By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
Granville W. Tyler was born September 11, 1908 at Primm Springs, Tennessee. Primm Springs is in Hickman County, about 50 miles southwest of Nashville. He passed from this life on April 13, 1996 at his home in Decatur, Alabama. On April 16, a memorial service was conducted at the meeting place of the Sommerville Road church of Christ in Decatur, with Irvin Himmel, Eugene Britnell, and this writer participating. Charles Littrell conducted the grave side service at the Roselawn Cemetery in Decatur.
Brother Tyler was the oldest of seven children born to James Edward and Mattie Derinda McGahey Tyler. His brother Leonard, now living in Longview, Texas, also be-came a well-known gospel preacher. Brother Tyler’s early education was in one, two, and four-room schools in Hickman County. After his mother’s death, his father married again. Three children were born to that union, making ten children in all.
His mother’s death had a profound effect upon him. It may have had a lot to do with turning his mind heavenward and shaping his character with so much love, compassion, and understanding. He spoke of it often, many times publicly, throughout his life. He could never speak of it without tears welling up in his eyes. In some notes, given to me by his family, he writes:
“In 1924 while at Hunter Hill, near Wrigley, at about 4 o’clock in the morning my mother died. The feeling of despair and anguish that overwhelmed us was indescribable. We, my father and his seven children, I the oldest at fifteen and Geda, the youngest at about two, stood perplexed facing a dismal future. I still cannot understand how we came through those experiences. But somehow we joined our hearts and hands and committed ourselves to the task. We older children resolved that we would look after the baby Geda regardless of what happened. All of this and much more bound us together with cords of love, compassion and understanding, and that bond remains until this day.”
Shortly after his mother died, brother Tyler went to work at a rock quarry at Wrigley, Tennessee making $1.25 per day. He later moved into the plant as oil boy, then to engineer, in charge of the pumps, turbines, and operation of the big blowing engine for the blast furnace. He writes in his notes: “For a little over two years I continued at this work. My hours at that time were from 6 to 6, twelve hours a day. We were on shift work during this time, two weeks days and two weeks nights. But the salary made it worthwhile I was making $3.60 for the twelve hour day, which was more than many workers made at that time.”
During this time he worshiped with the church at Lyles, Tennessee. At age 16, he was asked to read the scriptures and lead public prayer for the first time. He then began to participate in the public services of the church, not only at Lyles, but visited neighboring congregations to make talks. During one of several meetings in the area, brother W.B. West, Jr. asked the young brother Tyler to preach at one of the morning services. Brother West then drove brother Tyler to Nashville to meet brother H. Leo Boles to talk about enrolling in David Lipscomb College. With only a gram-mar school education, it was thought that the young man, he was nineteen by now, might enroll as a special student taking Bible, church history, and public speaking. But, brother Boles suggested that he finish high school first and then enroll as a regular student.
His first choice was to attend the high school at Lipscomb, but found it too expensive for his means. Brother West knew of a school in Charleston, Mississippi where boys could go, work on the experimental farm connected with the school, and get their high school education. So, in September of 1929, at age 21, brother Tyler quit his job at Wrigley and enrolled in Tallahatchie Agricultural High School to, in his words, “begin my education and my life’s work as a preacher of the gospel.” He lived in the school dorm and ate in the school cafeteria. The principle of the school, a member of a denomination, learned that brother Tyler wanted to preach. He insisted that brother Tyler have time to study, so he of-ten excused him from work chores on the farm so that he could study. Brother Tyler was given credit toward his school expenses for the time that he spent in study in lieu of farm work. While at the school he filled preaching appointments at several small churches around Charleston. After high school, he went to David Lipscomb and Harding Colleges.
Between David Lipscomb and Harding, he worked for a year (1934) with the Washington Avenue church in Russellville, Alabama. At Harding he met and married his beloved Francis Elliott who preceded him in death by a little less than fourteen months.
He returned to Russellville to work with the church again for four years (1937-1941). He then moved to work with the Central church in McMinnville, Tennessee for two years (1941-1943). While here, he and Francis became the proud parents of their only child, Elliott (June 24, 1942). He then worked with the Red Bank church in Chattanooga, Tennessee for two years (1944-1946); the Washington Avenue church in Russellville, Alabama, again for some over three years (1946-1950); the 77th Street church in Birmingham, Alabama for three years (1950-1953); a church in Pampa, Texas for a year (1954-1955); West Helena, Arkansas for three years (1955-1958). In September of 1958 he moved to work with the Sommerville Road church in Decatur, Alabama where he remained until his death. About twenty years or so ago, he “retired” from the local work at Sommerville Road to devote full time to meeting work, but he remained a member there and helped with the work in various capacities when not away in meetings.
Brother Tyler probably held more meetings than any other man in this century. Brother Eugene Britnell, at the funeral, recalled hearing him say that he had held more than twenty meetings at the Market Street church in Athens, Alabama alone. While he held many meetings all over the country, most of his meetings were in the Southeastern section of the country. There is no way to tell how many churches have used and are still using his popular workbook series.
When the institutional issues arose in the 1950s brother Tyler studied the issues carefully and then took his stand. After taking his stand, he never wavered. Many of his closest friends did not come to the same conclusions as he did. However, virtually all of them still maintained a good friend-ship with him. It would have been hard for anyone not to be friends with one who showed himself so friendly. His stand cost in canceled meetings, but he had to stand by and preach his convictions.
He was well known for his keen mind and quick wit. Often his wit was aimed at those that he loved most. No man ever loved a brother more than he loved his younger brother, S. Leonard Tyler. He loved to argue Bible questions with Leonard. He also loved to make him the object of a joke. One night after Leonard had preached with Granville in the audience, someone asked Granville if he had given Leonard the outline that he had preached. As quick as a flash, Granville replied, “As a matter of fact, I did. But I forgot to tell him that it was supposed to be a series.” Not only will people in this part of the country miss the preaching of brother Tyler, they will miss the hilariously funny stories that he told in many a gathering of friends in private homes about characters that he knew during his younger days in Tennessee. As he told the stories, he would imitate their gestures and speech patterns, making his audience hold their sides with laughter. He and country comedienne, Minnie Pearl, grew up in the same county. They must have breathed the same air and drunk the same water.
However, in his preaching, he was deadly serious. Some-times he would inject a humorous illustration, never for the sake of humor, but to make his point more clear. His sermons were simple, Scripture filled efforts to teach men and women God’s will and urge them to obey it. He could challenge the minds and touch the hearts of people with his lessons as well as any man this writer has ever known. He was keenly aware, and often said so, that he would have to give an account for each sermon that he preached. He also reminded his audiences that they would have to give an account for their response to the things he spoke if he spoke the truth. He also reminded them often that if he did speak the truth that they would give account for not correcting him.
He touched the lives of so many of us. We will miss him.
Anyone wishing to send a card to his son and daughter-in-law, may send it to Elliott and Kay Tyler, 814 Britwood, Dr. SW, Decatur, AL 35601.
Guardian of Truth XL: 11 p. 14-15
June 6, 1996