Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Tribute to Winford Claiborne by David R. Kenney

Winford Claiborne
March 6, 1926 - November 18, 2014
A Tribute to Winford Claiborne
By David R. Kenney
On November 18th, I received word brother Winford Claiborne had crossed the Jordan and had taken his flight “to worlds unknown” before 5:00 AM surrounded by family and friends.  I had received word that the battle with pancreatic cancer was taking its toll and the end was approaching. 
Winford Claiborne has been a dear friend to our family for many years.  My father was telling me just the other day that there were two funerals he wanted to be sure to attend when the time came—E. Claude Gardner and Winford Claiborne.  Interestingly, several have commented about how much they resemble each other, close enough to pass for brothers.  These two men laughed over others confusion even when one of their wives was leaving with the wrong husband!  Brothers Claiborne and Gardner were dear friends.  At the funeral, I heard brother Gardner say aloud to the family as they passed by "There was none better!"
I called to tell my mother the news of brother Claiborne's passing.  She asked me to tell dad because we knew he would take this news very hard.  Dad and I have always looked forward to being with Winford at the Central Church of Christ in Martinsburg for his longstanding scheduled gospel meetings, day classes, trips to the bookstores, visits at Freed-Hardeman University, and enjoying each other’s company at the annual International Gospel Hour Dinner during the FHU Bible Lectureship.  Traveling to Fayetteville, TN for the funeral was a long, journey but I would not have wanted to miss this tribute to him, to be there for the family and enjoy the comfort of dear friends who likewise cherish Winford Claiborne.  I only wish that my father's health would have permitted him to go with me.

Winford dearly loved our family.  He doted on my “sweet mother” and my “darling wife” and was always excited to see our “wonderful” children.  He invited dad to speak on the FHU Bible Lectureship.  When dad demurred because he felt unsuited, Winford insisted (Dad spoke 3 times in 1993, and he was invited back after Winford’s retirement in 2004 & 2009.) 

Winford inspired me to be a better student through reading widely and thoroughly which he was known for doing himself.  He would not accept sloppy work, even taking off every time in a paper I had mistakenly failed to capitalize the word “Greek” while letting my now wife misspell his name on the front of the paper without penalty!  Or giving credit for the same answer to one student but not giving me credit because “You are a better student than that.”  When I called my parents to complain, they thanked and praised Winford Claiborne!

In 1995, at the age of 69, he took over the International Gospel Hour at the insistence of E. Claude Gardner.  Winford was able to build extensively upon the foundation laid by V. E. Howard.  He has left the International Gospel Hour on solid footing and turned it over to his choice of the next speaker, our dear friend Jody Apple.  We wish Jody and Evelyn Apple, the staff at International Gospel Hour and the elders at West Fayetteville congregation continued success in this noble endeavor.
Winford loved little dogs.  Our parents had a toy poodle named Sugar that I was rather indifferent toward; however, Winford loved Sugar.  When he had Sugar in his lap, he would pet her.  When Sugar jumped down, she would turn and bark at Winford as it he was a stranger, an intruder.  Brother Claiborne asked  "Are you a schizophrenic dog?" and laughed. 
We also recall Winford’s deep loss at his beloved Molly in 2002 which he spoke of often.  While we miss him here, he is now reunited with his beloved, met the Lord he has served faithfully, and waits for our arrival. 
General Douglass MacArthur was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces among other titles.  When his time to retire came, he referenced this statement before the Congress in 1951—“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”  Winford Claiborne has been a soldier of the cross for many years, having preached the gospel for over 70 years in addition to teaching at Freed-Hardeman University for 14 years, directing their annual Bible Lectureship, writing several books, and working as the Speaker for the International Gospel Hour.  When his beloved Molly passed away, he pressed on with her blessing.  When his health failed, he pressed on thanks to the help of Jeremy Baker and others who made it possible to do so.  When I spoke to him a few days ago, he asked about my father, mother, wife and children and was still recording programs for future broadcast after his departure.  He pressed and worked further when others would have ceased.  So, if I may paraphrase MacArthur’s words—“Old soldiers of the cross never die; they just shine on into eternity!”

David Kenney, Winford Claiborne and Warren Kenney at
the Central church of Christ in Martinsburg, WV.  When Winford told
me how much he loved West Virginia, I told dad to go ahead
and invite him for a meeting.  Winford had a standing invitation to
conduct the Fall Gospel Meeting every other year at Martinsburn, WV
including Day Classes.

At 2004 FHU Bible Lectureship David was wondering where
Winford Claiborne was at.  Here he came!  Always great
to see him and look forward to the new day.

We traveled to Moundsville, WV to see Winford speak
on the 2007 Victory Lectures.  Winford loves children, and our
children loved him too!

Winford Claiborne and David Kenney at the FHU
Bible Lectureship Book Display in 2010.

David Kenney & Winford Claiborne in 2011.  All were
very concerned about the condition of his health which
took away his physical mobility.  Thankfully, Jeremy & Jenny
Baker were able to look after him carefully.

David Kenney & Winford Claiborne at International
Gospel Hour Dinner in February 2014.  I knew this would probably
the last time I would see him here, but over there....
Funeral services for Winford Claiborne, age 88 of Fayetteville, will be conducted Friday at 10 a.m. at the West Fayetteville Church of Christ with Bro. Tom Holland officiating. Visitation with the family will be Thursday, 5-8 p.m. at the church building. Bro Claiborne passed away Tuesday morning at his residence.He was a native of Portland, TN and the son of the late Marvin and Susie Dillahay Claiborne. In October 2002, brother Claiborne and his family suffered the loss of Molly, his wife of 53+ years.As of February 2014, Brother Claiborne had been preaching the gospel for 71 years. He was a graduate of both Freed-Hardeman College and Murray State University. His academic work also included graduate studies at Harding Graduate and University of Georgia. While serving as a gospel preacher for numerous congregations, he's had other experiences as well, including high school teacher, business owner and college professor. In the last 71 years, he's been the pulpit minister for congregations in Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.After teaching at Freed-Hardeman for 14 years, he retired in 1993 and moved to Fayetteville where he began preaching full-time for the West Fayetteville congregation.In August 1995, Brother Claiborne took over the International Gospel Hour radio program. The operation of the International Gospel is under the direction of the Elders at the West Fayetteville Church of Christ.Survivors include two sons, Doron (Kathee) Claiborne of Murfreesboro, TN and Danny (Gina) Claiborne of Murray, KY; grandchildren, Hannah and Mark Claiborne, Wesley (Heather) Claiborne; brothers and sisters, Edger Claiborne, Lucien (Ellen) Claiborne, Charlie (Paulette) Claiborne, Wilma (Irvin) Hill, Garvin (Beverly) Claiborne; brother-in-law, Chester Hill. He was preceded in death by brothers and sisters, William, Eathel, Nadine, Raymond, Douglas and Laura. Funeral services will be conducted 10 a.m., Friday at the West Fayetteville Church of Christ.In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the International Gospel Hour, P.O. Box 118, Fayetteville, TN 37334 or the Freed-Hardeman University Scholarship Fund, Henderson, TN 38340.There will also be a memorial service for Bro. Claiborne on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Williams Chapel Church of Christ in Lynn Grove, KY. Burial will follow at 3 p.m. at the Lebanon Cemetery in Sedalia, KY.Higgins Funeral Home is assisting the family of Brother Winford Claiborne.

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