Ira Lutts North
1922-1984

Brief Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Ira North

Ira Lutts North, son of the late O.L. and Maye Lutts North was born August 31, 1922, at Ethridge, Tenn., growing up there and in nearby Lawrenceburg. In August, 1932, at age 10, he was baptized into Christ in Shoal Creek by brother Clark. His father was an elder in the church of the Lord; his grandfather, Ira North Jr., was an elder and preacher of the gospel; and his great-grandfather, Ira North Sr. was a gospel preacher back in the days of the historic Restoration Movement. Following in their tradition, he began preaching in 1939, when only 17, and has had a ministry of more than 43 years in Tennessee, Illinois, and Louisiana.

In October, 1953, he began a 32 year ministry with the Madison Church of Christ, which has become the largest congregation of Churches or Christ in the world. As an author, he entitled his latest book Balance – A Tried And Tested Formula For Church Growth. He was also Editor Emeritus for the GOSPEL ADVOCATE the oldest continuous religious journal among Churches of Christ.

A graduate of David Lipscomb College (when it was a junior college), Abilene Christian university (B.A.), University of Illinois (M.A.), and Louisiana State University (PhD), he has also been honored by Abilene Christian University and Harding University with an LL.D. degree from each. He was a professor of speech and Bible at David Lipscomb College (now University), for 18 years; quizmaster of the Know Your Bible television program 17 years; and the originator and teacher of the nationwide Amazing Grace Bible Class on television, now in its eleventh year. An ardent promoter of child care and care for the aged, the elders of the Madison Church of Christ renamed its expanding Golden Age facility the Ira and Avon North Christian Retirement Center on his 61st birthday.

On March 5, 1939, he was married to Avon Stephens, who ever since has been the most important person in his life and his greatest single helper. He is survived by his wife, four children, Ira Stephen North, Dr. Kenneth Timothy North, Phillip Lester North, all of Nashville, Mrs. Dolley North Stevens, of Abilene, Texas and eleven grandchildren, Stephen North Jr., Mark David, Tammy, Toby, Tabitha Nicki and Neely North, all of Madison, and Christopher, Jonathan and Benjamin Stevens, of Abilene, Texas.

Gospel Advocate CXXVI Feb 16. 1984 page 124

Ira North
By Avon North

He has been called flamboyant, show-off, "Fiery Irey," "Mr. Enthusiasm," liberal, " The great North star from the East" and many other names, some complimentary and some not-so-complimentary. To me the real Ira North can best be described as man of compassion, lover of the very young. the very old, the poor and down-trodden, and homeless children.

There is no better way to train up a child than by example. Ira was born into a poor but compassionate family. Although they were poor his parents were always willing to share with those less fortunate. Even after their financial situation was much better, they still held to this attitude.

When Ira was about 4 years old, his paternal grandfather became unable to live alone and care for himself. There were no nursing homes at that time. Ira's family believed strongly in the saying that an old tree cannot survive being transplanted into fresh soil. It would soon wither and die. They did not move him from his home but moved in with him.

He was a beloved old preacher of 50 years. His 4-year-old grandson loved to sit on his knee and hear him tell how wonderful it was to preach the Gospel. The serendipity was the desire that was instilled in this little boy to preach the Gospel, a desire which stayed with him all of his life until his death at 62.

Soon after the death of his grandfather, Ira's maternal grandmother became unable to care for herself. The Norths again moved their little family to grandmother's home to care for her. Every morning she would have Ira get in bed with her and rub her back. She said he was "the best back-rubber in the world." These were precious memories, and he never lost his love and compassion for the very old.

At the time Ira started to school, Lawrence County owned a poor farm. It was a place provided for the poorest of the poor supported by the county. It was located in the same school district as Ira's family, so the children from the county farm attended the same school. The school had no cafeteria, so all the kids carried their lunches to school. Soon after Ira started to school. his mother realized that Ira was not eating his lunch - he was giving it to the County Farm kids. She didn't fuss at him; she lust fixed more food each day for him to share. During his college days he shared his suits with a preacher friend who did not have a suit to wear when he went to preach. One incident happened in Baton Rouge. La., during Ira's graduate school days. I was in the hospital with a new baby. I had stored enough food to provide for Ira and my two little boys until Grandma could get there, but I had not provided for the hungry stranger who came by. Ira gave him the last quart of milk in the refrigerator, not even thinking that his own little boys might get hungry before morning. Needless to say, they survived, and Grandma came the next day.

So we carne to our preaching years at Madison. I truly believe that God had a plan for a great demonstration to be established that would be an example for the church everywhere to follow. I believe that He selected the right location, the right leadership, the right people, and He raised up the right preacher to lead them and help them to make it all happen. It seems to me that Ira was being prepared for this work since he was a very young child.

Always in the back off his mind was a complete facility for the homeless, aged and poor. One Sunday morning early in his ministry at Madison, he called a little 8-year-old boy to the stage to stand with him. He announced to the audience, “This is Eddie. He is going to the reform school tomorrow. He hasn't broken any law. His only problem is that nobody wants him. and the only place that he can go is to a correction institution.”

Ira noticed an older man in the audience whisper something to his wife and she nodded her head. Then the man raised his hand and said. “Look no further. Brother North. Birdie and I will give Eddie a home until Madison can build one.” Ira said, “God bless you. Brother Perry and Birdie. You now have you a boy.” Later Birdie related to us that the first night when she tucked him into bed he said, “I ain't had no mama to kiss me good night.”

Eddie was our first child in our child-care demonstration that surpassed 1,000 children several years ago. So Madison was in the child-care business - one of Ira's dreams come true!

About the time that little Eddie appeared on the scene. Madison was practically given a 42-acre plot of land located about one mile from the church building. Eventually, seven cottages were built for neglected children.

Later, on the same site, a retirement village with 24 private apartments for the aged was constructed. Just before he died Ira shoveled the first shovel of dirt to break ground for the new villa for people who can no longer cook and keep an apartment. This facility cares for 24 people - Ira's dream of a lifetime had come true. The child-care cottages are called Happy Acres. The apartment complex is called the Golden Age Village, and the villa is called the Christian Care Villa.

Ira's ministry Madison pioneered the cottage-type homes for children. Each nice, four-bedroom brick home is located on a two acre lot that houses a mama, daddy and six children. To make it as near like a normal home as possible, the dad works for a living and the mom cares for the home and the children. This plan for child care was acclaimed as the "way to do it" by the Tennessee state welfare department, making it easier to be accepted by the powers that be in the state as well as the church. The welfare department could furnish a child's physical needs, but they could not give a child the warm, compassionate love and care that we could with our plan.

By 1973 there were more than 60 homes in this country supported by churches of Christ. This program has grown into an adoption agency, foster home care and a home for abused wives with three social workers, a full-time family life counselor, and a student intern working on an advanced degree in social work. A collection is taken in the Bible school classes each Sunday: this the only source of support for this program. May God forgive us if we have misused any gifts that we have had at our disposal.

Ira frequently related the incident about the "Church What Helps People." One afternoon he was in the office after everyone else was gone. There was a timid knock at his outside door. He went to the door and there stood two frightened little girls.

“Mister, is this the church what helps people." they asked.

"Well, I'll declare!" Ira quickly replied. "There are 750 churches in this town and you have found the right one! What can I do for you?”

"Our daddy's sick and we are hungry," they said.

"Well, we'll fix that. Come with me."

He took them to the food room and found the door locked.

"Well, what do you know - somebody forgot and locked the door.

"He picked up a hammer and broke the lock and sent the little girls home with their arms filled with sacks of food. Before leaving them he invited them to Bible school the next Sunday.

Ira's concern for the people in the slums of the inner city was reflected in the following quote from a sermon: "What have the religious people, what have the churches done for the poor of the inner city? What has Christendom done? I'll tell you what we have done. For all practical purposes - nothing. When the poor move in. we move out. We don't want to get our hands dirty. And so in the inner city they live on. They live in unspeakable poverty in some cases. Oh, how those little children need to know about Jesus! How they need to feel the hand of someone clean who cares. But what have we done'? We've moved out and we've worshiped in our big, fine buildings with wall-to-wall carpets and air conditioners and ridden in our nice cars and lived in our nice homes and wrung our hands and said, 'Oh, those terrible people down in the slums!' We haven't lifted a finger to help them."

Ira did do something to help them. He was instrumental in getting the Nashville Inner City Ministry started by using his influence with the powers that be to get permission to use one of the inner city school auditoriums each Sunday morning to worship. There are about 400 people who worship there each Sunday. They now own a fleet of 40 buses and bus 1200 people each Monday and Tuesday nights to area churches for a Bible class. They have seven people who work full time and hundreds of volunteers. This ministry is an example and is training people from other cities to begin a ministry in their own area. There are eight young men going to Lipscomb on a scholarship from a fund established in honor of Marshall Keeble. The Inner City is marching and I feel that Ira's early encouragement has helped to bring this about.

Even on his deathbed Ira was thinking and concerned about the little children. He had received so many notes and get-well wishes from little children who assured him that they prayed for him at every meal and at bedtime. He was concerned that they might think that God didn't answer their prayers. So he requested that Jim Bill explain to the little children at the funeral that God answers our prayers His way and not our way.

When Ira died I lost my best friend, but It was wonderful to share 43 years, four children and 11 grandchildren with such a friend!

--Gospel Advocate, Nov. 1990, VOL. CXXXII, NO 11


L. to R.: David L. McQuiddy, Jr, Ira North, J. Roy Vaughan, Guy N. Woods

Gospel Advocate Obituary of Avon North

     MADISON, TENN. - Avon Stephens North, 87, died April 23. Mrs. North was married to former Gospel Advocate editor Ira North.

     For 44 years, she was her husband's partner in his ministry as a preacher for churches of Christ in Texas, Louisiana, illinois and Tennessee, including the Madison Church of Christ. At her death, she was a treasured member of the Neelys Bend Church of Christ.

     Mrs. North was instrumental in founding the Madison Children's Home and Domestic Violence Shelter, Mother's Day Out Program, Meals-on-Wheels, Valley View Bible Camp, Ira and Avon North Christian Care Villa, Ira and Avon North Christian Student Loan Fund, and many other programs of service at the Madison Church of Christ. In later years, she was very active in her support of the Inner City Ministry.

     Mrs. North was preceded in death by her parents, Ada Parrish Stephens and George Thomas Stephens; her husband, Dr. Ira North; her son, Dr. K. Timothy North; and her brothers, Harris Stephens and John R. Stephens.

     She is survived by her brother, George T. Stephens of Savannah, Tenn.; her sons, Steve and Phillip L. North, a daughter, Dolley Ruth North Rennie; 13 grandchildren, and 15 greatgrandchildren. Funeral services were held on April 26 at Madison Church of Christ with Jim Bill Mclnteer and Lytle Thomas officiating. Interment followed at John Lay Cemetery in Ethridge, Tenn.

Gospel Advocate, May, 2008, page 41

 

Location Of The Grave Of Ira L. North

Ira North is buried in the home of his birth, Etheridge, Tennessee, about five miles north of the west-central town of Lawrenceburg. From the Hwy. 64 and Hwy. 43 intersection travel north on Hwy.43 6.0 miles. You should see the Etheridge, Church of Christ just ahead on the left. Just before the church building you will turn left On Main St. The first road to the right will lead into the church parking lot. The second will lead you to the first entrance of the cemetery where you will see the sign, Allen Cemetery. Do not enter the first entrance, go further over to the second entrance (third road from highway) and turn right into the cemetery. Go about 500ft. into the cemetery, just before a cross street and look to your right (east) five rows. The North grave is facing toward the west.
Webmaster's Note: I located the grave of Ira North in early February, 2003 after visiting the Freed-Hardeman University Lectures. It was a cold day, but such a great blessing to visit the grave of this great old soldier of the cross. I visited again in 2010 with C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom L. Childers. Sister North had passed away since my previous visit, so it was good to visit the site again.

GPS Coordinates
N35º 19' 28.8" x W87º 17' 43,8"
or, D.d 35.324667108252946, -87.29572713375092
Accuracy To Within 23'
Facing West


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Ira and Avon North Family Plot With Scott Harp & Tom Childers - 2010


Ira and Avon North family plot with C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom L. Childers - 2010


Avon Stephens North
December 2, 1920
April 23, 2008


Ira Lutts North
Aug. 31, 1922
Jan. 15, 1984

Lucas North, Preacher & Grandfather of Ira North

Ova Lester North, Preacher & Father of Ira North

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