20 Jun 2019

Don Haymes, My Memory

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Church History, Restoration History
Festschrift in honor of Don

I was shocked and saddened to learn Don Haymes (1937-2019) was killed in a car accident.

I first met Don at an SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) meeting in New Orleans in 92 or 93. A discussion got underway about some matter of justice among a subgroup of scholars from the Stone Campbell Movement. Several voices said something. After a while this hunched back figure spoke up. He had glasses on the end of nose and an Abe Lincoln type beard. He said some things then started saying things in Greek. I knew I was way out of my league. I am not sure but may Stan Helton was with me that day but some one informed “that is Don Haymes.” [Edit, it may have been 93 which was my first grad class].

Never one to be to intimidated, after I went and shook his hand. We engaged in pleasantries and he literally pontificated to me. One thing I learned over the years, Don knows what he talking about!! At the time I did not realize that Don had been a gadfly from the 1960s. As I began to read (the 1990s were the decade for me of learning) I came across his pieces in Restoration Review, Mission Journal, Integrity and others. He was part of the Exodus Movement and worked with the “Faith Corps” and as such was the target of many harsh statements. But Don was sort of an Amos among Churches of Christ, neither a Profit nor the Son of a Profit (see that 😉 lolol) . He later went on to be a theological librarian. He was always a perpetual outsider, renegade and book, magazine, journal, reader.

The origin of my thesis, Robertson Lafayette Whiteside: Church of Christ Theologian, was Haymes. Haymes had suggested that Whiteside had never been the subject of academic study (this is untrue because Haymes had already done it in his head!!). So against my wishes, a professor named John Mark Hicks, suggested I choose Whiteside. Well he more than suggested. Don was constantly offering insight and perspective. He read my book and criticized it. Don could be a bit of a perfectionist and uncompromising in his standards of what passed for genuine scholarship.

Before I had read a single article or written a single page, Haymes wrote, “Robert Whiteside is easily one of the ten most influential people in the twentieth century for us. He is terribly ignored by our historiographers.” I learned Haymes was correct. Whiteside had been simply swept to the background by historians with some not even mentioning him at all.

But theologically Whiteside almost single handedly created the “Texas Tradition” that still dominates much of the American Churches of Christ. How a people are “traditioned” is not merely by Editor Bishop’s. But groups like the CofCs it is through sermon books, debate books, who is writing the Bible class literature, who is doing the preaching through thousands of individual preachers … this is how we are shaped. Whiteside did that through his series with C. R. Nichol Sound Doctrine, his expose of R. H. Boll, his attack on the Nashville Bible School, his rejection of pacifism, his mentoring Foy Wallace Jr, his Commentary on Romans and his opposition to K. C. Moser and his training of hundreds of preachers. Haymes was right.

But Haymes was kind and gentle. He was a man of the Holy Spirit. He was a man of deep grace. He was a godly man.

Don’s classic analysis of the “Church of Christ Establishment” in 1966

At the same time, Haymes was the only white man alive that I thought actually understood W. E. B. DuBois and Marshall Keeble. If you did not want your privileged place to be examined it was best not to inquire of Don.

Well Don went to the Lord today. He is already having a discussion with Paul over 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. He is talking to Marshall Keeble and Samuel Robert Cassius with scintillating queries for both. Foy Wallace may have to wait till tomorrow but I know the first question will be, “do you believe in the Holy Spirit now” and “Did God assign you a bed with Mother Theresa or R. N. Hogan (except Haymes would use full names)?

I cannot wait for the resurrection day when Don and I are both reunited with our bodies and dwell with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth forever.

P.S. Heaven … the new librarian is in town!

One Response to “Don Haymes, My Memory”

  1. Brian Morse Says:

    It was providential that I read your blog yesterday. I am an alum of Christian Theological Seminary. It was there that I got to know Don. I didn’t know him well, but he helped me with my research on Edward Scribner Ames. He was smart, kind, and funny. I shared this blog post with some Disciples. I look forward to seeing Don again.

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