By O.C. Birdwell
My faithful brother, co-worker, and good friend, Cecil Willis, has been accused of being a politician, forming a conspiracy, and going beyond “principles of discretion and propriety” in his operating Truth Magazine and a book business. Because he asked Ed Fudge and the Gospel Guardian Editor for a clarification of their stand on vital doctrinal issues he is thought of as a “vicious beast” by one who claims to have by nature a quiet spirit.
I must hesitate long enough to make a confession. Are you ready for it? I am not by nature one of a quiet and even tempered spirit! This is not brag; just fact. I wish it were different. I have been complimented on occasions for keeping my cool under trying circumstances, but such is done by much determination and effort. I have a constant battle conquering self that I might be “angry, and sin not.” And I must also admit that when accusations, such as those above, are made against a faithful brother, and I know such to be false to the core, my self-control gets a severe test.
I am in position to know the history of Truth Magazine Book Store and Brother Willis’ attitude toward it, and the book business in general. I was manager of Truth Magazine Book Store and my wife bookkeeper for the magazine for two and one-half years (July 1, 1965 until January 1, 1968). When I took over as manager, Truth Magazine had been contracting the book business and we did not have any books except bound volumes of the paper. As I recall, three of four of us connected with the paper got together about $2,000 and loaned it to the book store for a start. Neither Brother Wallace nor Brother Willis wanted the paper to operate a book business. Brother Willis, however, having the financial responsibility of the paper, felt it was a must in order to pay the printing bill. He told me on numerous occasions that the book business was a headache and a burden, but the only way he knew to keep going and print the tracts and booklets we needed to print. Yet, he was considering completely giving up the book business when I agreed to take the responsibility of managing and operating the store. Knowing what I do about Truth Magazine business, I say without hesitation that it is a shame and disgrace on anyone who would accuse Brother Willis of being motivated in his writing by such business interests. This is doubly so when it comes from one associated with a publishing firm and book sales company that has probably had more than ten times the business Truth Magazine has had over the past ten years!
The following is a brief history of Truth Magazine Book Store and a few statements from brethren Wallace and Willis about it.
In the November, 1962 issue, some four months after Brother Willis became Editor of Truth Magazine, a book trade was announced. Brother Willis said, “A periodical cannot long exist or continue without some income other than subscriptions . . . . All profits from the book business will go directly into the publishing of Truth Magazine.” Books were to be ordered from Akron, Ohio.
Then in July, 1963, Brother Wallace moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, and with him the book business. In an article discussing the move, William said, “Why not `switch brands’ and buy tracts from brethren who won’t use your money against you.” This is as strong a promotion for the book store as I ever heard from Cecil. But the book store stayed in Indianapolis only a few months. In October, 1963 the move to Louisville was announced and Brother James Needham became manager. William said at this time, “we hope our regular customers will continue with us, and we look forward to new customers who want good service and who seek to patronize sound brethren.”
Then, in September, 1964, the store business was moved to Dickinson, Texas and contracted to brethren who printed “Know the Truth” tracts and class material. At this time Brother Willis said, “The successful operation of a Book Store seems to be a necessity to the maintenance of any religious paper . . .” This arrangement lasted until July 1, 1965, when the Book Store was moved back to Akron, Ohio under my management. My wife already was keeping the files for Truth Magazine, mailing the paper, and doing the bookkeeping. For two and one-half years, until January, 1968, when I moved to Columbia, Tennessee, we did this work and I had complete management of the Book Store. I consulted with Brother Willis only when I needed his help, and even then he often insisted that my judgment prevail. Not one time have I ever known him to go “beyond principles of discretion and propriety.” I recall that one year he and I roomed together at the Florida College Lectures, planning to promote the paper and the Book Store. We passed out sample papers, and showed tracts. But while we heard the lectures and attended other activities, other book store operators were set up to actually sell and deliver books on the campus, and were pushing for subscriptions much more aggressively than were we.
In January, 1968, announcement was made of the move back to Louisville with the Book Store and the paper mailing. Brother Willis had, a year before, moved from Akron to Marion, Indiana, and since I was leaving the Akron area, there was no way the paper could stay in Akron. Brother Needham again managed the store, moving it to Orlando, Florida with him, where it remained until May 1971. Having already merged with the Cogdill Foundation, Truth Magazine was at this date moved to Marion, Indiana where the Editor lives. Brother Robert Whitehead was employed on a full-time basis to operate the business. With this management the bookstore is rendering a valuable service to both the paper and our customers.
On April 18, 1968, Brother Wallace mailed out invitations to eighteen brethren, asking them to meet in Memphis, Tennessee on August 12-13, to discuss the need for a new series of class literature and ways of bringing it about. I was one of those invited, and I did attend the meeting. If I remember correctly, about twelve or fourteen of those invited attended. Groundwork was laid for the new material that is now a reality. It is called “Truth in Life” and is being printed by the Cogdill Foundation. About the material, Brother Roy Cogdill said, “We have labored to find the finances, plan the material, get it written, and put into print that it might be available to the churches that have felt the need for such a series.” Among the many who worked on this material was Cecil, who spent exceptionally long hours at the task. Not only did he write, but he arranged for the printing, and along with Brother Cogdill, the main part of the financing. I seriously doubt that it would ever have been printed had it not been for these efforts of Brother Willis. Is an effort to get good literature and wholesome doctrine in print an indication of an “aggressive disposition” that needs to be condemned? I think not. It needs to be applauded and upheld. May God bless you, brother! May your tribe increase. Continue your good work for truth. I like what you say, and, furthermore, I like the way you say it!
Truth Magazine, XVIII:21, pp. 3-4
March 28, 1974