Dr. H. Leo Eddleman was a respected educator throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1959-70. But for Alec and Richard Brackin, he was so much more. He was a friend, a mentor, and their first connection to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We had a really good friendship with Dr. Eddleman, and he is the reason we went to New Orleans,” Alec Brackin remembered. “And we were always glad that we did because we loved being there.”
The Brackins first met Dr. Eddleman while serving as church planters for the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) in Levittown, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. As it turned out, Richard was also the designated driver for airport runs on behalf of the Maryland Baptist Convention.
“They would always ask him to go to the airport and pick people up because he didn’t mind driving in those big cities,” Mrs. Brackin said of her husband, who passed away in 2008. “One time they only had one person for him to pick up, and it was Dr. Eddleman from the seminary.”
On the ride in from the airport, the two men struck up a conversation—a conversation that would change the trajectory of the Brackins’ life and ministry.
“Dr. Eddleman asked him, ‘Young man, which one of our seminaries did you go to?’“ Mrs. Brackin recalled. “Richard told him that he was going to Eastern Baptist Seminary and had completed a year there. Well, before they got to the church where Dr. Eddleman was going to speak, he pulled out his card and wrote down his name and personal telephone number.
“He said, ‘If you decide you’d like to come to one of our seminaries, give me a call.’”
It took some time, but the Brackins finally made their way down to New Orleans, where Richard completed his master’s degree in 1967. His time on campus served as a launching pad for a ministry that included pastorates in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. He also led dozens of revivals over the years and preached internationally in places like India, South America, and Korea.
But, looking back, Alec Brackin believes the key was God’s work through their lives during their time in New Orleans.
“Richard loved New Orleans, and he was a good student,” she said. “It was a good, conservative seminary and that fit who he was. And he had opportunities to preach that Dr. Eddleman had recommended him for.
“He loved the professors, and all his classes. He didn’t have a single professor that he didn’t like and respect.”
After graduation, Richard considered staying at NOBTS to earn his Ph.D. But he decided against it and took a pulpit in Bowie, Maryland. So, the native of Dothan, Alabama, who once dreamed of playing football for the University of Alabama, spent his life preaching the gospel for more than 50 years.
“He had quite a dynamic call; and I’m a little biased, but I always thought he was a really good preacher,” Mrs. Brackin said with a laugh. “It just seemed like everywhere we turned, something good was happening. We just lived our lives from one miracle to the next.
“And Dr. Eddleman stayed in touch with Richard all along.”
Even though many years have passed since their days on campus, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary still holds a special place in Alec Brackin’s heart. And she still encourages donors to support the work and mission of the school. She believes her family’s story is proof of God’s continued work at NOBTS.
“Our ministry would have never been the same without going to New Orleans,” she said. “They helped meet our needs financially, and Richard got a good, biblical education there. He always felt like New Orleans had given him the education he needed for the ministry the Lord had for him.
“In fact, if we had it to do over, we’d go back there again!”