Seminary mourns passing of President Emeritus Dr. Landrum P. Leavell II

Landrum LeavellWICHITA FALLS, Texas -- Dr. Landrum P. Leavell II, President Emeritus at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, age 81, died Sept. 26, 2008 in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Born in Ripley, Tenn., Nov. 26, 1926, Leavell was raised in Newnan, Ga., where his father, Dr. Leonard O. Leavell, served as pastor of the First Baptist Church. On July 28, 1953 he married JoAnn Paris of New Orleans, a graduate of Sophie Newcomb College. He went on to become the President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the most influential Southern Baptist leaders of his generation.

Leavell was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1948 and began pastoring a church in Mississippi during his time as a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Leavell earned a B.A. in English from Mercer University and a B.D. degree and a Th.D. in New Testament and Greek from NOBTS.

During his 27 years as a pastor, Leavell served at Union Baptist Church in Magnolia, Miss. (1948-1951); Crosby Baptist Church in Crosby, Miss. (1951-53); First Baptist Church in Charleston, Miss. (1953-1956); First Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss. (1956-1963) and First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas (1963-1975).

Leavell served in many capacities in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. He was First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1968 and President of the SBC Pastors Conference in 1971. Leavell served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1971 to 1973. Since his retirement Leavell served on the Board of Trustees at Mississippi College.

Leavell shared a life-long love of and passion for quail hunting. He was a dedicated father who traveled untold miles following his sons’ football and basketball careers. His oldest son said, “He was a tough fighter to the end; he just didn’t have much left to fight with. There are a lot of tracks in the sand behind him. I would hope my rear view mirror was so crowded.”

In addition to his denominational roles, Leavell was an active community leader serving with a number of civic groups including the Mayor's Bi-Racial Committee in Gulfport Miss.; the Board of United Fund and Child Welfare Board of Wichita Falls, Texas; and the Rotary Club of New Orleans. He was also long-time trustee of Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. Upon the sale of Baptist Hospital, he became a founding trustee of Baptist Community Ministries, a foundation developed to administer the assets generated from the sale. Reflecting its Baptist heritage, the foundation from its inception, has invested its resources in meeting the health and educational needs of the citizens of the New Orleans area.

Upon the occasion of his retirement from the seminary, Baptist Community Ministries created an endowed faculty chair in psychology and counseling in his honor. Friends of Dr. Leavell also created an endowed faculty chair in New Testament and Greek that bears his name. The City of New Orleans designated a portion of the campus as Leavell Lane in honor of the many contributions of he and his uncle, Roland Q. Leavell. Seminary trustees named the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth in his honor as well.

Among Leavell's key honors include the George Washington Honor Medal Award from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, Pa., the Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation, and the J.D. Grey Preaching Award from the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation.

Leavell was elected as President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in January 1975. He served in that role until his retirement Dec. 31, 1994. Leavell served as interim president until Dec. 31, 1995.

“By any standard of measurement, Dr. Leavell is one of the greatest presidents that this seminary ever had,” said current NOBTS President Dr. Chuck Kelley.

During his presidency the seminary experienced record growth, outstanding success in fund raising and a significant expansion of its campus. The campus became known by all who visited as one of the most beautiful spots in New Orleans.

Leavell believed that the care and preparation of a minister’s family was as important as the preparation of the minister. He enhanced the campus recreation facilities, and along with his wife, JoAnn, gave great attention to the needs of student wives.

The Leavells launched many initiatives to assist student wives including free educational programs, an endowment to buy clothes for student wives and the Leavell Lecture Series. The Leavell Lecture Series was established by the Leavell family to honor Mrs. Leonard O. Leavell, Dr. Leavell’s mother. The series honors Mrs. Leavell’s work as a minister’s wife and is designed encourage those student wives who will one day serve in that role. He often arranged for free child care for campus events to enable wives to participate in seminary life.

During his 20-year tenure, the seminary became an innovator in theological education while continuing to emphasize evangelism, missions and local church ministry.

Under Leavell’s leadership New Orleans Seminary established a network of extension centers throughout the Southeast. Leavell also invested in educational technology. He introduced compressed interactive video (CIV), which connects classrooms in different cities for real-time audio and video interaction. His innovations helped the seminary offer world-class theological education to even more God-called men and women.

During Leavell’s presidency, NOBTS also established the first center for evangelism and church growth in the Southern Baptist Convention, connecting the resources and expertise of the seminary with needs of local churches throughout the SBC.

Leavell also was the driving force behind the re-establishment of the seminary’s undergraduate program. His uncle Roland Leavell, who served as the seminary’s president from 1946 until 1958, started the School of Christian Training in 1954. However, the school closed a few years later. Landrum Leavell envisioned an accredited college that would offer ministry training to adult students without college degrees. He restarted the school in 1976 with only 30 students. Now more than 1,000 men and women study at the undergraduate college. Four of the other five SBC seminaries now have similar programs. In 2003, the school was renamed Leavell College in honor of the seminary’s two Leavell presidents.

A gifted writer, Leavell authored or contributed to 14 books including “Angels, Angels, Angels” and “Twelve Who Followed Jesus.”

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, JoAnn Paris Leavell, children: Dr. Landrum P. Leavell III and Susanne of Denton, Texas, Ann Leavell Beauchamp of Greensboro, Ga., Roland Q. Leavell II and Lisa of Jackson, Miss., and Dr. David E. Leavell and Vicki of Springfield, Tenn., and sister Margaret Leavell Mann of Newnan, Ga.

Grandchildren: Gentry and Paris Leavell, Beau, Andrew, JoAnn, and David Beauchamp, Lucy and Ro Leavell, and J.D., Laura Leigh, and Walker Leavell.

Leavell was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Leonard O. Leavell and a sister, Anne Leavell Murphey of Newnan, Ga.

The funeral will be at First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30 with visitation to follow in the church’s parlor. Interment will be Friday, Oct. 3 at 10 Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan, Ga. A memorial service will be held in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Roland Q. Leavell Chapel Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 11 a.m.

Memorial gifts are requested to be given to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas.


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Commission and the Great Commandments through
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