almost four years, from 1946-1950. The work with the Washington Avenue church was always fulfilling and profitable. They next went to Birmingham, Alabama and worked with the 77th Street church. Their stay in Birmingham was three years 1950-1953. I was with them in a meeting during this time. They left each place in peace and with precious memories and friends never forgotten. Birmingham was a typical example. Their next move was Pampa, Texas for one year, 1954-1955. The weather didn’t help. A very big dust storm blew in and almost covered them up. When Frances dug out, she was ready to go somewhere the dust didn’t blow. Added to this, the unity of understanding was lacking among some of them. Granville thought another preacher could do a better job than he at this time and place.
Their next move was to West Helena, Arkansas, 1955-1958, for a three-year period. This was a very harmonious effort together. It also put them closer to us. We lived in Pine Bluff. Granville conducted a meeting for us, and I preached in one for them while they lived in West Helena.
This was not a new experience for us. We often worked with one another in meetings wherever we lived. We had one meeting at Fairfield, Tennessee, Hickman County, a little north of Centerville on Highway 100 when he preached one night and I led the singing. The next night I preached and he led the singing. This was very enjoyable and profit-able to us.
In 1958 they moved to Decatur, Alabama to work with the Summerville Road church and forgot about moving. They lived and worked with the church for some eighteen or nineteen years. While living here, Frances taught school until she retired. Granville retired as local evangelist and went into “full time” meeting work. It is thought by some, that, perhaps, he held more meetings than any living preacher during his lifespan. He held some 21 or 22 meetings with the Market Street church in Athens, Alabama. Preaching and especially conducting meetings were his first love.
It is my firm conviction Granville confidently under-stood, believed, and preached that everyone capable of circumstantiating their reasons and choices for their own behavior is obligated before God to do so. This is an innate and an awesome responsibility and liberty common to all of us. No one can shirk or shift these life and soul determining factors with impunity. Each individual must and will make his or her own determinations and follow them God being the judge will pronounce the verdict.
Herein lies the answer, “Why was he so devout, emotional, and fervent in his preaching?” Granville truly believed the word of God to be the absolute rule of faith and practice. One must preach “what is revealed in his Word and leave the secret things to God.” Faith stands upon what is said and not in the unrevealed. One must never assume that he can with his imaginative, ingenious, and finite, humanistic mind fill in the blanks of divine knowledge.
Granville’s and Frances’ love always reached out to Elliott and when Kay became his wife, their love was freely and fully extended to her. When David and Derinda were born to Elliott and Kay, Granville and Frances could hardly contain themselves. They were “proud” grandparents until death summoned them home. However, Derinda became the magnet of her grandfather’s eye.
Elliott completed high school at Decatur and went to Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas for his degree. He received his Master’s degree in math from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. He is at present serving as head of the Math Department at John C. Calhoun State Community College, Athens, Alabama.
One of the best choices Elliott made in life was when he and Kay were married. This enforced, seasoned, and settled him to accomplish his true purpose and design for life. Kay is a very faithful companion, wife, and mother. Her ability and energy seem almost unlimited. Granville and Frances could not have had a more sharing and caring daughter-in-law, and they both dearly loved her. She accepted the responsibility for Granville’s care when he became ill, even his book business. Granville’s confidence in Kay was ex-pressed to me on an occasion concerning his book business. He assured me, “Kay can handle it.”
David, their son, is happily married to Amy, a lovely young lady, deeply involved in journalism. David is approved as a medical student to enter the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Derinda is in her second year at David Lipscomb University and enjoying it.
Elliott and Kay were lovingly responsible for Granville during his illness. All of the family showed their love and respect to Granville as father, father-in-law, and grandfather. Granville could not have had a better nurse in charge than Kay. Elliott and Kay manifested great consideration to me when I visited with Granville while he was sick. They offered to all of us their greatest respect and consideration at his death. A warm family relationship has always existed between our families, and this same relationship is projected for the future.
Some Questions Answered
What motivated Granville to have a passionate desire to preach? I do not claim to have all the answers, but perhaps we can observe some fundamental influencing practices which afford well-hewn building stones for his desire. Parental example must have weighed heavily in molding the desire to serve the Lord. His grandparents on both sides were Christians and his parents regularly attended all the services of the church, sometimes traveling three or four miles in a two-horse wagon to get us there. Papa took an active part in the services and thanked God for the privilege of serving. The church and her purpose in the world was a pleasant subject of conversation in our home. They impressed God’s expectation of each member of his church to use his ability in serving the Lord. And when one gives his best effort, God gives his blessing.
Granville’s faith in and love for the Lord moved him to become a Christian early in life. He soon developed a desire to tell others about Jesus. He felt a responsibility for the lost and was convinced that their greatest need was the gospel of Christ. He also determined somewhat like Isaiah 6:8 expresses it, “Here am I; send me” and perceived that God expected him to take the gospel message to the lost. Thus he accepted the commission and faithfully and dutifully put himself to work. He preached for his own salvation while simultaneously seeking to touch the hearts of others and lead them to Christ. What motivated him to preach? His faith and love for the Lord and love and concern for the sinner. This motivated him to quit his job, go back to school and start preaching not knowing what the future held, but believing the Lord was with him and that he was engaged in the greatest work on earth.
Why Was He Exemplified as a Preacher?
Let us accept the fact that he made an extraordinary impression as a young preacher. Why? Some factors are unknown but some are self-evident. He was the first young man, to my knowledge, in our community to manifest a real determining desire to preach, although there were, at that time, over fifty churches in Hickman County. Granville, some way, overcame the traditional barrier that only middle-and old-aged members should preach. However, a very short time after he began, several other young men started, of which I was one, some sixty-five years ago. I don’t know about the others but I often “light-heartedly” said, “I know, if he can preach, I can.” Maybe others really thought that, too. Nevertheless, he became an example that it could and should be done even by young men, and we followed his example.
He always manifested a humble, sincere conviction and devotion in his preaching There was not an arrogant molecule in his body. It was not just making a speech to him, but preaching the gospel of Christ as “the power of God unto salvation.” He spoke these things, exhorting and rebuking with biblical authority. He kept a sense of humor, an honest, loving feeling toward others, but a life committed to the Lord from his youth until pulmonary fibrosis, the sickness of death, took charge. This, I believe, helps answer the question of why he became exemplified as a gospel preacher and preached faithfully until death.
How Did He React to the Dividing Problems?
The institutional and centralized sponsoring church theories were soul searching, emotional problems which severed friendship, family, and even church relationships. The proponents of these ideas were persistent even to the dividing of the church of our Lord. The human reasoning faultily concluded: what the individual can do, the church can do. One group of elders stated, “If it is a good work, and we decide to do it, the church can do it.” Many radical statements, theories, and doctrines became alive and so definite that if one differed no more fellowship. The orphan institutional home furnished the emotional feelings sufficiently to override biblical knowledge and sway the support. If and when one’s understanding of the Bible led him to conscientiously believe that the church could not do her work through a human institution, he was an “anti.” This meant to them that he was opposed to all these good works. If one believed and contended that the church of our Lord was sufficiently authorized, organized, and equipped to do whatsoever God commissioned her to do, that individual was marked as one refusing to do missionary and/or benevolent work. Granville notwithstanding believed, practiced, and taught that the church of our Lord was authorized, organized, and fully equipped to accomplish whatever God commissioned her to do. He believed the inspired word of God furnished the man of God completely unto every good work and that the doctrine of Christ is the absolute authority for the church. Therefore, one must have a “thus saith the Lord” for her worship and work. (See Eph.3:11, 20, 21; 4:16.)
Granville irrespectively stood upon the word of God in belief and practice. He had many meetings canceled and was falsely accused of having no love and cared not for “the poor little orphan children.” Regardless, Granville, in full consideration of what the Bible taught, stood unequivocally and faced the issues with conviction, confidence and love for the truth. He had absolute trust in God, his authority and power to accomplish his own purpose upon the earth in his own eternally planned and revealed way (1 Cor. 1:20-25, 29-31). Thus he stood assuredly, happily, and prayerfully praying, “Thy will be done,” and gave himself wholly to preaching the gospel.
Granville sincerely sought, in my judgment (without a brother’s prejudice, if possible), and accomplished the ad-monition, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you save both yourself and those who hear you”(NKJV), God being the judge.
His appreciation and humility are shown in a letter writ-ten after the people of the church of Decatur gave him a birthday party. Brother Ken Mitchell wrote “A Tribute to Brother Granville Tyler.” His letter to me explains his attitude. He would gratefully say about the same of my memories and most likely would add “Aww, Leonard!” Here is his letter:
Dear Leonard and Ruth,
Thought you might be interested in the poem read to me at the “Surprise Birthday Party” on Mon., Sept. 11. It was indeed a surprise when I walked in and 98 people started singing “Happy Birthday.” This took place at Cullmen. And being a little vain in my old age, I wanted you to see the poem.
I’m doing as well as common. Hope all goes well with you. Love,
Granville and Frances enjoyed a true loving companion-ship for fifty-seven years, three months and fourteen days from October 26, 1937 until February 10, 1995. Each felt a vital part of the other and shared all their joys, sorrows, disappointments, successes, and accomplishments in tears or smiles together. Frances was a true helpmeet to and for Granville, and he was a faithful and caring husband. Frances stood by him in his preaching and helped by teaching Bible classes. She was the teacher of a class at death. She welcomed their friends into their home and enjoyed “keeping” the preacher during meetings when she could. Frances was a very pleasant hostess.
Frances never tired of hearing Granville preach. Frankly speaking, she appeared to think Granville was the best preacher around. Granville’s jokes appeared to be new to her each time told and she often suggested some to narrate. Frances didn’t hesitate to let one know what she thought. She was genuinely Frances and he dearly loved her until her departure Granville and Frances moved to Decatur, Alabama in 1958 and settled down for life. He was working with the Summerville Road church. Frances was soon employed by the Decatur Public School System as a teacher and she continued until retirement. Granville was the local preacher for the Summerville Road church for eighteen years and retired to conduct meetings. After retiring, they lived in Decatur for some nineteen years and worshiped with the Summerville Road church, taught Bible classes, and he preached as opportunities came. They loved the people at Summerville Road and continued with them until death called them home.
Granville and Frances ware married in a beautiful home wedding of her parents in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, October 26, 1937. Avanelle, her sister, (now Mrs. James Baird of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), was her bridesmaid and I stood as the best man when they repeated their vows, “I will love, honor, cherish, care for you, and keep myself to you only, so long as we both shall live.” This was a joyful occasion to them and we welcomed them into our families with pleasure.
They shared this relationship for fifty-seven years, three months and fourteen days. On February 10, 1995, Frances was laid to rest and on April 16, 1996, Granville was laid by her side, just fourteen months and three days afterwards, in the Roselawn Cemetery in Decatur, Alabama. Avanelle Baird and I, with their loved ones and friends, stood by the grave side of each one, as we had done at their wedding as brother Charles Littrell closed the service with an expression often used by Granville at a funeral service. “Now we have gone as far as we can, let us pray” and God’s blessings were asked to be upon us as we of necessity committed Granville and Frances to his care. The necessity was we had to give them up, but consigning them to God gives the hope that we shall meet again. As we walked away, I thought, God keep you until we meet again with the Lord in the air so shall we forever be together with him.
I would like to express our appreciation to those who had a public part in the funeral services for Granville and Frances. Brother Irvin Himmel for the obituary and observations; brother Marvin Hale, a very close friend, for his heartfelt thoughts and leading two songs; brother AI Bowers for leading two hymns; brother Eugene Britnell who spoke of his memories, gave one of Granville’s outlines, “Paradoxes of Death,” and complimentary tribute; brother Ed Bragwell’s eulogy and a biographical listing from Granville’s personal notes with appreciative expressions. The service was closed with the song “Amazing Grace” and prayer. Brother Charles Littrell closed the services at the Roselawn Cemetery with appropriate comments and thoughts. He closed with a prayer. Brother Eugene Britnell and brother Ed Bragwell were friends of Granville and Frances from their youth. The services were planned by Granville and Frances to use the same personnel and were carried out as they requested. Allow me to say within this paragraph, for all of us to each of these men, “Thank you and Amen and Amen.”
Objection Raised To My Article: