By Harold Fite
I first became aware of Roy E. Cogdill during my high school days in Dallas, Texas. At that time he was with the Preston Road congregation of that city.
In my teen years I had several opportunities to hear him preach, and through the years he preached in meetings where I did local work. In those years, it never entered my mind that someday we would be members of the same congregation with the roles reversed: I would be doing the preaching, and he the listening.
My relationship with brother Cogdill as a co-worker and fellow-member of the Fry Road church of Christ was a brief one. His health and bodily strength declined rapidly during !he three and one-half years we worked together. He was in and out of the hospital several times. He was a sick man, yet he managed to teach two classes a week and preach when I was away.
Here was a man who had traveled the length and breadth of this land preaching God’s Word; he was recognized as one of the great preachers of our time; he had received over the years the adulation of admiring and appreciative brethren. Now, for the most part, he was regulated to the pew. The once strong voice was now weakened by age and illness. Words which at one time flowed eerily and freely, were not always there when needed. Forced by circumstances, he had to watch another standing in the pulpit where he once stood, listening to another preach that gospel he had preached with clarity and vigor for over sixty years.
One might think that he might be a bitter, mean-tempered, crotchety old man who vented his hurt, anger, and frustration on the one who “took his place.” But not so!
Brother Cogdill was supportive and encouraging. The last words he said to me were words “pressing his appreciation for the sermon I had preached that Sunday morning on the subject of prayer. I reminded him of the first sermon he preached. It too was on the subject of prayer, and was delivered in Hobart, Oklahoma, in 1922. The outline was displayed during the tribute we gave him on 23 April of this year. We concluded that it was still a good outline after sixty-three years.
Knowing Roy’s strong will, his outspokenness and intimidating presence, preachers warned me about moving to Fry Road. They thought I was making a mistake. They said, “You will have trouble with him.” I knew what they were talking about and did not take the warnings lightly. I appreciated then, and do now, their concern for me.
I phoned brother Cogdill and told him the elders had invited me to work with the brethren at Fry Road and asked him if he had any doubts about our working together. He replied, “Not a bit. I hope you come.” I told him it would not be easy for him to listen to me after what he had been and done, but that he would have to be patient. He said, “Come on, and I will try to stay out of your way.”
I know it wasn’t easy for him, but he handled it as gracefully as any man I know. He understood my work. He was interested in what I was doing. He didn’t want to make it difficult for me;
We did not always agree, and if he thought it necessary to express his view on the subject he would do so at an appropriate time, but always in a positive way, never abusive, never referring to me by name. I respected him, and I believe he respected me. I respected his right to preach his convictions, and he respected my right to do the same. Differences did not affect our friendship because we both knew that friendship is a responsibility, not an opportunity.
When he became physically incapable of filling his meeting appointment with the Expressway church in Louisville, Kentucky, he recommended me to the Expressway elders and suggested I fill his- appointment. The elders graciously consented, enabling me to preach in a city where I had not preached, and to become acquainted with the wonderful brethren who compose that congregation.
Brother Cogdill had a sense of humor, and maintained it throughout his illness. At times we “picked” at one another in good fun, but I don’t believe I ever had the last word. But I kept trying.
I enjoyed our visits together, and profited as I listened to him talk about persons, places, and events which compose a part of our history of the past sixty years.
Our relationship was a good one. He was my friend, and “life has no blessing like a prudent friend.” I appreciate the attitude he had toward me and my work. His interest and encouragement have made these three and one-half years at Fry Road “a piece of cake.”
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 14, p. 427
July 18, 1985