John Porter Wilhite
Autobiography Of J. Porter Wilhite
The subject of this sketch, J. PORTER WILHITE, was born of German descent, in Canton, the county seat of Van Zandt County, Texas, the first day of spring, March 21st, 1883, the son of J. H. and Anna Wilhite. His father, John H., was the son of Mathew, and further a few generations, Michael Wulheit, was born in Watcherbach, Germany, in 1685, from whence came the Wilhites.
John Wilhite and his cousin, Frank Burns, rode off from their parents homes north of Dallas, Texas, prospecting. As they entered Canton, just a small community with two log stores and a log courthouse, the settlers were calling their bear hounds to catch a bear which had just passed through the edge of the community. The dog-bear fight attracted the attention of the two young men, so they dismounted to see the fight. Years later they both died as old settlers of Van Zandt County, and my father and mother now lie in the old Canton cemetery. Also my fathers parents are buried there, although I was never permitted to see a grandparent.
When I was born in a small red house just back of where the Piggly Wiggly store now is stationed on the south side of the square, Canton was only a village, without a brick building in it. However, it is now larger, in fact the last years it has grown more than all the other days of my life. It never had a railroad, which at one time was missed, but now it doesn't make so much difference with the modern ways of conveyance.
They now have the third court house that I have seen, because as I said, I was born there, although, being there I do not remember the occasion, but do remember many other incidents of those days which I will gladly relate.
Mrs. Lessie Hocutt was my first school teacher, and I dearly loved her. I had three brothers, all older than was I, who also attended that school. Malter the oldest of the four boys was crippled, having been hurt at birth, or soon afterward, and although bright as any, he was never able to work. He attended school, and made a wonderful man, and the most religious and best Christian man I ever knew. He had read the Bible through seven times before I even really studied it.
Later in life Walter announced for an office, having been reared there, of course he was elected, and never had an opponent. He kept the office for several years then resigned because he was not physically able to carry on.
Riley was the next in age, and he lived to be 84 years old, was an old settler, and possibly the oldest Christian man in the county, in the Canton church any way. Next was Charley, who lived two years after Riley died, and he was also 84 and an old settler at his death. Both were well known and very reliable; too they were both loyal Christians for many years, which made me very happy, to know they lived that way. I was the baby of the family, and can say something that not many men of my age can say, and that is that neither of the four of us brothers ever spent a nickel for whiskey (Intoxicants), tobacco, or gambled a penny, or cursed a word. Mothers influence, with the help of our father, who died as Christians. I am the only one left.
Not only are my brothers (Family) gone, but most of my school mates are also gone to meet their God. Such as War Tyler, Tom Beard, Clyde Peace, the Foster boys and others I can recall.
In my school days, I was the only child who had the Bible as an extra study. I just loved to read it, so I did, and often asked and got permission to stay in and read the Bible while the others played out doors. I also carried all my books, and my Bible home with me each evening when school was out, study before retiring to bed, and take them back next morning, walking two to three miles, often through snow, rain and cold weather, such is unknown to the present day school children, I'm sure.
In those days Mr. G. W. Tull was considered the wealthiest man in the county, and well do I remember when he built the first brick store building in Canton, on the southwest corner of the square. Soon others had brick stores erected, and the west side of the square was filled with brick buildings, then the south side, and now most every store in Canton is housed in a brick building, and Canton is a thriving little city.
My father was a county officer, or in business in Canton most of my childhood days. He owned a furniture store at one time, he also ran the old Phoenix hotel quite some time. Well do I remember one day while my brothers were in school, before I had started, my father and mother were busy waiting on customers at the table in the hotel. Being alone, sitting before the old fireplace, seeing my fathers sack of tobacco, and his old pipe, it was tempting to me, so I had a sociable smoke that lasted to, maybe the second draw, then off to bed I went. Dad came in, saw me on the bed, asked if I was sick. I said: "Yes, sir." He asked: "You had my pipe?" I said: "Yes, sir." He said no more, but I never again offered to smoke anything. The sickest I ever was I guess.
My fathers father was a physician and a Methodist preacher. I remember when my father had a friend pass by for a visit, he was telling his friend about his boys, and said: "Porter is so small, I guess I will have to make a doctor or a preacher of him." That stuck to me, and knowing doctors made a lot of money, I immediately decided I'd be a doctor. Dr. Porter Davis, the man who delivered me into the world and for whom I was named had an office just down the street; so I asked mother if I might walk down to Dr. Davis's office. She permitted it, so I asked the doctor if I might read his books, thinking I would soon be a doctor. He petted me, as most of them did at that time, so he granted me permission. But I couldn't get a speck of sense out of that trash, so I gave up being a doctor, but my father didn't know how close to the truth he came as he spoke those words, although he never lived to hear ,me preach one time.
Yes, I have a family. I married a school mate of mine and we had four children; three girls and one boy. Wilma, the oldest one is now Mrs. J. G. Richardson, living in Houston, Texas. Lucile, the next one, is now Mrs. L. B. Marshall, also living in Houston, the next was a boy, J. C. who now lives in Nacogdoches, Texas, and the last one was another girl, Elva-Lee, who is now Mrs. Vernon Smith, living in Shreveport, Louisiana. Each have some children, so I am grand-pa and have great grandchildren.
After these children were about grown, their mother was killed near Hope, Arkansas, in a car accident, while on her way to where I was in a meeting, at Glenwood, Arkansas. That was an awful blow to me, in fact the saddest thing that had ever happened to me. Of course she was a Christian, and went to meet her God in peace, I believe.
For a time I lived with my luggage, and finally a good Christian lady who lived at Munday, Texas, where I had preached all through that section, decided she wanted me; or maybe I made the decision, anyway we married and are happy in the union and in the Christ. My present wife had three small children, and they were sweet children. I jokingly tell that I married the three children and their mother followed them to my home. She is a wonderful Christian and great Bible teacher. Her three children are also fine. Margarette Fazzan, the oldest one, lives with her husband and one little boy in Los Angeles, the next was Joe Whittemore, now a specialist in surgery, living with his family in Dallas. Bob, the younger one lives with his wife and two sweet little girls here in Houston. Each of them are Christians, and Bob is a teacher in Houston school system. Both boys have preached, and her children and I, are just like father and children in every respect. They are exceptionally good to me and their mother. My children and my present wife are exactly the same way by each other.
After I grew old enough to understand the real truth of the Bible, not hearing any preaching except denominational preaching, I thought surely that could be improved upon, believing the Bible was the way-book to heaven and immortal glory. Occasionally a true gospel preacher would come along, but outside of that, the Bible was scarcely taught. This condition worried me, so I decided, since I had spent much time in the study of the scriptures, that I would take my Bible and go talk to my neighbors; but after serious consideration, and being just a kid, I thought they would think I was just a smartaleck, and I backed down. But I kept studying the Bible, many nights till after midnight, get up and do a hard days work on the farm where we lived now.
A neighbor, morally good man, who never attended church services, died, and it bothered me. But time erased it, however a year or two another death occurred, and this was a girl 1 had gone to school with, and she had not obeyed the gospel. I suffered over that and thought I just must do something about it, as much as I knew. Because I had learned quite a bit about the word of God. I didn't want to preach. I couldn't stand before three people and talk. I just couldn't do it, I thought. I convinced myself that I couldn't, because I had never made a public talk. However, the desire to help humanity pressed me so strongly, that I set a time to preach, studied my lesson and had it well in mind. I did not send an appointment, so when the time came, I backed down. I set another date, but did the same thing, and after doing that two or three times, I decided I would preach as a New Years resolution, so I was going to preach my first sermon the first Sunday in January, 1910. Again my heart failed me and I felt so badly about it I got a card Monday morning and wrote old brother Lon Yarbrough, at Friendship, to announce I would preach there the next Lord's day. The mail was hardly out of sight till I wished I hadn't done it, but it is gone and I'll be expected to be true to my word; so I rode my pony down to Friendship, ten miles away, and preached my first sermon; which I knew as well as I know my alphabet, quoting one scripture after another, for maybe twenty minutes. I was so happy, and I had almost every one there to compliment me and ask me to return and preach regularly, which I did through that spring. I had broken the ice, and I was like a bird out of a cage.
Now I'm gone; I just couldn't be stopped! And I haven't been, and its been fifty-five years last January. In June 1910 I made up my first meeting in Jones school house 10 miles southeast of Grand Saline, Texas, while Friendship, where I first preached is about 3 miles northeast from Grand Saline. Of course I knew a very few sermons, so I started this meeting on Saturday night, closing it next Friday night, and started another the next night.
At the conclusion of that first sermon in my first meeting, I had a good big man to make the confession. I weighed 110 lbs. Next day, Sunday afternoon, we met at an earthen pool for me to baptize the first man I ever baptized. Providentially, old brother Lige Kuykendall, a retired gospel preacher stood on the bank of that pool. I didn't know he was in the country until we met. Anyway, I started out to baptize my man, began to stop. Brother Kuykendall, who had known me all my life, said: "A little further, Porter; a little further." I stepped further and stopped. Uncle Lige again said: "A little further, Porter, a little further." It was a good thing that voice of experience was there, because as it was, I had no trouble, otherwise, if I had attempted it where I first started to, no doubt, being a large man, I would have had serious trouble. But God has always been good, and blessed me so much; my brethren too, have been most wonderful to me always.
Some thirty years after that first baptismal service, while in the pulpit preaching one Sunday morning a strange woman and a young man came in. After services when I met them, I learned that she was the wife of the first man I ever baptized and by her side was their grandson who was making a gospel preacher.
Just a few months ago, I helped in the funeral services of the wife of that same man. It seems it was all a coincidence. Any way I am happy that it turned out that way. The grandson, who is a gospel preacher attended that funeral service and lives and preaches for the church of Christ in Hearn, Texas, Bernard Nevils. Bernard and other young preachers whom I have helped, at least had my life to affect theirs will be spreading the gospel and sowing the seed of the kingdom long after I am laid under the sod. Just what a small matter will build up to, we can never tell. In my weakness; in my infancy of gospel preaching, I was permitted to drop a small pebble on the waters of time, and we still see the waves. How careful we should be in the Lord's work.
My second meeting was under a brush arbor just outside of the town of Grand Saline, Texas. Grand Saline is where your Morton salt is mined.
As my custom was, I started my meetings on Saturday nights, and closed them the next Friday night, because by that time I had preached all I knew. Any way, my meeting started on Saturday night, and by Wednesday, maybe, at one service SIX came forward and confessed the name of their Lord. It looked to me like the whole congregation was coming and I was almost shouting. We had to go to the creek to baptize, so I announced to meet there next evening and come from there back to the arbor for evening service. At the creek when I offered an invitation, others confessed their Lord, back to the arbor and preached, at which time others confessed, back to the creek next evening, and others came. This was kept up until I just had to quit as I had run out of sermons.
In this meeting, which was my second, I baptized somewhere in the twenties, and they paid me $25.00. Then I thought I would get rich preaching and convert the world. But long since I have changed my mind. Any way it was very encouraging! Like the old woman when she saw a steam locomotive on the railroad track. She said: "It's just too big; they'll never get it started, but after steam was up, they pulled the throttle and it started off; she watched it until it was almost out of sight and said, "They'll never stop it; it's just too big." So I had started and I could hardly stop. Shortly after the arbor meeting I rustled another. This one was in Walton, a small community in the southern part of our county.
I was getting a little more experience, so as I preached in a school house, crowds were attending; among which was a Baptist preacher named Fed Martin, who brought a Methodist man named Wrisanant, a renter on Mr. Martin's farm. Mr. Martin had taught him sprinkling wouldn't do for baptism, and had almost convinced him on that point. Mr. Martin suggested that I come see him, that he and Wrisanant would give me some religion to go with my Bible knowledge; so I walked across the farms taking Mr. Wrisanant along. Arriving at Mr. Martin's home, being summer, we sat on the front porch, and talked Bible. The longer we talked the further apart we got. I was quoting one passage after another to show him we should depend upon the word of God, saying you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free (John 8:32), but try word is truth (Eph. 1:13), so we must preach the gospel, the word, (Rom. 1:16), and Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey him (Heb. 5:9). About that time Martin interrupted me by looking in his house at the old clock on the mantle and said, as he looked back at me, "I'll never hear you preach again." His face was flushed, and I saw he was out of humor, so I asked, "Martin, what's wrong, you appear to be angry?" He said, "I'll never hear you again if you preach in fifty yards of my house." I said, "Well, I am sorry, but if you preach near me, I'll hear you." He repeated what he said, stating, "It's getting late. I'm going to my fathers home," I saw I needed to get out. I told him I never leave a man mad, if I can help it, so asked him to explain what was wrong. He said: "With this great Baptist fraternity back of me, what could I do to change to the insignificant things you represent?" and was getting up. I said: "Mr. Martin, I'll tell you good bye" and offered my hand. He refused and said I had no religion.
Years later, I was back through that section, and met a man who was at that meeting. He told me that Mr. Martin moved west shortly after that incident, but was back on a visit a year before, and told him to tell me, if he ever saw me; that I converted him on his front porch in that conversation, but he was too contrary to say so, but NOW he said, "I am preaching the same gospel that brother Wilhite preaches." Such incidents make a gospel preacher happy and causes him to fight on in the Lord's way. Thank God! Preaching is very dangerous, IF we preach an error, said Paul (Gal. 1:6-9), but it is the happiest work on earth, to preach the true gospel; and to think we are in a class with David, Paul, John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Where could you find better company?
I conducted three annual meetings at that same place, receiving $2.60 for the first one, $3.00 for the second and they opened up and paid me $10.00 for the third one, and several were baptized. Any way I baptized Martin's renter, who was a good Methodist before my first meeting, even baptized him next day after my talk to Martin, on his porch, he and Martin make two conversions from the little private debate. I do not regret the small amount f pay I received, but rejoice because I did it.
Fifty years ago a man made a considerable sacrifice to be a gospel preacher. People then were good, just as they are now, but they had not been taught to give of their means, so as a result the preacher was under-paid badly. Looking over some of my old notes, several years later, I see one month, with a wife and four children, I got $17.86, another $22.50, and $37.00 and $39.86. I mean these were full month wages. How would you young preachers like to be paid like that? But since our brethren have been taught, I am happy with what I have been paid. I have not one thing to complain about. They are wonderful, and always have been, since being taught.
When M. Lloyd Smith, now of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was a single man, he led singing for meetings. He wrote me a year or so ago about an experience we had together like this: "While directing the song service in a gospel meeting at Hermleigh, Texas, with you, a young lady came forward to obey the gospel. The time for baptismal service was set, but the girl's father objected to her being baptized, lie and his wife being members of a denomination in the little city and no doubt were held in high esteem by many. The girl was determined to obey her Lord and her father was just as determined that she should not. He sent word that any preacher who attempted to baptize his daughter was placing himself in danger of being killed. That he wouldn't permit such a thing. I was rather excited; in fact, was very nervous, as we gathered about the concrete water pool.
The audience having gathered, the girl was ready. Brother Wilhite there showing absolutely no fear, or being nervous in any way. We sang a couple of songs, a short talk was made by brother Wilhite, and an invitation was extended for others to come forward. The moment had come. Brother Wilhite, trusting the Lord without fear, stepped out in the water with the girl, while her father stood by as a witness as his daughter was lowered and raised into newness of life. He said and did nothing, and all were happy over it.
I feared the man might also take vengeance on the song leader, others too, could have been killed besides the preacher. But Brother Wilhite's faith and calmness in doing the will of the Lord was strengthening to me and caused me to be more determined to fight the good fight of faith." I have had many such experiences!
In May of 1941 I helped the few members of the present congregation of Lyons and Majestic in a meeting with several being baptized. I was asked to move and work with them, which I did, and the first year we had 103 added to the small number, besides their weekly contribution was raised from $20.00 a week to $50.00. The second year we had 133 responses and it kept growing in every way, and now we have a great congregation with fine elders, deacons, and members.
Brother W. A. Oldfield who had known me, all my life, one day spoke to me saying he wanted to hold a mission meeting, but wanted me to do the preaching. He would pay for it, since he was financially well fixed. The place was selected, at Denman, Texas. We had never had a sermon preached there, but it was arranged, I preached through the meeting with good attendance, attention and interest in general. A few were baptized, but the point I am now trying to bring out is the fact that a retired Methodist preacher, or maybe he quit preaching for the Methodist because he couldn't justify what he had to preach by the Bible. He told me he had never heard one of us before, and he said I was preaching the Bible just as it reads. I tryed to get him to obey, but he put it off, saying he would next time. But it wasn't very long until the poor man died and never did what he planned to do. "Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2).
Another incident in connection with the Denman work. A Mr. Janes, became interested, and said it was the best preaching he ever heard, of course I suppose it was because he had never heard one of us before. Any way, like the preacher, he put it off, but unlike the preacher, he did not die; but several years later, and he will tell you, because of that meeting, he was baptized into Christ as was his wife. See the good poor old brother Oldfield did, although he has now gone to gather his reward, bless his dear old soul.
In 1944, my brethren had a cooperative meeting at West End church of Christ, in Houston where brother Walter W. Lemons was the preacher. It was a lectureship with several brethren on the list. Such men as T. B. Crews, A. E. Finley, John O'Dowd, Burton Coffman, Oscar Smith, J. Porter Wilhite, F. F. Conley, Luther Blackmon, Frank Smith, Roy M. Stevens et al. The last three mentioned went into error after that lectureship and now neither of them would dare cooperate with the others.
In January, 1945, the various churches of Christ in Houston, Texas, through the sponsorship of Norhill congregation with her local preacher, who was Roy E. Cogdill, and who took the lead in most all arrangements, secured the services of brother Foy E. Wallace and we all had a cooperative meeting in the Music Hall down town. That meeting was, no doubt, the best advertisement for the church of Christ ever in the city of Houston, Texas. At my suggestion, the sermons were taken down and published, said book is called "God's Prophetic Word" and brother Cogdill, the sponsoring, most active preacher in the group, wrote the "INTRODUCTION" for the book, in which he said: "It was decided, accordingly, to arrange to hold the meeting down in town and invite the cooperation of all the congregations of the church of Christ in the city. In order that the meeting might be carried out on a scriptural basis and without provoking criticism, the Norhill church decided to sponsor it **' Never has an effort of this magnitude been carried to completion with any better cooperation * * * All of the funds were handled through the treasury of the Norhill church * * * this arrangement worked to the satisfaction of all * * * there can be no question raised concerning the. loyalty to the truth on any question." (I heard every word of that meeting, and the Lyons and Majestic congregation paid money into the Norhill church treasury for this purpose; which they do not regret, but no doubt some others, both congregation and preacher regret the part they played in this great meeting; because they, since that time have changed on the question of cooperation, and now refuse to do it.
The Lyons and Majestic congregation in Houston, Texas, where I have worked so long once cooperated with the Tenth and Francis congregation of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in supporting a missionary in Africa. For eighteen months we sent them $50.00 a month and they sent it on to the missionary which they sponsored. At the time this good church started that good work, they were one of the best congregations anywhere. Later one who objected to the support of orphan homes from the church treasury, and to cooperation between churches, moved to do local work with that church; and almost as soon as he began work with them, they let us know they would no longer accept our check as it had been sent for eighteen months; to the sum of $900.00. James Adams is still with that congregation, and we do not send them any money any more. I am told that Tenth and Francis is not near as large numerically, or prosperous financially nor as good a church as it was before the objectors took over.
I wrote them, telling them if our money is tainted, then it was tainted when they first began accepting it, and was the same that it was all the time until they stopped it; so if it is now tainted they used tainted money for a year and a half, and if tainted money is sinful now, it was when they accepted it; and therefore, nothing would do them as much good as to repent and pray for such a sin. But since repentance is not genuine, when possible, unless they restore; therefore they should restore to us $900.00, but they didn't believe it was tainted to that extent; else they refused to really and truly repent of this awful sin. That group of erring brethren are so inconsistent; actually as inconsistent as the sectarians, it seems to me.
At one time I labored with the Castleberry congregation in Fort Worth, Texas. I actually believe they had one of the best qualified elders I have known. He is deceased now, and the Castleberry congregation is nothing like it was in those hey-day days.
While I worked there a destructive flood rushed through a part of the city, and we were the closest church of Christ to those who were hurt most; so the elders permitted me to push forward to help the unfortunates. Of course I wanted my sister congregations to enjoy part of the glory, and help us all to glorify the Lord and his church, so I suppose every congregation of our Lord's church had a hand in lending help to the needy. Many congregations out of the city sent money, provisions, clothing, furniture, etc., for us to divide to the needy. It was a great, and grand work in the name of the Lord. We all, including the Castleberry congregation, its elders, deacons, and members, thrilled in this wonderful benevolent work. We even had to use a school auditorium to meet in at least one Lord's day, because our auditorium looked like a second-hand clothing store with lines of clothing strung across from one end to the other. It was great!
Castleberry congregation now, has drifted into error, closing its doors against all other congregations if they do not endorse such incidentals as have caused them to go into hiding and quit "Help to do good to ALL men" (Gal. 6: 10; II Cor. 9:13). And quit sending any money from the church treasury to care for the widows and orphans as most churches do, and as they have all through the ages from the apostles until now (I Tim. 5:16; Jas. 1:27). I pray that they may not find themselves on the left hand at the judgement when the Lord says, "Inasmuch as ye did it NOT to one of the least of these, ye did it NOT to me" (Matt. 25:45). Paying a preacher out of the church treasury is fine; but so is helping the needy, because it says GIVE IT TO ORPHAN HOMES, just below where it says take it and pay a preacher from it! I pray for 'em!
In closing this chapter I must say something more about my fiftieth preaching anniversary. Charles Hodge was preaching here at that time and helped to make the day a success. My only two brothers in the flesh, although more than eighty years old helped me to celebrate the occasion, thank the Lord; because they are both gone into eternity now, where I hope to meet them some time. It is impossible to tell of it in detail, so I will just copy a few of my many congratulations which came by phone, telegram, writing, and personally.
LEONARD WAGGONER, one of my good preaching brethren telegrammed me: "Congratulations to a Christian scholar who has been a great inspiration to me all my preaching career especially since our Fort Worth days together 12 years ago. May God bless and keep you active many more healthful years. Christian love."
BOB AND NORMA HANSON: "Congratulations and best wishes on your 50th anniversary of service in the Lord's vineyard. The Pecan Park congregation will never forget you."
BUSTER DOBBS: "Brother Hodge has advised me by telephone and by letter that today marks J. Porter Wilhite's fiftieth preaching anniversary. It is a joy that defies description to remember my association with this grand old soldier of the cross while working with the Lyons and Majestic congregation. Were it not so commonplace and familiar, and therefore unmeaning, I would say, 'To know him is to love him.' Brother Wilhite is kind but courageous; congenial but firm; intelligent but modest. During our years of working together he helped me more than he knows, or could ever suspect. It is only natural, therefore, that I should feel a sense of loyalty to him; that I should view him and his life with appreciation; that I should cherish in my heart profound love for him. Please permit me to have these few moments of your time to say to my dear friend and Christian brother, 'Hail J. Porter Wilhite, on your golden anniversary of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord. May peace, joy and prosperity attend you for the remaining days of your earthly pilgrimage, and may angel bands receive you some day into a better world, where, with a voice well taught by experience, you may declare the goodness of God eternally."
THOMAS B. WARREN: "To whorl it may concern: Into every life there comes other human beings who make indelible impressions upon heart and life. So far as my own life is concerned, J. Porter Wilhite is just such a person. I had heard of him for years before I actually met him. I loved him dearly as a friend and as a brother in Christ almost from the beginning of our acquaintance. His sincere interest in me as a person and in my work as a preacher of the gospel encouraged me as much or more than any other human factor, other than the love and interest of my own dear wife.. I saw then, and see now, in J. Porter Wilhite, a man dedicated to the preaching and defending f the gospel of Christ. Many times I have been amazed at the keenness of his intellect, the sharpness of his wit, the patience of his warm good-naturedness in the face of abuse and misrepresentation, and his willingness to sacrifice for the cause of Christ.
These are marks of men of great stature, and J. Porter Wilhite possesses these marks. My acquaintance and close association with him has been, and continues to be, bright spots in my life. I am thankful for him, for his life, and his fine Christian companion. I pray that both of them will have many more years in the Masters service."
GUY N. WOODS: "I have known Brother J. Porter Wilhite for more than twenty years. He is one of the most versatile men in the realm of my acquaintance. His work has been eminently successful as a gospel preacher. Some years ago when he was working as local evangelist with the congregation in Bonham, Texas, I conducted three meetings in association with him, and there was an average of twenty additions in each meeting - due largely to the excellent preparation and the intensive personal work done by him and his wife before and during the meeting. In this number were prominent business men, heads of families, and mature people. He has engaged in numerous debates and is one of the widest read preachers in the brotherhood in controversial literature. He is a writer of no mean ability having contributed to the religious periodicals of the brotherhood for years. He is the author of several splendid publications and contemplates others. His activities are varied and effective. He is loved and respected most by those who know him best."
W. B. CLARK: "Of all the preachers I have ever been associated with, that exemplifies the ability to meet strangers and associate with people, it seems no matter in which realm of life and to be cool-headed is the one to whom this is addressed, Brother Wilhite, whom I have come to love and respect greatly. I look and see a short man in stature, but a very tall one in these respects . . . To me the declining years of ones life should be and can be the most fruitful, as I have observed in you, Brother Wilhite. I don't think the fire is almost out, but from a spark it has grown to be a great blaze. I hope that some day the spark, that is in me, will blaze, as it has in you."
Such statements, from such loyal brethren and friends are worth their weight in gold. I shall never forget nor quit thanking you who have helped me so much with kind expressions; it means more to me and to my family than you can ever know, my dears. May God bless and comfort each of you all the days of your life then take you home with him to spend eternity with all redeemed souls!
I still work hard and long hours, because I am working for the best pay-Master that was ever known, and some time, at the end of this life my pay-day will arrive, and I know that my labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). 1 am the best preacher I ever was, since I study every day, learning all the time, my health is exceptionally good, my mind is alert as ever, my voice has not given away, and I have grown from 110, when I began preaching to 130, which is a big man for me. I was always the least preacher in the brotherhood, for which I was happy. I am like they said about Cato. He began at the age of 80 to learn Greek. Age is willing, at times, to undertake tasks that a younger man would shrink from. Years ago it was worse than it is now; but I have watched gospel preachers come into their glory, help thousands of souls, then when old are almost discarded. I wonder if the church is doing its duty along that line! In this book I have a number of real sacrificing gospel preachers, many of whom have suffered and sacrificed for the cause they represent; but now their days are past, so may the church learn, by a retrospective view, of their sacrificial love, and how they have helped mankind when they could; even giving up a career which may have rewarded them greatly in this life, and they could be in comfort now; if it had not been for their love for man and God.
Here we have preachers who have preached from FIFTY to past 80 years. Several have preached and worked for the Lord the greater part of their life on earth. Such thoughts are wonderful and very inspiring to the younger men who are going down the same way! May the Lord ever bless the church which he purchased with his own blood. Amen!
-The Trail Blazers: Heroes Of The Faith, by J. Porter Wilhite, pages 154-173
OLD PREACHERS NEVER DIE; THEY JUST FADE AWAY!
Young man, 'tis fine to preach the Christ.
John Porter Wilhite
John Porter Wilhite was born March 21, 1883, at Canton, Texas. He was the son of John H. and Anna (Norton) Wilhite. He attended the public schools of Van Zandt County and later the University of Houston. In 1923 he did some correspondence work from a Bible college in Delaware from which he received a Doctor of Divinity Certificate. In 1968 he was listed in "Who's Who" in Texas. Lubbock Christian College also presented to him an Honorary Certificate for his great work as a gospel preacher, debater and writer.
On December 15, 1901, John Porter Wilhite married Miss Mattie Lee Harrison. To this union four children were born: one boy and three girls. The oldest was Wilma (Mrs. J. G. Richardson) who lives in Houston, as does Lucile (Mrs. L. B. Marshall). The son, John C. Wilhite, lives in Nacogdoches, Texas. Elva Lee (Mrs. Vernon Smith) lives at 9434 Oleander, Shreveport, Louisiana.
On October 16, 1931, Wilhite's first wife, Mattie Lee, was killed in a car accident near Hope, Arkansas, while on the way to Glenwood, Arkansas, where Wilhite was in a meeting.
On December 16, 1932, Wilhite married Mrs. Alice W. Whittemore who had three children. The oldest, Margaret Fazzan, now lives in Los Angeles, California. Joe Whittemore now lives in Dallas, Texas, and Bob Whittemore in Houston, Texas.
Very early in life Wilhite wanted to preach the gospel but felt that he was inadequate. No one in his family had ever made a public talk. So he made a New Year's Resolution that he would preach his first sermon on the first Lord's day of 1910. He backed out since he had not made the resolution known. Following that first Lord's day in 1910 he wrote a card to Lon Yarbrought at Friendship (near Grand Saline) telling him that he would be there the next Lord's Day to preach. It was with great hesitation that 20-year-old J. Porter Wilhite stood up in the little frame schoolhouse at Friendship, Texas, to deliver his first sermon. He kept this appointment, spoke for 20 minutes, and received much encouragement from all present. After this service, he said, "Now I'm Gone," and he was. This was January 10, 1910. Wilhite preached continually for 63 years.
He preached his first meeting in June, 1910, at Jones School House near Grand Saline. At the conclusion of the first sermon a man was baptized, thus the beginning of his baptizing thousands in his very fruitful ministry.
Places where he did full time local work were Lufkin, Texas; Electra, Texas; Cisco, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas (Lyons and Majestic and Pecan Park); Temple, Texas; Munday, Texas; three places in Oklahoma (Anadarko, Guthrie, and Shidler); three in Louisiana (Monroe, Minden, and Natchitoches); Troup, Texas; Bonham, Texas; Mineola, Texas, and Jacksonville, Texas.
States in which he held meetings included most of the States in the Union and in Canada. He did not hold meetings in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington or Oregon.
Wilhite engaged in 50 oral debates. The only one that is now in print is the Wilhite-Dew Debate. He authored nine books, one being "The Best of Sixty-Three Years," a book of sermon outlines which includes one outline for each of the 63 years that he preached. He wrote three books of poetry entitled, "Silver Threads," volumes 1, 2, and 3. His best known book is "Modern Churches and The Church." Others are "Trail Blazers or Heroes of The Faith," "History and Mysteries of Religion Through the Ages," and "A Handbook of Historical Briefs."
Because of his long and useful life, his great influence for good, he was honored by many people in many places. He was honored as a preacher of the gospel, as a debater, a defender of the faith; he was honored as a writer. In addition to his nine books published, the many, many tracts and articles written, and at the age of 90 years, he launched a new paper, The Eye Opener. He was honored as an encourager of young preachers. He was honored as a Christian.
Time and space do not permit inclusion of all the articles of commendation of J. Porter Wilhite, but this one is typical of the many articles written in his honor.
"I have known Brother J. Porter Wilhite for more than 20 years. He is one of the most versatile men in the realm of my acquaintance. His work has been eminently successful as a gospel preacher. Some years ago when he was working as a local evangelist with the congregation in Bonham, Texas, I conducted three meetings in association with him, and there was an average of 20 additions in each meeting-due largely to his excellent preparation and the intensive personal work done by him and his wife before and during the meetings. He has engaged in numerous debates and is one of the widest read preachers in the brotherhood in controversial literature. He is a writer of no mean ability having contributed to the religious periodicals of the brotherhood for years. He is the author of several splendid publications. His activities are varied and effective. He is loved and respected most by those who know him best." - Guy N. Woods.
At the age of 90, Wilhite fell and broke his hip. This hindered him some for about a year but he revived and started writing again. This was when he started his new paper, The Eye Opener, a monthly publication which he described as a missionary journal that was sent free to all who wanted it. He intended it as a world wide missionary publication, thus indicating that his zeal for the lost had not warmed.
Wilhite died in the Memorial Hospital in Houston, Texas, November 20, 1976. He was almost 94 years old at the time of his passing. He was survived by his wife, Alyce, by one son, John C., and by three daughters, Mrs. Wilma Richardson, Mrs. Lucile Marshall and Mrs. Elva Lee Smith.
Funeral service was held in the Pecan Park Church of Christ in Houston with Buster Dobbs officiating. Burial was in the Forest Park Cemetery in Houston.
"He was a small man physically, but he was a giant in the things that mattered."
-In Memoriam, Gussie Lambert, Pages 292-294
Directions To The Grave Of J.P. Wilhite
J. Porter Wilhite is buried in the Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery at 6900 Lawndale Ave., Houston, Texas. Phone #713-928-5141. In central downtown Houston take I-45 south. Take Exit 42. Travel on the Frontage Road (Gulf Fwy) down until you can turn left on S. Wayside Dr. (ALT 90). Counting on the right travel 8 or 9 streets and turn right on Lawndale St. The cemetery will be on your right. Below is a map showing J.P. Wilhite buried in what is identified by the red "1" on the map. It is at the rear (southern end) of the cemetery.