Therefore my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. -Philippians 4:1
Dr. Donald R. Potts passed away January 16, 2010 in Marshall, TX. Born in St. Louis, Missouri June 10, 1930, he was a graduate of: Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri; Southwest Baptist College, Bolivar, MO; Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, OK; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and studied at Oxford sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Potts pastored in Missouri; Lawton and Norman, Oklahoma; First Baptist Church, Groves, TX; and served as Chair of the Religion Department at East Texas Baptist University from 1976-2001. Dr. Potts also served many churches as interim pastor. He served in a number of areas in the state convention.
Donald Potts wrote articles for Proclaim, Church Administration, and the Baptist Standard. He was an adjunct professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He had taught at Cameron College, Lawton, OK, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX; and in Foshan, China and Lome, Togo.
He was married to Jeanne and had two children, Cindy and Donald Mark. His Funeral Service was January 21, 2010 at ETBU with Dane Fowlkes, Mark Chamberlin, Kevin Hall and Franklin Atkinson officiating.
During the Memorial Service Dr. Potts’ son spoke, his daughter spoke briefly and played a special arrangement of a favorite song. Dr. Potts had asked Dr. Franklin Atkinson to read the Scripture that Dane Fowlkes would use for the message; Philippians 4:1-8. His daughter asked Dr. Atkinson to give “A Tribute to a Friend.” His library will go to First Baptist Church, Groves, TX. They had a special day last year to dedicate this library. Interment was at Colonial Gardens Cemetery in Marshall.
Six years ago Dr. Potts was told he had approximately two weeks to live. He obviously had serious health problems yet continued to teach a Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church, Marshall, TX.
Somehow, word got out back then that Dr. Potts had already died. When a photo of him at an event, appeared in the Marshall newspaper a lady wrote in and said she was so happy to see it, she thought he had died. ETBU alumni were also confused and thought he had died. I confirmed with Dr. Atkinson, another retired ETBU religion professor, that Dr. Potts was still alive and relatively well.
Sherree Murray, ETBU graduate, was doing an alumni newsletter for those who attended ETBU in the 1970s and 1980s (then it was ETBC). In 2008 we included an updated article about Dr. Potts. There was the same response from several alumni, “We thought he was dead.” Dr. Potts was aware of these rumors and graciously, and with his characteristic humor, took it in stride.
I sent Dr. Potts a copy of my book in 2008 along with a note telling how much he had meant to me at ETBU. Dr. Potts sent a very gracious card in reply speaking of how he had enjoyed getting to know my dad through reading the book about him.
During his struggles with bad health, Dr. Potts said he was ready to go be with the Lord. He would then add, “Don’t pray against me.”
At ETBU I had Dr. Potts for a number of Bible courses. This was during the early stages of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC and I was very impressed with his conservative theology. In the 1970s if all our SBC professors had believed like Dr. Potts, there would never have been a reason for the Conservative Resurgence.
He was theologically conservative, knowledgeable, gracious, and humorous. He made his classes interesting and worthwhile. He dealt with the theological as well as the practical side of ministry. Sundays young preachers would preach in churches throughout East Texas and quote Dr. Potts; sometimes accurately :-) . He was a Christian gentleman who treated his young ministerial students with respect. He in turn, certainly had our respect.
On one occasion, when a speaker canceled at the very last minute, Dr. Potts, stood and spoke some very helpful words of advice to a large group of young preachers. He saved the program from being a total disaster. By the way, I attended college with his wife and daughter and we all graduated in the same class.
We would ask him how far we should go in our education; he would say you should be educated to the full extent of your ability. I have a Master’s but not a Doctoral degree. I’ve often said that in this regard, I did exactly what Dr. Potts told me to do.
The good things about my life and ministry are partly due to the teaching and testimony of Dr. Donald R. Potts. He is one of the ones I’ve looked up to through the years. Many other preachers would say the same.
Thank you Dr. Potts, for your influence on my life, and the lives of so many others. This world is a better place because you followed the Lord.
Note: An obituary about Dr. Potts was printed in the Baptist Standard and the Southern Baptist Texan.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, March 15, AD 2010.