Ira Arthur Douthitt
"He showed us how to love truth and yet be charitable, How to hate wrong and all oppression, and yet not treasure one personal injury or insult."
The foregoing words are from the sermon that Phillips Brooks preached at the funeral service for Abraham Lincoln that was conducted April 23, 1865 in Philadelphia while the President's body lay in state in Independence Hall. These words can also be truthfully said of another man from Kentucky, Ira Arthur Douthitt.
Ira Douthitt helped me to see and love the truth in a splendid and charitable manner and spirit when I was a young man. I can remember things he preached nearly forty years ago.
Death and Burial
After a very long illness, brother Douthitt passed from his life December 23, 1975 in a hospital at Nashville, Tennessee. His brother, Boone Douthitt, also an able and faithful gospel preacher preached the sermon at the funeral service for brother Ira which was conducted at Mayfield Kentucky December 25, 1975. The body was buried in the cemetery near the meeting house of the Lebanon Church of Christ a few miles south of Mayfield where brother Ira grew up.
Meetings In My Hometown
Ira Douthitt preached in some meetings in Greenfield, Tennessee. I was reared in the country near Greenfield and managed to hear him some. I was impressed by his graceful, fluent delivery, and his powerful Bible preaching.
The girl who became my wife, Margie Medling, was baptized at Greenfield by brother Ira. He also baptized several of my relatives and friends.
In what was probably the last meeting in which brother Ira preached at Greenfield, my father led the singing. I well remember there were afternoon and evening services, a practice that is rarely seen anymore. This meeting was conducted thirty-five years ago.
Wide Range of Preaching
More than 10,000 people responded to Christ's call at the close of the many thousands of sermons Ira Douthitt preached.
Brother Douthitt and N. B. Hardeman went to Palestine together in 1923. Brother Douthitt made several other trips to Palestine and preached in the auditoriums of the luxury liners Queen Elizabeth and United States. He called the officers of these great ships by their first names.
One time when he boarded the United States, the captain "turned over the fastest ship in history" to him. After two days of sailing Douthitt preached to more than a thousand people in the luxurious liner's swank auditorium.
The gospel was preached by brother Ira in several of the world's largest cities, including New York, London, Paris, and Rome. He preached in Jerusalem and beside the Jordan river at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. Brother Douthitt also preached the unsearchable riches of Christ in hundreds of small and little known places in at least two-thirds of the United States. He served as regular minister for some of the best congregations in the brotherhood, including Union Avenue Church in Memphis Tennessee, Broadway Church in Paducah, Kentucky, Brainerd Church in Chattanooga, and the congregations in Dickson, Hohenwald, and Cookeville, all in Tennessee. Brother Douthitt preached in more than sixty gospel meetings in Graves County, Kentucky where he was reared.
Preacher's School at Broadway
While serving as evangelist for the Broadway Church ir Paducah, brother Ira conducted a preachers' training school. Several men whom he trained became effective preachers.
Ira Douthitt possessed a great sense of humor. He could have made a fortune as a humorist on television. He also mixed his humor with amazing candor. He declared he was not bothered by fright and was not nervous. On one of his many trips to Palestine he visited a moslem area of Jerusalem and was not aware that it was a high crime to take pictures there. As he was taking a picture holding the camera to an eye, an Arab soldier aimed a rifle at him and was about to shoot Douthitt. Whereupon the eloquent preacher used his talents in pleading for his life. He never smoked, but he happened to have a package of American cigarettes. He tossed these to the soldier and the soldier did not shoot him. Then Douthitt talked the soldier out of the cartridge that might have killed him and he brought it home as a souvenir!
Ira Douthitt knew the Bible lands like a book. He lectured in many places on the Bible lands and showed his splendid color movies of scenes of that part of the world.
Comments of Others
Gordon H. Turner wrote a piece about brother Douthitt many years ago in a Nashville newspaper. I am indebted to him for some of the facts in this article. Brother Turner said of brother Ira, "I met this man, grown great in never ending efforts to help others, some thirty-five years ago when he held a meeting in my hometown of Scotts Hill and made his home with my family."
C. M. Stubblefield wrote of Ira A. Douthitt, "As a preacher, brother Douthitt has few equals. His English is good; his logic is severe. Having announced his subject, he proceeds as though it were the last effort he ever expected to make for the salvation of a soul."
An Interesting Guest
As a guest, brother Douthitt was the center of attraction. He charmed children; he appealed to the hearts of adults with his bits of wit, and his interesting stories. He did not want to be a burden to those with whom he lodged. I well recall his staying in our home in Paducah, Kentucky many years ago. After enjoying a country meal that included common peas, and after a good session of talk and tales, he went to bed. As he went to bed he said, "I'll not bother you m the morning. I'll be up and on my way home before you wise." He had gone home when we got out of bed the next morning.
Brother Douthitt was married to Regga Ray of Sedalia, Kentucky in 1915. They have three children: Ira A., Jr. of Chattanooga; Earl of Tulsa, and Mrs. Edward (Martha) Eichelberger of Chattanooga.
Regga Douthitt is a talented, humble and refined Christian lady. She is one of the dearest friends my Margie and I have. We lived across the street from her several years and we know somewhat of the great burden she graciously endured while brother Ira was so long in the hospital. Her address is 1101 Caldwell Lane, Nashville, Tennessee 37204. We are confident she will be blessed by your cards and letters.
Ira Douthitt made his mark; it was a good one! If I could speak to him again I would say,
Farewell, old friend And hold God's hand For now you've gone To the real Holy Land. You leave us behind But ere long we too Shall leave this world And be with you.
-Basil Overton, The World Evangelist, Vol. 4 #7, February, 1976, p.1,3
Cover Page Of Gospel Advocate After The Death Or I.A. Douthitt
Beloved Brother And Faithful Minister
Ira Arthur Douthitt, the best-known gospel preacher Kentucky has yet produced, died December 23, 1975, at Central State Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee, after an illness of thirteen years and three months. This brave and noble soldier can now truly say with King David, "He hath redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me." (Psalm 55: 18.)
Brother Douthitt preached the gospel with fervor and power for sixty-six years. He preached in meetings in thirty states with results of ten thousand baptisms, and high esteem among the churches. He had the qualities of a leader both in personal appearance and performance. His dress and poise were appropriate. His voice was clear and vibrant. He was free of mannerisms and cliché. Occasionally be sprinkled his message with witticisms. All this, plus an imposing body, gave his sermons effectiveness seldom equaled.
Brother Douthitt bad in insatiable quest for learning. Beginning in 1923 he made six journeys to the Holy Lands to gather information to increase his understanding of the Bible, and strengthen him as an evangelist. He wrote two books detailing his Bible Land studies, and was probably the best student among us of that area. He listened to older men preach in order to learn and heard young preachers gladly. By quoting so much Scripture from memory some brethren believed he had memorized the entire Bible.
As regular minister Brother Douthitt worked with some of our larger churches, as: Dickson, Tennessee; Union Avenue, Memphis; Brainerd, Chattanooga; and Broadway in Paducah, Kentucky. While in Paducah he taught and trained a group of young men for Christian leadership. Several of the group became esteemed evangelists. He was a staunch supporter of Bible schools. At Freed-Hardeman College he received the B.S. degree, taught two years and served six years as Director of Public Relations. His voice has been silenced, but his books continue his message, viz.: Outline of the Life of Christ, The Ideal Rome, Apostolic Sermons Vol. I, and Lesson Studies in the Book of Acts.
I. A. Douthitt was born March 11, 1891, near Cairo, Illinois, son of the late L. J. and Allie Matlock Douthitt. Other members of the family include Ezra (deceased), Noah, Cecil B. (deceased), Boone L., Mrs. Esther Lester and Mrs. Vada Grogan. In time the Douthitts located in Graves County of West Kentucky where they were prominent citizens and respected church leaders.
Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Regga Ray Douthitt, two sons, Earl, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ira Douthilt, Jr., Chattanooga; a daughter, Mrs. Martha Nell Eichelberger, Chattanooga. Funeral services were held at Mayfield, Kentucky, December 25, with Boone L. Douthitt and T. Coy Porter officiating. Burial was in Lebanon Cemetery, Sedalia, Kentucky. Fervent prayers of his faithful surviving spouse were answered. As a parting word spoken to this writer at the funeral home Sister Douthitt said, ''I have stedfastly prayed to outlive Ira in order to nurse him to the end."
-Alonzo Williams, Gospel Advocate, February 12, 1976, pages 101 & 102
Big Preachers In The Brotherhood
Mule Musing And Other Matters
Inasmuch as this issue of The World Evangelist carries my story about Ira A. Douthitt who passed to his eternal reward December 23, 1975, it seems fitting that I should relate here a story brother Ira's brother Boone told me several years ago.
The Douthitts grew up in southwest Kentucky near a place called Pilot Oak (not far from the part of Tennessee in which I was reared). Boone said Ira was a heavy, stout person even when he was a boy.
The Douthitts had a mule that needed "breaking." Ira decided he would "break" the mule. Like the roads over in Weakley County Tennessee where I grew up, the road from the Douthitt home to Pilot Oak was a dirt road. The day Ira decided to break that mule, the road was very muddy. He got on the mule and whipped the sides of the mule and rode him hard and fast to Pilot Oak and back, a round- trip of fourteen miles. When he and the mule got home the mule was broke!
This story tells something of the intensity of Ira Douthitt. He did a thorough job riding that mule. His life was like that. He intensely worked at preaching the gospel and reaching lost souls with the truth of God. He preached the old rugged cross with fervor, and with deep concern about doing the job throughly and well for many, many years.
This mule story that involved Ira Douthitt also tells something of his humble background. America's greatness grew out of the humility of hardship.
We praise men like I. A. Douthitt because of their great contributions to society which they make despite their hardships and lowly circumstances when growing up. But we perhaps should praise even more a person who accomplishes anything who was brought up in luxury and everything he desired, for it is indeed a rare thing that a person reared in such elegance and luxury with the "silver spoon" in his mouth ever accomplishes any thing.
The road that is smooth and easy does not necessarily lead to the richest life. Most men who have accomplished anything, first rode mules on mud roads or had similar humble experiences.
We may have to have more mud and mules so to speak to turn the hinge of history and turn this great country back to sense and good gumption.
When Ira Douthitt was born there were no cars and airplanes. Benjamin Harrison was President of the United States who was also reared on a farm. America was moving with its mules and horses towards the eventful Twentieth Century. Many men were in the making in the 1890's that have helped to shape the form and fashion of this century; some who have done great service for the nation and the world and some who helped greatly in the kingdom of God. Among those was Ira A. Douthitt. He rode mules, but he also rode in automobiles, airplanes, and luxury liners, preaching the gospel wherever he went.
Boone Douthitt told me that Ira went to preach in his first gospel meeting in a buggy. I don't remember if he said a horse, or a mule pulled the buggy. Regardless of which pulled the humble vehicle, the cost of his trip surely must have been small compared to the current cost of traveling with cars and gas as high as they are.
Ira got one hundred dollars for his work in that first meeting, His father borrowed forty dollars of that to use in getting a crop going. Ira willingly lent it to his father. This also tells us something of the difficult circumstances out of which men have emerged with great intensity and purpose to do great things for God.
- The Editor, Basil Overton, The World Evangelist, Vol. 4 #7, February 1976, p.1,3
Gospel Meeting Advertisements
The Courier-Journal, Thursday, December 25,1975, p. 7
Directions To Grave
The Lebanon church of Christ Cemetery is located south of Mayfield, Kentucky about five miles on Hwy. 303. If heading south you will come to a four-way stop where you will see the church to your left. Turn left in front of the church building and head to the rear of the cemetery on the left-hand side of the road.
Note: At least two other preachers are buried in the cemetery at Lebanon church of Christ. A few rows back toward the rear and third plot from the road is the plot of Robert S. & Georgia Ruth Usrey. Just next to the Usrey plot are the graves of Winford and Molly Doron Claiborne.
Father - Ira Arthur - 1891-1975
Mother - Rega ray - 1891-1976
Photos Taken 01.13.2020
Webpage produced 02.18.2020
Courtesy Of Scott Harp