Author, Writer, Publisher, Business Man
Christians in Fort Worth and throughout
the nation were deeply saddened upon learning of the death of Leroy
Brownlow, Nov. 8, 2002, at age 88. Memorial services were conducted
at the Bridgewood Church of Christ, in Fort Worth on November 12,
with Robert Bankes, Robert Bostick and Paul Brownlow officiating.
suffered a severe stroke in 1993 and was not expected to live. As a
result of the stroke, for the last nine years of his life he was
incapacitated and was cared for at Bishop Davies Nursing Home in
the Fort Worth suburb of Hurst. His influential voice has been felt
around the world through his preaching and writing.
Leroy was born
April 30, 1914, on a farm in Cooke County near Callisburg east of
Gainesville, Texas. He was the oldest of three children, the other
two being girls. He attended school at Callisburg for a number of
years and became a graduate of the high school at nearby Whitesboro,
finishing his course with honors in 1931. Leroy did not grow up in
the church. His parents were from different religious groups; his
mother was a Presbyterian, and his father taught Sunday school in a
Methodist church. His grandfather was a Baptist preacher for 65
It was during
this early period that Brother Paul C. Witt, of the Science
Department at Abilene Christian College conducted a summer gospel
meeting in Callisburg. The Brownlow family attended these services
regularly. Leroy's parents would come home from the meeting and
study their Bibles by light of a lantern until late night. They
concluded that the concept of New Testament undenominational
Christianity was a valid one. Leroy came to the same conclusion and
during this meeting was baptized at age 17. That changed everything!
Even though Leroy had already enrolled at Southern Methodist
University to pursue an engineering degree, Brother Witt encouraged
the talented young man to attend Abilene Christian College and
become a preacher. Leroy abandoned his plans to go to Southern
Methodist University, packed up his belongings and drove to Abilene
with his friend and mentor, Paul C. Witt, and entered Abilene
Christian College. Leroy changed his major to Bible and Greek and
returned home to preach his first sermon in Callisburg during the
Christmas holidays in 1931. His topic was "I Am Ready to Preach the
Gospel." This expression from the pen of the apostle Paul seems to
have been the expression of Leroy's life ... he was always "ready"
to tell the sweet story. The church building was packed
with old friends and acquaintances that had an interest in the
welfare of the young gospel preacher.
After one year
of college work, he taught in Texas public schools at Callisburg for
two years and preached regularly on weekends for the Callisburg
church. Throughout his years at Abilene Christian College he
preached regularly each weekend and held meetings in the summer.
During his sophomore year he preached regularly at Albany, Texas,
and Putnam, Texas. In his junior and senior years he preached full
time in Rochester, Texas. He was eighteen years of age when he held
his first gospel meeting in Bartonsville, Texas, which lasted ten
days. Years later Leroy reminisced and stated that the meeting
could not have lasted longer or the sermons would have run out.
Fourteen were baptized and two restored. There were also 14 baptisms
in his second meeting and 15 in the third meeting. The year he was
20 he preached 65 consecutive days in open-air meetings that
resulted in 66 baptisms. Outdoor audiences were amazed as nightly
the boy preacher defied flying bugs and denominational hecklers to
preach simple truths.
and paid all his college expenses, and this was in the midst of the
Great Depression. He left Abilene Christian College as an honor
graduate, with a new car paid for and a substantial bank account.
On Nov. 22,
1937 Leroy married Miss Ferne Amrein of Norman, Okla. She was also a
student at Abilene Christian College having attended for one year.
Later she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of
Oklahoma. She died in 1994 in Fort Worth.
interest and ability in business was apparent, as he was successful
through the years in various secular pursuits including finance,
investments, real estate, oil, and publishing. Leroy never preached
for a paycheck; he preached because of conviction. Preaching the
gospel always occupied first place in his life. As a result, he
never made any money preaching, but God blessed his businesses to
more than make up for the low salaries from the brethren. His
endeavors, both spiritual and secular, were always crowned with
from Abilene Christian College in 1937, Leroy began the pivotal
period that would produce his book, Why I Am a Member of the Church
of Christ. He not only preached full time in local church work but
also held many meetings in the summer. During the summer of 1941,
Leroy held meetings all over Alabama with Marion Davis, of Fayette,
Ala., as his song leader. Marion was greatly impressed at Leroy's
power and conviction and encouraged him to write a book on the
subject. During 1941-42, Leroy wrote most of Why I Am a Member of
the Church of Christ while he preached in Ennis, Texas.
After moving to
the Polytechnic congregation in Fort Worth in 1943, he began
searching for a publisher. The Gospel Advocate Company, in
Nashville, Tenn., offered him a modest sum for the copyright, but he
decided he would personally publish the book. In 1945, 2000 copies
of the book were printed. They sold out in a few months, and more
were printed. Since then, more than one million copies have been
sold worldwide. He was a writer of unusual ability and eventually
wrote over 30 books. Leroy's interest in writing and self-publishing
books eventually became Brownlow Publishing Company, which he
started with his son, Paul, in 1974.
In addition to
being an accomplished and original writer Leroy, as a gospel
preacher, shares a place in the church attained by only a few. He
preached in some of the greatest
and most fruitful gospel meetings including the cooperative meeting
of 27 congregations in Tulsa, Okla., which marked the opening of the
Tulsa Civic Center and averaged 8,500 in attendance per night. There
were 190 responses, including 83 baptisms. L.O. Sanderson directed
In San Angelo,
Texas the Fair Grounds Center was filled to over flowing as Leroy
preached the unsearchable riches of Christ in a very forceful
manner. The meeting was reported to be the largest religious
gathering in the history of the city.
At the 5th and
Highland church in Abilene, during the time E.R. Harper was the
preacher, Leroy conducted a great gospel meeting in which there were
a record number of conversions. Some individuals who were at
Highland at that time still recall the meeting with Leroy in sincere
and genuine expressions of appreciation.
Freed-Hardeman University Lectures in February 1991, Leroy
electrified the audience of 3,000 with a great message on
"Preservation of the Faith." He began the lecture with the
statement, "The church, is facing the greatest danger I've seen in
my lifetime." His concern was what was happening within the church
... not from dangers from without.
had a clear insight into all of the troubling problems of the
brotherhood and could analyze with great accuracy those problems
that troubled brethren and divided churches. Leroy was very
disturbed by what was, and is, taking place in the church.
He had a
complete and thorough knowledge of the Bible, and a deep
appreciation and reverence for the truth of God.
presentation would be incomplete if we omitted relating the
phenomenal ministry of Leroy Brownlow and the amazing record that he
established in local church work at the Polytechnic church in Fort
Worth during the 22 years he preached there. Here was developed a
conservative yet dynamic and aggressive church. The accomplishments
stagger the imagination and represent a challenge to our concept of
local church work.
church had not always grown! In fact, prior to Brownlow's going
there in 1943, it had increased only eleven members in ten years.
The mighty works performed by the Polytechnic church were not due to
their location. The building was on a dead-end street in a
neighborhood that was not very attractive or affluent.
aggressiveness of the Polytechnic church was not due to a large
staff. There was only one preacher, one secretary and one custodian.
In addition to doing the pulpit work, Leroy Brownlow was the
chairman of the Sunday morning Bible classes and most of the time
conducted the youth training programs, edited the church paper,
directed the personal work and personally did much house to house,
What led to
this phenomenal growth? At the request of the elders, Brownlow
preached in 40 percent of all the meetings, which averaged one
every year. None lasted less than eight days; most of them went 15.
As a result, the meetings in which he preached averaged 39 additions
to the congregation per meeting ... most of them baptisms.
direction of Leroy Brownlow, the Polytechnic church developed a
highly successful youth program. Many of them became preachers,
including Andrew Connally, Doyle Gilliam, Bob Gilliam, Edwin Bills,
Webb Fry, Haun Kite, Randy McIntosh, Richard Clark, and Paul
Brownlow. At one time five, who grew up at Polytechnic under the
preaching of Leroy Brownlow, were serving as missionaries in
Africa. It is evident their youth program worked and was very
Bible school, it was very effective in converting people, developing
Christians and in molding a great church. Leroy believed that the
courses should make the students strong and active members of the
church, lovers of truth, and should prepare them to meet the issues
of life. Accordingly, he never let the students get through high
school without having the six-months study of Why I Am a Member of
the Church of Christ and the six months study of Some Do's and Don't's for the Christian. No wonder so many became preachers and
effective workers. Brownlow taught the auditorium class for several
years, which had an attendance that ran from 300 to 400. He believed
many non-members would attend a big class in an auditorium who would
not attend a small class in a little room, because many feared being
embarrassed or getting involved in an uncomfortable discussion. This
class was the means of reaching many of the lost.
And what about
the mission work? With Leroy's encouragement the Polytechnic church
supported, without help from others, several preachers in various
mission fields, supporting each missionary nearly as much as they
did their own local preacher. Also, they built or bought church
buildings in those areas. Some were in large cities like
Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Milwaukee. Their missionaries, Harvey
Childress and Guy Southern, pioneered the work in Minnesota.
church, on a dead-end street, with a minimum staff became at one
time the third largest church of Christ in the nation, and perhaps
could have become the largest if it had chosen to do so rather than
establish other congregations in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Polytechnic gave 200 members, two elders, 16 teachers and assistant
teachers to start the Meadowbrook congregation. The remarkable thing
is the very next year under the preaching of Leroy Brownlow,
Polytechnic had a higher average attendance than the year before!
They gave 200 members to start Eastland Street. They helped to start
Vickery Boulevard all over again after the former group moved to
Mitchell Boulevard. They assisted in establishing Flamingo Road and
Linwood congregations. Also, they bought and paid for the prime
location and set aside $160,000 to start the Brentwood church, now
Here was a
congregation that was free of the selfish, competitive spirit, but
rather was interested in the growth of all congregations and in the
Lord's work everywhere. This is further evident in that Polytechnic
took the lead in running the directory ad in the Fort Worth Star
Telegram that included all the congregations, whether they
contributed monetarily or not. Leroy believed it wise to advertise
our strength and numbers. Furthermore, it was a gesture of
helpfulness to give the smallest churches as much publicity as the
largest ones. Consequently, Polytechnic withdrew its own weekly,
private ad. Their unselfishness and strong commitment to help all
congregations was truly a great Christian example.
Leroy and the
Polytechnic elders led the church to be forceful in the defense of
the gospel. When Dr. J. Frank Norris, pastor of the First Baptist
Church in Fort Worth, which had the largest Sunday School in the
world, began to broadcast daily on radio a challenge for the
churches of Christ to send forth a man to meet him in debate, it was
Leroy Brownlow and the Polytechnic church that took the lead in
accepting his challenge and in silencing him on the matter. They
chose Foy E. Wallace, Jr. to meet him, and Dr. Norris refused to
meet Wallace.. he backed down (Perhaps Norris recalled the defeat he
suffered in the Wallace-Norris debate in 1934). Nobody questioned
the soundness of this church or their preacher. When the
anti-cooperation movement came into the Fort Worth area, Brownlow
and the Polytechnic church stood firmly on the ground we had
occupied for years which was cooperation. Most of the preachers, at
first, were influenced by it.
leadership of Leroy Brownlow the Polytechnic church was very
aggressive and set the good example and pattern in many areas.
It was the
first church in the area to have offstreet parking.
church west of the Mississippi River to have a mail-out bulletin
church in the Fort Worth area to have a full-time secretary.
church of Christ in the world to be on television.
So far as I
know, the first church to have busing. In 1944 they rented a
bus with its driver from the Fort Worth Transit System and ran
it for about six weeks and gave it up because the people did not
want to ride it. They were ahead of the times.
It was the
first church to have air-conditioning Brownlow stated that some
of the preachers really nailed his hide to the barn door on this
one saying it was a waste of money. But he took the position
that if you could heat the air to make it comfortable, you could
also cool it to make it comfortable. Later the critics accepted
It was the
first church west of the Mississippi River to have the same
preacher for as long as 2 years.
Church of Christ, during the ministry of Leroy Brownlow, was
conservative ... yet dynamic and aggressive. The good positive
influence of Leroy Brownlow and the Polytechnic church will live on
for generations yet to come.
As churches of
Christ are now in the new centurn, the need to renew the spirit and
plea of the Restoration is crucial. And in this day of many
uncertain sounds, Leroy Brownlow was and is one of. those clear
voices pointing the way and helping us get back to the basics of
seeking and saving the lost. Leroy Brownlow deserves the gratitude
of the brotherhood of the saved.
Vol. 118, No. 7; July, 2003, Houston, Texas, by Nobel Patterson Farmers
Fort Worth, TX 76108
Leroy Brownlow Signature
Courtesy of Terry J. Gardner, 04.2010
Directions To Grave
The grave of Leroy Brownlow is located in
Colleyville, Texas between Gravevine and Ft. Worth. On Hwy 26 in Colleyville,
heading east you will see the Blue Bonnett Hills Cemetery on your right. Enter
at the eastern most entrance (closest to the mausoleums) and proceed into the
cemetery. Go to the top of the hill and you will come to a large fountain. Make
your way around the fountain and continue on to the top of the hill. At the top
of the hill you will come to a cross road. Turn right and go until you see the
Garden of Remembrance on the left. Note picture below to see the location of the
While in this graveyard, be sure to
visit the graves of Thomas B. Warren,
Avon Malone, & Will Slater,
other great church leaders of the 20th century. He and his wife are buried in the mausoleum
back down the hill at the entrance. Pull to the front of the mausoleum and go
in. The Warrens are buried on the bottom, right hand side in the main corridor.
N32º 53' 623" x WO 97º 08' 486"
Garden Of Remembrance
Space 3 Lot 69
Accuracy To Within 14'
See Map Here