By E. N. Lovel
On February 20, 1978 the Kingdom of Jesus Christ; my Lord, suffered a great loss. It occurred in Nashville, Tennessee, at St. Thomas hospital, second floor surgical suite. There death came to my beloved friend, my fellow laborer, my co-worker, a great soldier, a Christian, Gilbert W. Holt.
His Operation And Death
I had car trouble that morning and arrived in a borrowed car about eleven o’clock. Fully an hour later than I had intended. Shortly thereafter, Gilbert and I had a few minutes with just the two of us and the Lord. I cherish those moments. I wish I had extended them just a little and said a few more things. I really never thought Gilbert would not make it. It was past noon when they came to take him to surgery. A host of friends were with the family. We were in a long line down the hall. Gilbert raised his hand to touch us, or wave as he passed by. We all went to lunch. Someone was in the proper waiting area at all times.
About seven p.m. word came. The by passes of those arteries near his heart were complete! All had gone well! He would be closed up in about an hour and a half. We all rejoiced and gave thanks. Brother A. C. Grider, who followed Gilbert at East Side, Shelbyville, Tennessee, remarked, “He’s on his way.” (Brother Grider had this surgery several months ago and has done wonderfully well.) Several of us left. A few minutes later there was a message for Gil (Gilbert and Bettye’s only son). They were having a problem and must notify a member of the family. My wife and I went with the family to a small waiting room in the surgical area. (Neither my wife nor I are part of the family. We just have a relationship as though we were.) All were anxious, “What could it be?” “Just some problem they are trying to work out,” Brother Dorris Rader sought to assure us. (He is Gil’s father-in-law, and preaches at Westwood, Tullahoma, Tennessee.) About 8:10, a nurse came from surgery. Gilbert’s heart was not taking the load. It was serious. They would notify us every fifteen or twenty minutes. About 8:30, one of the doctors on the team came. The problem continued. They had attached a booster or helping device, but his heart was still not taking the load. “Can’t you let him stay on the machine?”, Bettye asked. “The machine will save your life for a while. But, if you stay on it too long it will kill you. It beats up the blood,” the doctor explained. “How serious is it?” “Very serious.” “What are his chances?” “Slim.” He stayed a few minutes and left explaining that he would return to surgery for any further assistance he might be. It was nearing nine o’clock, I saw a man through a small glass in the door. His clothes told me he was from surgery. For the first time I felt Gilbert was not going to make it. “He’s coming,” I said. Every eye was on the doctor when he opened the door. Two words, “He’s gone.” Thus the life of a brave and gallant soldier of the cross, Gilbert W. Holt, was ended.
My friendship and co-labors with Brother Holt go back to our very early years. We both grew up in Limestone County, Alabama. We both had secular jobs for our living and preached with smaller congregations in that county. We both preached at the congregation where he grew up. Neither of us could now preach there. The influence of the present digression on that congregation prevented it. Since that time we have been through many things together. We have preached, prayed, wept, sung, fought for right, debated and been threatened with jail together.
We moved from Athens, Alabama within a week of each other to go into full-time work. He went to Illinois; I went to Kentucky. It was during this time that we were threatened with jail. Gilbert was in town for a meeting with us. When he came to our house so did his dear wife, Bettye and his adored children, Becky and Gil. Some of those people who preach on the court house lawn in the small towns on Saturday afternoon had been making their rounds. You know how they did, always taking up a collection. For some weeks I had spoken after they did. It was getting to them. Pressure was on the county judge. Gilbert and I were there that Saturday afternoon. I was speaking. The county judge sent the Chief of Police to pick us up. Gilbert kept telling them, “You can’t do that.” Of course, he meant it was not right, or legal or constitutional. But believe me they could do it. While the judge sat on his desk, the crowd whooped and hollered. Some leaned in through an open window to hear. The judge seemed ready to show the people a favor. If certain critical things had not happened as they did, I believe he would have locked us up as he threatened to do.
Gilbert had his first heart attack in Pekin, Illinois. He was twenty-seven. I was scheduled for a meeting there and arrived the next afternoon. He had gone through some difficult times with the brethren there. More than that, they were just completing a building program. Typical of his whole life, Gilbert had worked day and night on both of these things. He had a second heart attack there. He was teaching a Wednesday morning Bible class. At this time I was preaching in Washington, Illinois, in the same county as Pekin. This enabled us to again be with the Holt’s. The burden on his heart was great. The volume of work and hours spent in it were also great. He was ready to spend and be spent.
I later moved to Richmond, Indiana. Very shortly I began encouraging Gilbert to move to Cambridge City, Indiana. He had been in Pekin, his first full-time work, seven years. He left it in very good condition. I knew he could help save that congregation from institutionalism and other modernistic tendencies. He did. I failed to do the same in Richmond. From Cambridge City he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee. There were a handful of faithful brethren meeting in a rented store building. Before long, they were in a building program. Although they had some almost impossible hurdles, they did it. Again, Gilbert left the church in very good condition.
Next it was Shelbyville, Tennessee where much work was to be done within and without. Again by the grace of God, Gilbert was equal to the task. And again it was a building program. This brought about the East Side Church where Gilbert was when he left Shelbyville. They now aid in the support. of a number of men.
Some two and a half years ago Gilbert moved to Lewisburg, Tennessee, to work with the Hickory Heights Church. Once again a great and needed work was done. This is attested to by predecessors, elders, deacons and members of the Hickory Heights Church. Gilbert was thrilled this last year when he preached in a meeting where his parents now attend. His good wife, Bettye, plans to live in Lewisburg. His loving daughter, Becky Thompson lives there. Her husband, Dan, adored Gilbert. So did his daughter-in-law, Diana. His grandson, Danny Thompson, soon to be three, should faintly remember him. His other grandson, just ten days old when Gilbert died, will bear his name, Gilbert Wilkerson Holt III. Gil is in the process of moving to Dayton, Tennessee, to work with the church there. Even the undertaker said, “Gilbert was like Jesus, he would come into your heart if you would let him.”
Gilbert had rendered invaluable assistance to me in a debate last August. I was to assist him in debate this July. This was to be in the Gary-Hobart, Indiana area. Gilbert had worked long and hard just to get propositions signed. Please pray that this will go through with someone filling in where Gilbert would have been.
Funeral services were February 23rd at the building of the Hickory Heights congregation, Lewisburg. Another service was held at the building of the East Side Church in Athens, Alabama. The great number present at each service testified to the respect in which he was held. Some attended both places. Lessons were presented by Brother Dorris Rader, Brother Steve Patton (who said, “I was one of his Timothy’s”) and myself. Congregational singing was led in Lewisburg by Brother Marvin Andrews, an elder and song leader there. In Athens it was led by Brother Tom O’Neal, preacher at Bessemer, Alabama Burial was in Roselawn Cemetery in Athens, Alabama.
After the death of Moses, God charged Joshua, “Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people.” And so when one has fallen others must rise up and carry forth the work of our God. Indeed “A prince and a great man is fallen.” A man “of whom the world was not worthy.” Let us work diligently to the glory of our God. Let us pray for more who are so dedicated as was Gilbert Holt.
Truth Magazine XXII: 17, pp. 283-284
April 27, 1978