By James W. Adams
On the Lord’s day, February 1, 1987, instead of occupying the pulpit, as he had faithfully done for almost fifty years, our dearly beloved Harold F. Sharp, Sr., of Little Rock, Arkansas, breathed his last in Arkansas Baptist Medical Center. For about two months, he had waged a valiant struggle with respiratory impairment coupled with a weak heart. After considerable improvement over a period of about two weeks, giving is family new hope, his courageous spirit conceded the contest to an exhausted body and took its departure to be with Christ. Harold had been beset by health problems for a number of years. Several years ago, he had open-heart surgery at Bethesda, MD. Since that time, he had some close skirmishes with death but each time won the battle. This time, it was not to be, and those of us who loved him are devastated by his passing. We grudge him not the joy of being with his Lord, but selfishly human, we wish him here.
Harold Sharp’s friends and brethren in the Lord who deeply loved him were legion; his devotion to truth was unfaltering; his accomplishments in the Lord’s work were tremendous; he was possessed of an astute mind and a commanding personality; his knowledge of the word of God and ability to proclaim it were extraordinary; and his sincerity, zeal, and courage were all but inexhaustible. The cause of Christ, in the State of Arkansas particularly and in the brotherhood generally, has lost one of its finest representatives leaving a void that will be difficult indeed to fill. Multitudes in heaven will have reason to praise the Lord because Harold lived and preached the Word. What more eloquent eulogy than this could we possibly deliver?
The Funeral Service
The funeral service was conducted in the chapel of the McNutt Funeral Home in Conway, Arkansas the afternoon of February 4. The chapel overflowed with an extremely large crowd of brethren from several states, some quite distant. There were many preachers there also from several states. A.W. Goff, Jim Mahan, and James W. Adams (all close friends, brethren, and coworkers through many years) spoke. Rich Lumpkin of Russellville, Arkansas led the congregational singing of: “Our God, He is Alive, Do All in the Name of the Lord; Where the Roses Never Fade, and Home On The Banks of The River.”
Brother Jim Mahan spoke poignantly and with great emotional fervor of his personal relationship with Harold and his devoted wife, Pearl, through more than forty years. He also read a number of appropriate Scriptures. James W. Adams gave a brief expression of his love and appreciation for Harold including a poem from his own pen, read a tribute written by Harold’s granddaughter, Michelle, and led those assembled in prayer. A.W. Goff delivered the principal address. He spoke eloquently with deep emotion concerning his personal ties with Harold over forty years; of Harold’s sterling character and exemplary life; and basing his remarks upon a reading of 2 Timothy 4:1-8, he spoke of Harold as a valiant soldier of the cross of Christ giving special emphasis to his dogged devotion to truth and the New Testament church. He concluded by dealing with the bitter opposition and virulent persecution that Harold endured from brethren in the state of Arkansas because of his convictions on a number of controversial issues past and present. Brother Goff’s remarks were personal (without name calling), pointed, and plain. It surprises me not that already there are criticisms emanating from some who were present. They deem A.W. Goff’s remarks inappropriate and resent their being expressed under the circumstances. The majority of those present, however, appeared to this writer to be totally appreciative of Goff’s remarks and not at all disturbed about the propriety of their being made on that occasion. I know that no person present could doubt that what was said clearly expressed without apology A.W. Goff’s absolute convictions concerning Harold Sharp, his character, and his work.
What we have just mentioned involves that which is purely and wholly a matter of human judgment. However, it seems to me, Brother Goff’s critics need to recognize the fact that Harold F. Sharp himself was not a tepid Simon Milquetoast. He was what he was and stood for what he stood without excuse and never left anyone in doubt about it either. He spoke his convictions without fear or favor and never courted human approbation. This brings to mind an incident which I relate from memory, hence it may not be exact but is in the main correct. It was at a debate. A preacher who was opposed to the position Harold held on institutionalism and the sponsoring church confronted Harold and in the conversation that ensued threatened Harold physically. Harold walked up as close to him as he could get, stretched his arms out and swelling out his chest said, “Here I am; poke me anywhere and everywhere you wish with your finger and you won’t find a scared spot on me.” I ask as candidly as I know how, “Why should it be thought that the last rites of a spiritual warrior such as Harold Sharp ought to be a hodgepodge of sentimental platitudes?” Harold’s body was laid to rest in Roselawn Cemetery in Little Rock, the city where he was born, grew to manhood, was baptized into Christ, began his preaching, married, lived the last years of his life, and died.
The Early Years
Harold F. Sharp was born November 3, 1915 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents were Floyd Lewis and Ethel Virginia (Brewer) Sharp. His family consisted of his parents, two brothers – Louis J. and William E., and two sisters -Virginia Sharp Huey and Juanita Sharp Byrd. His parents and Juanita are deceased. Louis, Virginia, and William, all of Little Rock, survive him. Louis is the faithful preacher for the West 65th Street congregation in Little Rock.
Harold had a rich background in the church. His parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were New Testament Christians. His maternal grandfather, James H. Brewer, was for many years an elder of the 4th and State congregation in Little Rock as was also his father, Floyd. Floyd Sharp was also an excellent song director.
Harold literally “grew up” in the 4th and State church, at that time, one of the most historic, largest, and most influential in Arkansas. He was exposed to and imbibed deeply of the superb teaching of Glenn E. Green and E.R. Harper, local preachers, and of a host of the greatest preachers in the brotherhood who were continuously brought to 4th and State for meetings. Green and Harper tremendously influenced Harold relative to devotion to truth.
Harold was a vigorous, exceptionally intelligent, and just as mischievous boy. His brothers and sisters have delighted through the years to tell of his pranks, in which they often were the victims. In this respect, Harold never ceased to be a “kid.” He loved a good joke, especially a practical one, as all of his friends, who often bore the brunt of them, will testify.
Tragically, when Harold was twelve, he was stricken with what his doctors diagnosed as “infantile paralysis.” He almost died from the disease and was left physically impaired – one side of his face was drawn including the mouth. This involved a slight disfigurement of his face and a degree of speech impairment. A person of less character would have allowed this to embitter him, stifle ambition, and produce a stultifying inferiority complex, but not Harold Sharp. Like Milton, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Helen Keller, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, he ignored his affliction, enhanced his considerable ability, and rose to the heights in his sphere of activity, the service of the Lord. There were those who sought to discourage him. He was deeply hurt early when E.R. Harper suggested that he might better serve the Lord (by reason of his facial situation) to use his ability to make money instead of preaching and contribute to the support of others, not thus afflicted, in the preaching of the Word. Hurt by the suggestion, but undaunted, he proved brother Harper wrong by becoming an able, successful, and tremendously influential proclaimer of the ancient gospel.
Harold was an excellent student and made a splendid record in Little Rock (Central) High School, the largest in Arkansas and one of the finest in the nation. He excelled in mathematics and was often called upon to teach the class in the absence of the instructor. He represented the school on the debate team and was a member of the school quartet. Finishing high school in 1933 in the midst of “The Great Depression,” like so many young men of that time, he was not able to enter college immediately. He obtained work in a local grocery store and continued there for a number of years while saving money to go to college. His plans were to attend Harding College and prepare himself to preach.
Young Manhood Years
Harold obeyed the gospel soon after his bout with infantile paralysis at the age of thirteen. He was from this beginning to the end of his life a faithful and active Christian. After high school, Harold was active in the teaching program at 4th and State and made talks there and in small congregations near Little Rock as he worked toward the time when he could devote himself wholly to the preaching of the Word.
In February of 1938, a thing occurred that proved to be one of the most significant events in Harold’s life. He met Pearl Sprott. Pearl was a Southwest Texas ranch girl. She grew up on a ranch between Uvalde and Del Rio, Texas (my home country). She had come to Little Rock to work as a secretary in John R. Brinkley’s offices. On her first Lord’s day in Little Rock she attended services at 4th and State and on the second identified with the congregation. After the service, Harold introduced himself to her and invited her to attend a class for young people he was teaching on Sunday evening. As she tells it, being a country girl and intimidated by the “big city,” she told him she was afraid to ride the “street car” to the meeting house after dark. Not being noted for being bashful or allowing a little thing like that to deter him, he magnanimously offered to come in his father’s car and bring her to the class. His sister, Virginia, says the family had to ride the street car to services. This led to dates between Harold and Pearl and ultimately to marriage the following fail. I say without fear of contradiction, this was probably the most intelligent thing Harold ever did in his entire life. Pearl also brought to their marriage a rich heritage of the faith, her family for generations having had significant connection with those who embrace and practice “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). For more than 48 years, Pearl has been everything to Harold implicit in the Bible statement, “help meet for him. ” God bless her, and comfort her in her loss!
Beginning a Family and Going to College
Sometime before his marriage, Harold had changed jobs. He had gone to work for a bakery operating a bread route. Being a natural born salesmen, he was immensely successful and was soon drawing a salary that was almost unheard of at that time. He and Pearl lived frugally for five years and saved their money. This enabled Harold to go to college without help from anyone. In 1943 after Christmas, Harold, Pearl, and their infant son (Harold F. Jr., “Sonny,”) made their way to Henderson, Tennessee where Harold enrolled in Freed-Hardeman College. With the makeshift accommodations that were available for married students at F.H.C. in those days, Pearl soon learned what it meant to sacrifice for the gospel. I speak from experience, for Gertrude and I and our small daughter had covered the same ground only two years previously.
Harold did excellent work in college and was much encouraged and strongly influenced by L.L. Brigance and N.B. Hardeman. He was fortunate to have an automobile and all but wore it out driving to appointments in Arkansas each Lord’s day. He preached at such places as Humphrey (where he later conducted eleven meetings), England, Palestine, Dyess, and others. The summers he filled with meetings. In the summer of 1945, he conducted one of the most memorable meetings of his life at a place called King’s Rider in Southeast Arkansas. In this effort, there were 110 responses to the gospel invitation – 89 were baptized and 21 restored. Harold said he thought Pentecost was being reenacted. During this summer, a second son was born, Louis Keith, at Del Rio, Texas. Pearl was at her parents’ home at the time having worn herself out earlier in the summer trying to attend Harold’s meetings.
Principal Years of Activity
The year 1945 marked Harold’s real entrance into his life’s work of preaching the Word. He, Pearl, and their two small children moved to Steele, Missouri to work with the small congregation at that place. Harold’s salary was not more than eighty dollars per month and they lived in a ramshackled preachers home that was probably 125 years old. The brethren had added a sort of makeshift bath off the kitchen which was so cold in bad weather that during the winter two cabbages froze in it. Yet, Steele provided a place for Harold to begin. The congregation numbered about fifty. Four years later, when Harold and Pearl moved, there were about two hundred fifty members, and the Lord’s church was the largest religious body in town. It was during these years that Harold formed a warm relationship with two great preachers who were to have significant impact on his preaching. They were W. Curtis Porter and C.R. Nichol. Nichol spent much time in the Sharp’s home. Harold led singing for Brother Nichol and was his moderator in a number of debates. He also was involved in debates in which Brother Nichol moderated for him. Harold was beginning to be known in Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri as one of the ablest young evangelists of the area.
In 1949, Harold accepted work with the church in Blytheville, Arkansas. This church had for some time conducted a daily radio program on the local station which was owned by a brother in the Lord. This afforded Harold the opportunity to become widely and favorably known as a powerful preacher. It also led to numbers of debates, most of them with the Baptists. During his lifetime, Harold had about thirteen debates. The most notable of these was with Dr. Cobb at Conway, Arkansas (1954). In this debate, C.R. Nichol was Harold’s moderator and D.N. Jackson, noted Baptist debater was Dr. Cobb’s. The Sharp’s lived and labored in Blytheville from 1949-52. During their service there, the church doubled in size and erected a new building on West Main to accommodate their crowds. His radio work was so favorably received by brethren of the region that farm families would cease their work in their fields, go to their houses, eat lunch, listen to Harold preach, then return to their work. It became sort of an unwritten rule of the households. A.W. Goff remembers that, as a young boy, he was introduced to Harold Sharp this way. Later, he met him personally and was given great help by him in his first efforts in the preaching of the gospel.
In 1952, the Sharp’s moved to Conway, Arkansas to work with the Northside congregation, at that time a congregation of less than one hundred members. By this time, Harold was also conducting a tremendous number of meetings in addition to full time local work. He often conducted some twenty meetings during a year. He delighted to hold meetings with small rural churches. He loved country people and they loved him. In lieu of family vacations, Harold would take Pearl and the boys with him all summer. During the day, they would fish, hunt, play ball, go swimming, and picnic with the farmers who had suspended work for the time of the meeting. At night, Harold would preach to large and interested crowds. Hundreds were baptized and a multitude of churches thoroughly indoctrinated in the truth. So effective was Harold in this respect Brother Goff could say at his funeral that he probably had the greatest influence in the State of Arkansas of any other man in saving churches from liberality on the issues created by “institutionalism and centralized control and oversight of the work and resources of congregations.”
During this time, Harold became involved in some secular activities involving the sale of stocks and bonds. At this, he was eminently successful and made considerable money, much of which he literally gave away. Harold possessed two significant traits, boundless generosity and childlike trust of his fellowman, especially his brethren in the Lord. It was almost impossible for him to turn down a plea for help from brethren less prosperous than he, hence he both gave and loaned a great deal of money to many persons. His “loans” were never secured with more than a handshake, not even an informal note acknowledging the loan by its recipient. Sadly, Harold’s confidence was, in a large number of cases, misplaced and his generosity abused. He was not only not repaid but later was verbally abused by the beneficiaries of his generosity. About this, however, he never complained. It only made him sad. Too, he and Pearl, on a number of occasions, took into their home dependent and neglected children for various lengths of time and cared for them until permanent arrangements could be made for them by those who had legal control of them. Some of these they would have adopted legally had they been allowed to do so. Yet, thousands of liberal brethren in Arkansas were at this very time maligning Harold as an “orphan hater.” The ludicrous thing about this is that most of these people belonged to large churches which were giving a mere pittance to an institutional orphan home from their large budgets – often amounting to less than the price of a small bottle of “Coke” (ten cents then) per member per month.
It should also be noted that during the periods of his life when Harold was making money in addition to what he was paid by the churches as support for preaching, his and Pearl’s contributions to the churches were often more than they received from them. These things I know to be true, because I have followed Harold’s tracks in many places. I have conducted meetings at Steele, Missouri and Blytheville, Arkansas after his work there, two meetings in Conway while he lived there, two in Gordon, Georgia while he lived there and one after he moved, and two at Blount Road in Little Rock while he was its preacher, to say nothing of other places where he has conducted meetings.
During his years in Conway, Harold formed an intimate relationship with Foy E. Wallace, Jr. who conducted many meetings in the area. They became close friends and Brother Wallace made a profound impression upon Harold’s preaching. In later life, his style of preaching became much like that of brother Wallace while retaining the qualities that were peculiarly Harold Sharp. He counted the influence of brother Wallace and his preaching to be one of the great blessings of his life.
Harold continued his work at Conway until November, 1965. During his tenure of service there, the church more than doubled in size. It was during this period that his debate (previously noted) with Dr. Cobb occurred. It was also during this time that his former friendship with E.R. Harper was disturbed. Brother Harper wished to conduct a countywide meeting, involving all the churches in Faulkner County, at Conway under a tent and wished to have the Northside congregation involved. Some at Northside, including at least one of the elders, were favorable. Harold opposed the participation of the Northside congregation for two reasons: (1) the error espoused by Harper with regard to institutionalism; and (2) the sponsoring church setup proposed for the accomplishment of the county-wide meeting. Brother Harper never forgave Harold for this, and some disruption of the Northside congregation occurred. Harold thought he might have to move, but it turned out otherwise.
In 1965, Harold and Pearl moved to Gordon, Georgia. Their two sons were by this time married and rearing families. “Sonny” lived in Conway and Keith was preaching the gospel at Quitman, Arkansas. At Gordon, Harold labored with the Hardies Chapel congregation. In no place where Harold and Pearl labored were they more dearly loved than here. Evidence of this is the fact that a number of the brothers and sisters from Gordon drove all the way to Conway for Harold’s funeral services. While in Gordon, Harold had a heart attack, which in 1980 resulted in open-heart surgery.
In order to help care for his aged mother, he decided to return home to Arkansas in 1973, and he and Pearl moved back to Little Rock. They owned a farm north of Conway and had other family interests in the state. They bought a home in Little Rock and accepted work with the Bloud Road congregation. They continutdoliere for about seven years during which time a new building was erected and the congregation enjoyed considerable growth. In February of 1981, Harold had a stroke, further damaging the general state of ‘his health. From this, he recovered but had to restrict his general activities. He decided, therefore, to accept work with the congregation at Cedar Hill, Arkansas, some thirty miles north of Conway, where he labored until his last illness and consequent death. He and Pearl would spend Thursday to Saturday in Little Rock and Sunday through Wednesday at Cedar Hill. Representative of the love and esteem in which he was held at Cedar Hill was the fact that practically the entire church was in attendance at his final services in Conway. Furthermore, their deep, sense of grief and loss was obvious to all.
Harold is survived by his beloved wife, Pearl, of Little Rock, his older son, Harold, Jr., and his wife and children, of Little Rock; his younger son, Keith, and his wife and children, of Mena, Arkansas. In all, there are nine grandchildren. Previous mention has been made of his two brothers and sisters, all of Little Rock. As for Harold, “he rests from his labors, and his works do follow him” (Rev. 14:13).
The love and respect which his family had for him are well expressed by his granddaughter, Michelle, daughter of Keith and Sandy Sharp. It was read at Harold’s funeral as previously noted:
I want to tell you about my papaw. This is a final dedication to a man I love and admire. He had a character that was admired by all. My papaw had the backbone to stand up for what he believed to be right. He might not have been the best looking man on the outside, but on the inside is another world. When you remember my papaw, remember him with a smile and keep walking in the truth he had taught to us all.
There follows another tribute in poetic form dedicated to his memory by his niece, Mrs. Linda Byrd Smith, who loved him:
I saw him standing there, this man of God,
Erect and firm, although his hair was gray.
The passing years had come and they had gone
To leave the weaker men along the way.
I saw him standing there, his face was fixed,
And he was unafraid to preach the Word.
Although the times had changed so many things,
His message was the same for those who heard.
I saw him standing straight and heard him preach
That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
He preached against men’s sins with force and might,
Then called to lost men with a pleasing nod.
I heard him preach salvation through the blood,
The message many need to hear today;
How sinners must believe, and then repent
To turn and be baptized the Bible way.
I heard him preach about the church of Christ,
The precious bride for which our Saviour died.
He then condemned the sects of men as sin,
And called on all to give up party pride.
I thank the Lord for this, a stalwart man,
Whose message had that old familiar ring
Of the apostles’ doctrine through and through,
And this to me was such a noble thing.
I saw him standing there, this man of God,
His life as faithful as the day is long.
It gave me courage that I needed most,
And I felt inspiration to be strong.
– J. Gibbons
I cherish the memory of Harold F. Sharp, Sr., “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit, and of faith” (Acts 11:24). May God raise up a host of young men like unto him to fill the breach in the phalanx of the soldiers of the Cross that is occasioned by his passing and the passing of others like unto him. I hear the song of the nightingale bome increasingly loud to me on the chilly breeze of life’s evening, and as Longfellow so well said it, “A feeling of sadness comes o’er me that my soul cannot resist.” In such a frame of mind, I wrote the following verses and read them at the funeral services for my dear friend and brother in Christ. They well express my feelings for Harold Sharp. What they lack in poetic excellence is more than compensated for by the sincerity and love that gave them birth.
Farewell, Dear Brother
Many people have I met
Along the way I’ve come,
And most of them I’ve long forgot,
But that’s not true of some.
There have been those who’ve found a place
Secure within my heart,
And neither time, nor circumstance, nor death
Can e’er them from me part.
This brother, friend whose body lies
In state before us here
Is one of those I won’t forget,
A memory ever dear.
Respect and trust and fervent love
Are what I felt for him,
And nothing life or death can do
Will make that memory dim.
Goodbye, true brother of yesterday,
Until we meet again
Where neither time, nor space, nor death
Can ever make us twain.
Let bonds of truth that joined us here
In fellowship divine
Unite us there in endless joy
With Christ, both yours and mine.
– James W. Adams
One of the things in which Brother Sharp took special satisfaction was that he had, in his life, labored as local preacher for seven congregations and that all seven continued to stand for the truth on all of the divisive issues that have confronted the churches during the past thirty years. Too, not long before his death, he told his wife, Pearl, “He hoped and prayed the Lord would not allow him to live long enough to do what so many aging preachers have a tendency to do; namely, grow weary and cease to fight the good fight of faith as they did when they were young men.” All of us know that it happened to him according to his prayer. He was “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10). Therefore, may this be his epitaph!
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 13, pp. 398-402
July 2, 1987