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Dixon, Amzi Clarence (06 July 1854–14 June 1925), minister and evangelist, was born in Shelby, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Dixon, a Baptist minister, and Amanda Elvira McAfee. Converted at one of his father’s revival meetings, Dixon determined as a youth to enter the ministry. After earning an A.B. at Wake Forest College in 1873, Dixon began his peripatetic pastoral career by serving two Baptist churches in Mount Olive and Bear Marsh, North Carolina, from 1874 to 1875; he was ordained in the latter church in 1875. Dixon studied for six months with ...

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Miller, William (15 February 1782–20 December 1849), lay Baptist preacher and father of the Adventist movement, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the son of William Miller, farmer and revolutionary war soldier, and Paulina Phelps. The family soon moved to upstate New York opposite Rutland, Vermont, where young Miller grew up steeped in the unsophisticated Bible-centered culture of his Baptist minister grandfather and uncle. As a youth he evinced a great desire for learning. In 1803 he married Lucy Smith, with whom he would have ten children, and soon afterward settled across the New York border on a farm near Poultney, Vermont, later entering public life as a constable and then sheriff. After friends introduced him to the writings of Voltaire, ...

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Newton, Joseph Fort (21 July 1876–24 January 1950), Baptist, Universalist, and Episcopal minister, lecturer, and author, was born in Decatur, Texas, the son of Lee Newton, a Baptist minister and lawyer, and Sue Green Battle. Raised according to the rigid doctrinal standards and strict moral code in place among Texas Baptists at the turn of this century, much of Newton’s life was a pilgrimage in search of gentler, more open-ended religious insight. Largely self-educated, he learned classical languages and literature with his mother’s help, and in 1895 he was ordained a Baptist minister. Later that year he entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where his predilection for a liberalized religious perspective became more intensified. He read widely, learning more from poets and critical essayists than from the formal syllabus prescribed for divinity students. Newton searched for a faith that could satisfy the mind while it sanctified the heart. He grew increasingly dissatisfied with theological tenets that separated churches, and in 1897 he left both the seminary and the denomination because he found sectarian exclusiveness to be absurd and reactionary dogmas embarrassing....

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Norris, J. Frank (18 September 1877–20 August 1952), fundamentalist pastor, preacher, and evangelist, was born John Franklyn Norris at Dadeville, Alabama, the son of James Warren Norris and Mary Davis, poverty-stricken farmers. The family moved from Alabama to Hubbard, Texas, as sharecroppers when Norris was eleven years old. Converted at age thirteen during a brush arbor revival, he soon thereafter felt a call to the ministry. He was graduated from Baylor University (B.A.) in 1903 and from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Th.M.) in 1905. While at Baylor he met and in 1902 married Lillian Gaddy, the daughter of the general missionary for the Texas Baptist General Convention. They became the parents of four children....

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Riley, William Bell (22 March 1861–05 December 1947), Baptist preacher and fundamentalist leader, was born in Greene County, Indiana, the son of Branson Radish Riley, a farmer, and Ruth Anna Jackson. Riley’s father was a proslavery Democrat, and he took his family to Kentucky soon after the start of the Civil War. Riley grew up in Boone and Owen Counties....

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Stearns, Shubal (28 January 1706–20 November 1771), clergyman and evangelist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Shubal Stearns and Rebecca Lairabee (or Lariby, or Larrabee). Stearns received little education, but he read widely. His family moved to Tolland, Connecticut, in 1715 and joined the local Congregational church. In 1727 Stearns married Sarah Johnson; they had no children. In 1745 Stearns heard ...

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Winchester, Elhanan (30 September 1751–18 April 1797), clergyman and leading figure in early American Universalism, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Elhanan Winchester, a farmer and shoemaker, and Sarah (maiden name unknown). Winchester had little formal schooling because of his family’s economic circumstances. Yet, he was a gifted child who loved to read and had a near photographic memory....