Saturday, March 2, 2013

Reflections on Basil Overton's Passing

Basil Overton, James, David Kenney at
2001 West Virginia Christian Lectureship in Martinsburg, WV
by David R. Kenney

The news of Basil Overton’s death on February 28 is heart breaking to our family. Outside of my parents, if I was to pick one name who encouraged me to be a preacher and fostered my love of Restoration History it would be Basil Overton. I never had him for a class; however, he was my father’s cherished teacher at the Nashville School of Preaching. Both Basil and his “My Margie” remained dear friends of our family despite being separated by many miles.
Basil was the main speaker at the first Restoration Workshop in Lexington, Kentucky. I was thankful my parents made a special trip to attend this Workshop. It has meant so much to me over the years and planted a love in my heart for men such as Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone and Raccoon John Smith.
He encouraged me as a writer and printed my first article which appeared in The World Evangelist which he edited for over 30 years. He encouraged me to be a preacher, even writing letters of recommendation on my behalf. He did this for many others!
I subscribed to his paper for several years. I may not have read every article written, but I was sure to read his articles. His love of Greek revealed itself in “Gems from the Greek”. He would often state that “I am a word nut.” I was inspired to incorporate much NT Greek vocabulary in my teaching, preaching and writing from Basil Overton. He instilled a love of etymology in me before I even knew what the word meant!
Basil set a sterling example of a Christian gentleman, scholar, teacher, preacher, editor and writer. When he was to be introduced by someone, he would dispense with all the degrees and accomplishments (of which he had several) and want to be introduced as “a gospel preacher”. Some may not realize he graduated with A. A. degree with the highest honors bestowed from Freed-Hardeman College, B.A. degree from Eastern Kentucky State University, M.A. degree from the University of Kentucky, and Doctorate of Humanities from Morehead State University. He also served as Vice President of International Bible College (now Heritage Christian University). With all this learning, he never tired of the farm and country life as his column “Mule Musings” revealed.
When he was able to be with you, he was with you. I can recall as a student at Freed-Hardeman College (not quite University), he would lecture and I would seek him out. I was able to join him for lunch one day as he wanted to hear about me and my parents. Someone invited themselves to our table and attempted to direct Basil’s attention to some other matter. He listened, replied, and then said “Have you met David Kenney? Do you know I was a teacher of his daddy at the Nashville School of Preaching? David is a student here.” The man realized he had interrupted and graciously left without embarrassment. 
In my library are several books, but few are as precious as the ones he inscribed to me with notes of “High Hopes” for me as a preacher. When my son James was born, he sent me one of his books inscribed to James—“I hope you will become a gospel preacher”. This book is stored up for future encouragement of that soon to be young man (Hebrews 11:4). Basil wrote over 50 tracts and several highly recommended books.
One of my favorite expressions by Basil about being a preacher was “I love what I do because I don’t know what I am doing! Now you think about that! If you are a preacher of the gospel you do not know what you are doing either! You have no way of knowing the good you are doing this side of eternity!”
In a recent lecture I heard the speaker cite a popular line from General Douglas MacArthur in his farewell address before Congress—“…old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Basil Overton was a Christian Soldier who will never die, but will shine on. As the Preacher once stated—“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18, NKJV.)

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