William Owen Freeman
Saluting A Life Of Faithfulness
The year was 1923! The summer day of August 4th in the Lauderdale County, Alabama, was born the man to whom we give honor this day. Owen Freeman was the son of a postal deliveryman, and a faithful servant of Christ. The Church of Christ was a mainstay in the life of the Freeman family, as it is to this day. As an impressionable young man, it was his delight to come to hear the great preachers of the day: N.B. Hardeman; T.B. Larimore; H. Leo Boles; Charles Holt; and many others. At 13 years of age he was baptized into Christ at the hands of Brother Leon C. Burns.
Around the year of his eighteenth birthday, Owen was approached by Virgil Larimore, the youngest son of T.B. Larimore, concerning the need for someone to go over and preach at New Salem, near their Florence home. He told the young man, “Owen, you need to go there and preach for them.” So, reluctantly, the teenager committed to go and preach. Since the third Sunday in October, 1941, Owen Freeman preached 7,523 sermons. He personally baptized 574 people into Christ, and performed 174 weddings.
To preach the cross of Christ, it was imperative for the young preacher to learn at the feet of the great educators of the day. He attended David Lipscomb College, enjoying the influence of brothers E.H. Ijams and Athens Clay Pullias.
The following two years were of particular importance. Owen knew he wanted to have the influence of N.B. Hardeman and W. Claude Hall who were at Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee. So he began attending there in 1942. It was here that he met a young lady by the name of Reba Hart, a girl from Jackson, Mississippi. While they were dating he preached from time to time at her home congregation at Capitol Street Church where Gardner S. Hall was the preacher. He preached around at other churches as well, including: Weeden Heights and Glendale, churches near Florence, and Hendrix Chapel, near Lexington, Tennessee. Later in life, Owen said that Hendrix Chapel was where Reba heard him preach for the first time . . . and later she married me anyway! They were married September 26, 1944.
Their first full-time work began in Laurel, Mississippi in early September, 1944. During his time there a baptistry and two classrooms were built. In his evangelism he wrote a weekly article for the local newspaper. At the encouragement of others he saw the need to further his education. So, in 1945 the Freemans moved to Abilene, Texas, where he began attending Abilene Christian College. Not long after arriving, Owen began preaching for the church in DeLeon, Texas. It was around this time when the family grew with the birth of their first child, Jane. It was at Abilene where he was conferred upon the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
In 1946 the young family moved to Georgia. The long drive in their ’41 Ford brought them to the small town of Hogansville. He would later recall that this was the first preacher’s house they lived in that had air-conditioning . . . air came under the house, as it was sitting on blocks, and made its way into the house through cracks in the floor.
From 1948 to 1952 the family lived in Fort Payne, Alabama working with the church there. He conducted a regular fifteen-minute, Sunday morning radio broadcast, preached in area gospel meetings and even planted a congregation in nearby Ider, Alabama. It was during their time there that Reba gave birth to their second child, Ann.
In 1952, Owen followed Jean Thornton who had just departed the pulpit at West Corinth, Mississippi. His schedule was very busy. For a time he conducted a radio program at 8am on Sunday morning. Then he would run out to preach a sermon at the Theo church of Christ just west toward Memphis. Then he would race back to Corinth to preach for the West Corinth church. While there he began working toward his graduate degree at Harding Graduate School in Memphis. He and his brother-in-law, Cal Arquitt, would travel together to school, and on their way they would stop and pick up a young fellow-preacher who also was also attending by the name of Cecil May, (now head of the Bible Department at Faulkner University). It was while the family was at Corinth that their third child, Robert, was born.
From 1957 to 1962 the Freemans lived in Savannah, Tennessee where Owen preached for the church there. During that time he preached every day at 12:15 on the local radio station, W.O.R.M. On Sundays his Bible class at the church of Christ was also put on the air free of charge.
From 1962 to 1966 the family lived in the Mississippi River town of Vicksburg. Owen conducted a fifteen-minute radio program every Sunday morning, and helped to plant what is now the Warrington church near town.
In 1966 the family moved back to Georgia, where they would stay for the rest of Owen and Reba’s lives. First, they lived in Valdosta where he served as Dean of Students at Georgia Christian School and Home in Dasher. He taught math and senior Bible classes. When land was purchased across the road for a children’s home, Owen served as its first director, and continued on the Board of Directors for eleven years. A large portrait of the Freemans hangs in the family room dedicated to them in the main office building of Raintree Village to this day. While in the area he helped to start, and served as the first chairman of the Valdosta University Christian Student Center.
In 1969 the Freemans moved to Southwest Atlanta where Owen began preaching for the Cascade Heights church. Within a year he began teaching part-time for the new Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross. For the next twenty years he served the school as a teacher, photographer, class sponsor, bus driver, yearbook advisor, and in many other areas of need. During these years he helped re-locate the Cascade Heights church down to Fairburn to become the Cedar Grove Church. From 1977-1987 he served the Campus church as auditorium class teacher, and filling in at the pulpit for Jesse Long and H.A. Fincher when they were away. For a few years he also served as an elder. In the early 1980s he began making trips to help out in a new work in Buford, Georgia where he preached until Jimmy Miller began working with the young congregation.
From 1986-1991 Owen and Reba traveled each Lord’s Day from their Duluth home, down to preach for the Old National church of Christ in south Atlanta. His last sermon there was October 13, 1991 marking fifty years of preaching the gospel of Christ. A beautiful plaque was presented to him on that occasion, and it along with many other accolades, hangs in the dedicated Freeman Library in the building of the Buford Church of Christ.
Beginning in 1992, Owen traveled to Dawsonville to help stabilize the work there. He continued in this effort until 1994 when he gave up regular preaching activities for involvement in a new venture, the Sojourners. Over the next seven years he and Reba traveled in their camper and worked with this national evangelism effort to help struggling churches. With it he preached more than once in over 24 churches in seven different states; as far west as Nebraska, and as far north as Maine, all at their own expense. It was a labor of love for the both of them.
As the century was drawing to a close, Owen yet again entered a new venture with his brother-in-law Cal Arquitt. Educating preachers and church workers was something both these men believed in, and desired to see accomplished in their life-time. Hence, the Georgia School of Preaching and Biblical Studies became a reality. At once Owen was in the classroom again and teaching two classes in the Fall Quarter. He continued teaching in the Fall and Spring Quarters at the Piedmont Road campus until 2007.
In 2001, the Freemans began serving the Lord in the congregation at Buford. Very quickly he was made an elder, and served in that office until 2005. Both he and Reba worked hard in building the church at Buford, with as much resilience as they had in any work in their lives. For this they became endeared to every member very quickly.
After a hard battle with cancer, the love of his life, Mrs. Reba, as all fondly called her, departed to be with the Lord, January 12, 2005. They had been married for over sixty years. Today their picture hangs permanently in the Marriage Hall of Fame in the Buford church building.
On October 4, 2009 the church presented a plaque to Owen Freeman for sixty-seven years of preaching the gospel of Christ. It is a tribute that serves as only a token of thanks for a life that has touched so many with the Jesus whom he loved.
The last years of Owen’s life were filled with preaching and teaching as often as he could, both in the auditorium class at Buford, and in the Buford Campus of the Georgia School of Preaching and Biblical Studies. Due to eye troubles he had to give up his class work in 2009. A setback in his health in late 2009 caused him to have to start routine dialysis. Just days before his death, he learned that cancer was spreading through his body.
On August 4, 2010, William Owen Freeman went to be with the Lord. It was his eighty-seventh birthday! He laid his armor down after many years of service in the cause of Christ. Today his old body will be laid beside that of his dear Reba in the Peachtree Memorial Cemetery in Norcross, Georgia, there to await the coming of his Lord.
-by Scott Harp, First Appearing in the funeral program.
What were you doing thirty-eight years ago? For me, I was about to enter the ninth grade. I had already completed two years at Greater Atlanta Christian School, but true high school was before me. In previous years I had seen him around the campus. He always seemed to have a camera in his hands. Mr. Freeman was the Civics teacher. I knew he was a preacher because we had visited the church where he preached during gospel meetings in the past. But this year was different. As Bible classes were taught every day, I entered my first Bible class of the year, and Owen Freeman was my teacher. For the next nine months, every day, this man of God took us boys and gave us principles from the Word.
He was fondly referred to as “Big O” by most of the kids. But in class everyone addressed him as Brother Freeman. He was a fun-loving man to all the kids when out of the classroom. But when it came to studying the Bible, he was all business. It was my privilege to serve on the yearbook staff a couple of years when Brother Freeman was the sponsor. He really knew photography. In the six years I attended, he was a permanent fixture in everything that made the school what it was.
How little I knew about this man when he became my Bible Class teacher. I already had an appreciation for him because he was a preacher, like my dad. But I had no idea that when he began teaching at GACS he had already done so many great things even many years before I was born.
I had no idea when I first knew him that he was born August 4, 1923 in Florence, Alabama, my home state. I had no idea that he had preached his first sermon when he was eighteen years old, or that he went to Lipscomb College and was taught by E.H. Ijams and Athens Clay Pullias. Did you know that he then went to Freed-Hardeman College and sat at the feet of N.B. Hardeman and W. Claude Hall? Did you know that while he was there that he met the love of his life, a fellow student by the name of Reba Hart?
As World War II was coming to an end, Owen Freeman was completing combat training as a warrior for the service of the Kingdom of Heaven. His sword was the word of God, and he was readied for battle. Preaching steadily from place to place, it was in 1944 when he began his first full-time preaching work in Laurel, Mississippi. The following year he and Reba moved out to Abilene, Texas for further studies. He received his B.A. degree from Abilene Christian and continued his efforts for the Lord.
Over the next twenty years the family served churches in: DeLeon, Texas; Hogansville, Georgia; Fort Payne, Alabama; West Corinth, Mississippi; Savannah, Tennessee; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Valdosta, Georgia. During those years they raised two daughters, Jane and Ann, as well as a son, Robert. In that time he was not only a preacher, but an educator as well. He received his Master’s Degree from Harding Graduate School while living in Corinth. When moving to Valdosta in 1966, he taught Math and senior Bible at Georgia Christian School and Home. When Raintree Village Children’s Home began in its present location, it was Owen and Reba who were there to take the lead. He was the Director and served on its Board for eleven years.
As a ninth grader, this teacher of God’s word, this patient man, was using his talents to serve. He had served many years before I had him in class and he continued to do so among many people for years into the future. While I was finding my purpose in life, he was giving in leadership and training to so many, many more. For the last third of the 20th century, Brother Freeman was such a mainstay to the churches in metropolitan Atlanta. He preached for the old Cascade Heights church, now Cedar Grove, in the early 1970s. When Campus church of Christ was newly planted, he was teaching and preaching when called upon. He even served as an elder there for a time. When a new congregation was planted in Buford, Brother Freeman came and helped in it settling up until the time when Jimmy Miller became its preacher. In 1986 a new congregation was planted in southwest Atlanta. He and Reba would rise every Sunday morning and drive down from their Duluth home over sixty miles one way to preach and teach. They made well over three hundred trips during those six years. In the early 1990’s they did the same kind of thing for the Dawsonville church for a couple of years.
Brother and Sister Freeman moved into a new work in 1994. They had a camper and started traveling with the Sojourners. At their own expense they attended to help struggling churches in twelve different states, as far west as Nebraska and as far north as Maine. He preached, taught, sawed, hammered, baptized, and helped in whatever way he could. After six years and thousands of miles of travel, they sold the camper and said farewell to working with the Sojourners. But stopping their passion for service of the Lord was far from their minds. In 2001 they committed their efforts to the church at Buford. He taught the auditorium class, and very soon was appointed an elder. His vast years of experience working with churches, along with his Bible knowledge, made him a great leader that everyone loved and respected.
When Mrs. Reba got sick in 2004, it was a pleasure for the church at Buford to give back by assisting in whatever way they could. Her passing January 12th of the following year was hard on Brother Freeman, their children and their church family. But this old soldier of the cross continued on valiantly. He continued teaching classes in the Georgia School of Preaching. He continued his visiting, and his guidance was sought by all.
In 2006 when my family came to work with Buford, it was his counsel that helped to influence the eldership in my selection. Becoming Owen Freeman’s preacher was somewhat daunting at the first. However, his encouragement always made me feel at ease. He was my teacher, my confidant, and my friend.
On August 4th Brother Freeman celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday, and what a birthday it was! For on this day he received the greatest gift of his life. He went to be with the Lord. And thus, another soldier laid down his Sword, entering the ranks of the great fallen. He had preached over 7,500 sermons, taught an innumerable amount of Bible classes, baptized 574 people, performed 174 weddings, and preached countless funerals.
Our brother fought a good fight. He finished his course. He kept the faith. As confident as anyone could be, he with Paul could say, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing,” 2 Timothy 4:8.
by Scott Harp, First appearing in Family Focus, weekly bulletin of Buford Church of Christ, August 8, 2010.
GPS Location of Grave
or D.d. 33.967415, -84.202212
Owen and Reba Freeman are buried in the Peachtree Memorial Park in Norcross, Georgia. From Atlanta, take I-285 to Exit 31 and head north on Hwy 141/Peachtree Industrial Blvd. When Hwy. 141 splits off, be sure to continue on Peachtree Industrial. A couple of miles after the split you will come to the funeral home and cemetery on the left. Enter the Crowell Brothers - Peachtree Chapel Funeral Home parking lot, and head up the hill past the funeral home to the entrance of the cemetery. Take a hard left and make your way around toward the mausoleum, which you will easily see in the distance. When bear around toward the front of the mausoleum, stop the car and make your way into the section you have just been going around. The Freeman plot will only be a short way in.
Dec. 26, 1925 - Jan. 12, 2005
Aug. 4, 1923-Aug. 4, 2010