James Alexander Harding
As a student at Bethany College 1866-1869
Who Was James A. Harding? Imagine growing up in a home where regular visitors included men like Alexander Campbell, Moses E. Lard, “Raccoon” John Smith, John T. Johnson, and John Rogers. The subject of this sketch spent much of his childhood in the presence of these great Restoration Leaders, and many more. His father was the successful preacher and church planter, James W. Harding of Winchester, Kentucky. If anyone was groomed for the polemic platform it would be James A. Harding.
Born in Winchester, Kentucky, March 16, 1848, the first of fourteen children, Jimmy Harding was, from his youth, set for great things in the kingdom of God. It was in his thirteenth year that the burden of sin was lifted. He was attending a meeting held by Moses E. Lard, and his father, when he responded to the invitation, and was baptized into Christ. It was the same year that the country had become embroiled in civil war. His conscience being moved to defend “states rights,” led him to seek enlistment in the Confederate Army; however, he was turned away due to being too young.
When he was sixteen, his father desired to be certain that his son had better educational opportunities that he, so he sent him to study under a teacher named, John William Fox. For the next two years he was tutored in English, Latin, Mathematics, and the sciences. In the fall of 1866, he entered Bethany College in West Virginia. This was an institution started by Alexander Campbell twenty-six years before, but the old sage of Bethany had passed away the previous March. Campbell's son-in-law, W.K. Pendleton, was president when Jimmy attended. He graduated in 1869, with a teaching degree.
His roommate in college was Charles Knight, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. On holidays he traveled home with him, staying with his family. Charles had a younger sister named Carrie that caught Jimmy's eye. Upon graduation, the two went back to Hopkinsville to open a school, calling it, “School for Boys and Young Men.” Jimmy was principal, and Charles assisted. Within a couple of years a board of trustees was assembled, including his father-in-law to be, John B. Knight, and it became a full academy. It was about that time when Jimmy and Carrie were married.
Up until this time, Harding had done very little preaching. Occasionally he would speak when called upon. In the spring of 1875, a brother named John Adams, asked if he would be willing to come and preach a protracted meeting. He responded that he did not have any evangelistic sermons. The man said, “Why, you have been brought up in the church all your life. You have also attended Bethany College and have your degree. You have been preaching since you were nineteen. If you can't hold a meeting, you ought to be shot. Now, shut your mouth, get your horse, and come on out and hold that meeting!” This marked the beginning of a most successful evangelistic career.
For seventeen years, between 1876 and 1893, James A. Harding averaged preaching two times every day, and three times on Sunday in different locations. His travels took him from Canada to Florida, and from New York to New Mexico. He held over 300 protracted meeting, that being evangelistic meetings lasting three to ten weeks, with great response. In 1889, he preached one eight-week meeting at Foster St. in Nashville. There were 123 additions. The previous year, he held a meeting at the South Nashville congregation, and had 300 additions. He held 17 meetings in Nashville, Tennessee and 13 meetings in Detroit, Michigan.
During his evangelistic efforts he was often called upon to debate Biblical issues with denominational preachers. It is estimated that he was engaged in over fifty. His largest battle for truth was a sixteen nights discussion on baptism, beginning May 27, 1889. In it, he faced the great Baptist debater, J.B. Moody, at the Central Baptist church in Nashville, Tennessee. There were over 2000 in attendance each night. The transcripts of the debate were printed in a 566 page volume. Other printed debates include a six-day discussion held with T.L. Wilkinson, a Methodist, beginning December 15, 1884 in Meaford, Ontario, Canada. It was published under the title, "Debate on Baptism." Then there was the "Harding-Nichols Debate," held in Lynnville, Tennessee, January 24-27, 1888. The last was the "Harding-Nichols" Debate in Murray, Kentucky, March 24-27, 1890. A fifth debate, this time written, appeared in the pages of The Christian Leader And Way between Harding and L.S. White of Dallas, Texas. It was published in a volume by F.L. Rowe in 1910. The subject was, "Special Providence."
Harding began writing for the Gospel Advocate as early as 1882, but for some time, it was his dream to edit his own paper. The dream became a reality in January 1889. His paper, The Way, continued a number of years, and enjoyed a wide area of readership. After three years of circulation, it grew into a sixteen page weekly. It continued until 1903, when Harding's duties to school work led him to merge The Way with another paper, The Christian Leader, of Cincinnati, Ohio. It become The Christian Leader And Way.
In 1891, a change of direction took place in the life of James A. Harding. David Lipscomb had long desired to open a school in Nashville. He approached Harding about it, and offered him the position of president. His decision to leave the evangelistic stage was not easily accepted by the brethren. For the first two years, he stayed very busy trying to fulfill meeting obligations made before he accepted his new role. For ten years he carried the responsibilities of leadership in the Nashville Bible School, later known as Lipscomb University.
While on a preaching trip in Bowling Green, Kentucky, he was approached by a wealthy family who desired to begin a college in their city. C.C. Potter and his wife promised $60,000 and 140 acres of land to the building of the school. So, in October 1901, classes began at Potter Bible College with Harding as president.
When he left Nashville Bible School, he took with him, one of best teachers in the school, John N. Armstrong. Besides being a great assistant in founding a new school, it also helped that the young man happened to be married to his daughter, Woodson. Armstrong would later become a great college president of four different colleges. The last was a school that began in Morrilton, Arkansas but later moved to Searcy, and today bears the name of Harding University. It was given the name in 1924 in honor of James A. Harding. An outgrowth graduate school began bearing his name in 1958, and is now called Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tennessee.
In the course of his life, James A. Harding was married twice. His wife Carrie passed away in their fifth year, due to suffering with tuberculosis. Together, they had given birth to three children, two of whom had died very young. Within two years he married Pattie Cobb of Waco, Kentucky. Together they had five children, two of whom preceded their father in death.
In the summer of 1912, Harding resigned his presidency at Potter. He had begun to show signs of forgetfulness, and had even suffered some blackouts that summer. The following year, his daughter Sue, had married a young man named Charlie Paine. He was a young doctor, and the two settled in Atlanta, Georgia in 1914. Sue's parents moved to Atlanta, where they spent the remainder of their lives. He spent his last years preaching at the Pryor Street church, and occasionally at the West End congregation. He traveled some, preaching on lecture programs.
His grandson-in-law, and biographer, L.C. Sears wrote, “As he had so often wished, he did fall asleep. After lingering in a coma for three or four days, on a beautiful Sunday evening, May 28, 1922, he died peacefully in the Paine home . . .” Thus ended the life of a man who had been two college presidents, and had successfully preached, and baptized thousands into Christ.
-Scott Harp, web editor, www.TheRestorationMovement.com
Sources: The Eyes of Jehovah, The Life and Faith of James Alexander Harding, by Lloyd Cline Sears, Gospel Advocate Company, c.197; For Freedom: The Biography of John Nelson Armstrong, by L.C. Sears, Sweet Publishing Co., Austin, Texas, c.1969
contributed by Terry J. Gardner, 06.2014
Chronology Of The Life Of James A. Harding
1820 Grandparents of JAH, Amos and Nancy Carrick Harding moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Winchester, Kentucky.
1823 05.06 James W. Harding, the father of JAH is born in Winchester.
1826 Amos Harding died suddenly (EOJ, p.2)
1842 J.W. Harding married Mary Elizabeth McDonald. He was 19 years old.
1848 4.16 Birth of James Alexander Harding in Winchester, Kentucky (EOJ, p.1) the oldest of 14 children, only seven of whom reached maturity (EOJ. P.2)
1852 10.9 Birth of Carrie Knight, 1st wife of JAH (EOJ, p.131)
1853 03.06 Birth of Patti Cobb, 2nd wife of JAH (EOJ, p.131)
1861 10.18 Moses Lard and J.W. Harding were preaching a meeting in Winchester. 13 year old, Jimmy Harding responded, and was baptized for the remission of his sins. (EOJ, p.10) JAH Tried to enlist in the Confederate army but was rejected because he was too young. (EOJ, p.10)
1864 At the age of 16, Jimmy is sent to a college preparatory school operated by John William Fox. He studied English, Latin, Mathematics, and the sciences. Stays for 2 years
1866 Fall Enters Bethany College, Bethany, W.V. as a student. A. Campbell had died the previous March, and W.K. Pendleton was president. Was greatly influenced by Dr. J.T. Barclay. (EOJ, p.11)
1869 Graduates with a teaching degree. 09 Opens a school with old college roommate, Charles Knight, in Knight's hometown, Hopkinsville, Ky called a, “School for Boys and Young Men.” (EOJ, p.14,15) Begins preaching some in the area.
1871 JAH married Carrie Knight, the younger sister of his friend, Charles Knight. She was 19 years old.
1872 A Board of Trustees was formed including Mr. J.B. Knight, Charles' father. The new academy building was dedicated with Professor James A. Harding as principal, and Charles Knight as assistant teacher. (EOJ, p.15,16)
1872 08.02 Leon Knight Harding, JAH's first son was born. Then came a little girl, Noxie, who lived only a few weeks. (EOJ, p.19)
1874 JAH becomes dangerously ill will malaria. His parents come and take him back to Winchester to get well. (EOJ, p.19)
1875 Spring Asked to preach a protracted meeting. Said he had no evangelistic sermons. Brother John Adams, who had asked, responded, “Why, you have been brought up in the church all your life. You have also attended Bethany College and have your degree. You have been preaching since you were nineteen. If you can't hold a meeting, you ought to be shot. Now shut your mouth, get your horse, and come on out and hold that meeting!” (EOJ, p.19). Marked the beginning of an incomparable evangelistic career. Second son born, named him Captain Jinks, or “Cappie,” Named by his 2 year old brother (EOJ, p.20)
1875,76 Winter JAH was teaching in a school in Winchester.
1876 Spring Traveled much preaching. Carrie's health was getting weaker from Tuberculosis. She moved back home to Hopkinsville while JAH travels, preaching. (EOJ, p.23,24)
1876, 06 Rushes home to a very sick son and wife. Cappie dies. His Carrie is getting weaker, he considers taking her to California. (EOJ, p.25)
1876 07.18 Debate with Mr. Godby at Beattyville the week of the 18th (EOJ, p.26)
1876 09.14 Carrie dies of tuberculosis. Buried at Hopkinsville. (EOJ, p.27)
1876-1893 JAH pours himself into his evangelistic work, 17 years of preaching two times a day, and three on Sunday, from Canada to Florida, and from New York to New Mexico. He held over 300 evangelistic meetings that lasted from three to ten weeks. Had great responses. In one 8-week meeting on Foster St. in Nashville, he had 123 additions. At S. Nashville, he had 300 additions. He held 17 meetings in Nashville and 13 in Detroit. (EOJ, p.28)
1877 J.W. Shepherd is baptized by JAH - (EOJ, p.184)
1878 3.7 JAH married Pattie Cobb in the Cobb home. She was 25 years old. J.W. Harding presided.(EOJ, p.32)
1879 1.6 Patti gives birth to a daughter, Woodson. (EOJ, p.33)
1882 10.19 Patti gives birth to a second child, son Benjamin Franklin. (EOJ, p.34). Begins writing for the Gospel Advocate (EOJ, p.188)
1883 09 After holding a meeting in Canada, JAH returned home, started a meeting. Baptized nine in nine nights. His son, Leon, eleven years old, was baptized also, late one night in the Kentucky River. That year he preached in continual meetings more than 300 days, and preached more than 500 times. (EOJ, p.50)
1884 Debates a Mr. Hiner at Sulphur, Kentucky (EOJ, p.102) 12 Third child born, Jesse 12 Debate with T.L. Wilkinson, Methodist, in Meaford, Ontario, six-nights. Debate was published under title: “Debate on Baptism”
1887 Trouble at the Court St. church in Winchester, Ky, that J.W. had planted led to his leaving, being ousted over the instrument of music. He and 16 others leave (EOJ, p80) 10 JAH debates a Mr. Bridges at Lynnville, KY, (EOJ, p.112)
1888 01.24-27 Harding-Nichols Debate in Lynnville, Tennessee JAh held debates with John T. Nichols, J.B. Moody, J.N. Hall, A. Malone, a Mr. Throgmorton, and a second debate with Mr. Bridges (EOJ, p.113) Held a meeting at South Nashville – 300 additions
1888 11.16 4th child, Sue Harding (Paine) born (EOJ, p.133)
1889 J.W. Harding founds the Fairfax church of Christ in Winchester, Kentucky – continues to this day (EOJ, p.6) Holds his meeting at Foster St. in Nashville – eight weeks with 123 additions. 5.27 Holds the Nashville Debate- JAH began debate in the Central Baptist church – 16 nights – 2000 attended nightly, - with J.B. Moody – debate on baptism (EOJ, 122ff)
1890 03.24-27 Harding-Nichols Debate: In Murray, Kentucky – Also Published – His fourth published debate.
1891 09 JAH Begins his work as president of Nashville Bible School – (EOJ, p.141)
1891-1901 Serves as president for 10 years (EOJ, p.190)
1891 07.20 JAH's son, Jesse, dies with “brain fever.” (EOJ, p.71)
1891 10.05 Monday, classes begin at 108 Fillmore Street. Before end of year 32 students were enrolled.(EOJ, p.142)
1891 10.29 Paul Travers Harding born (EOJ, p.134)
1892 2nd year of NBS, at rented quarters on Cherry Street. (EOJ, p.142)
1893 07.26 David Allen Harding born (EOJ, p.134) 3rd year of NBS, Lipscomb, Dodd, & Ward purchased the old Reed Mansion on Spruce St. (EOJ, p.142)
1899 01 JAH started his own religious paper, The Way - a 16 page monthly. – 2nd year a 24 page monthly – 3rd year – 8 page weekly – by 1903 a 16 page weekly. (EOJ, p.168ff)
1900 03 Issue of The Way, discusses the differences between the views of Austin McGarey & D. Lipscomb on Re-baptism - (EOJ, p.182)
1901 Spring JAH announced that he would be leaving to start a school in Bowling Green, KY – Potter Bible College. (EOJ, p.160ff,190)
1901 10.01 Potter Bible College begins (EOJ, p.198)
1903 The Way was combined with The Christian Leader to become the Christian Leader And The Way (EOJ, p.188)
1905 School suffers a blow when son-in-law, J.N. Armstrong, and three other teachers, R.C. Bell, B.F. Rhodes & R.N. Gardner leave to start a school in Odessa, Missouri (EOJ, p.205)
1906 09.11 David Allen Harding dies (EOJ, p.134,213,214) Harding reported in an annual report that he and students had “led 652 people to Christ” (EOJ, p.205)
1909 JAH spoke at Thanksgiving Lectures at Cordell, Ok (EOJ, p.252)
1910 The Harding-White Debate – Four articles appearing in the The Christian Leader And Way – published by F.L. Rowe,
1910 The debate was on “Special Providence.”
1912 JAH becomes one of the editors of the Gospel Herald out of Cordell, Oklahoma (EOJ, p.188)
1912 06 JAH gives up presidency of Potter College, (thus ending 21 years in education) George A. Klingman becomes president. (EOJ, p.218)
1912 Summer JAH began losing memory, and having fainting spells, (EOJ, p.251)
1912, 12 Potter Bible College closes for good. (EOJ, p.219)
1913 06.13 Sue Harding married Charlie Paine (EOJ, p.255f) 07.13 Paul Travers Harding dies (EOJ, p.134,254-256)
1914 Son-in-law Dr. Paine, started a medical practice in Atlanta, Ga. JAH and PCH move to Sue's Atlanta home to spend the rest of their lives. - (EOJ, p.259)
1915-1916 Hardings spend winter at Cordell Christian College in Odessa, Mo. with daughter, Woodson Armstrong.
1919 9.15 In his 94th year, J.W. Harding dies in his home at Winchester. Buried in Winchester Cemetery. (EOJ, p.131)
1922 05.28 JAH dies in Atlanta, GA in the home of daughter, Sue, and husband Dr. Paine. Burial followed in Bowling Green, Ky, (EOJ, p.131,267)
1924 06 Harper College, Ks and Arkansas Christian in Morrilton, Ark, merge to be called Harding College (FF, p.202)
1941 11.28 Leon Knight Harding died (EOJ, p.132,258)
1944 09.12 John Nelson Armstrong died in Searcy, Arkansas at 74 years of age
1944 11.21 Benjamin Franklin Harding Died (EOJ, p.133,259)
1945 08.09 Patti Cobb Harding died at the age of 92 in the home of daughter, Sue, and husband Dr. Paine. Burial followed in Bowling Green, Ky, (EOJ, p.131,271)
1952 Harding College began offering graduate courses in Bible. Campus in Searcy.
1955 Extension program of Harding Graduate program began in Memphis, Tn 1958 Harding University Graduate School of Religion began in Memphis, Tn under the direction of Dr. W.B. West 1971 Woodson Harding Armstrong died in Searcy, Arkansas at the age of 92.
2011 Harding University Graduate School of Religion became Harding School of Theology
Key: EOJ=The Eyes of Jehovah, The Life and Faith of James Alexander Harding, by Lloyd Cline Sears, Gospel Advocate Company, c.1970
FF=For Freedom: The Biography of John Nelson Armstrong, by L.C. Sears, Sweet Publishing Co., Austin, Texas, c.1969
Directions To The Grave Of James A. Harding
To find the Fairview Cemetery, where J.A. Harding and other Restoration preachers are buried, From I-65 at Bowling Green, Kentucky take Exit 26 (Hwy. 234). Go west on Hwy. 234 (Fairview Avenue) for about 2.0 miles. Enter the main entrance to the Fairview Cemetery on your right (north side of street). To get to Harding's grave: The burial plot is located in C-1. Go through the entrance and bear to the left and around the fountain. You will come to a huge section "C" on the right that is a big oval. Follow the drive around "C" on your right. You will pass smaller sections and "wedge" section on the left. Come on around until you see section "G". Harding is one of the first graves in "G" (G-145) very close to a little "wedge" section. Also buried in this cemetery is M.L. Moore - Location - C-1 - N-93; Born May 8, 1867 and Died June 25, 1928; J. Petty Ezell - C1 - D-84 - B. Jan. 2, 1885 - D. May 10, 1934; Ben F. Rogers - C1 - C-300; B. May 31, 1840 - Nov. 3, 1915; Raymond Hazelip - C-2 (Cemetery 2 - Across Fairview Ave. in new cemetery next to office) He is buried in Section B-1 - B. Jan. 17, 1917 & D. Nov. 6, 1982.
Photos Taken May 21, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Web Editor's Note: The day I visited the grave of James A. Harding, I had just begun a week's Restoration Research trip with my dear friend Tom L. Childers. Brother McInteer's grave was early on our list of preacher's graves to be found. This was about the third or fourth time to visit this grave, but one that is always a blessing to visit.