Bynum Ferril Black, Sr.
Bynum Black: An Arkansas Angel
An outstanding individual of unusual ability as a preacher, Bro. Bynum Black was born and reared in Sharp County, Arkansas. He met Miss Maggie English who was born and reared in the adjoining county of Randolph and they were united in holy matrimony in November of 1892. The next year, one Lord's day morning, they attended a meeting at the Opposition church, a rural congregation near Ravenden, Arkansas. That afternoon both were baptized into Christ. The baptism took place in the beautiful Spring River of that area. Bro. Will English of Ravenden Springs, Arkansas, brother in law to Bro. Black, told me that Bynum returned home that afternoon, made a talk at the congregation near his home, converted and baptized a man that night. Bro. Black was 22 years old.
The Sunday following he preached his first regular sermon by appointment and thus began a career of preaching that was to continue for more than half a century. He preached extensively in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Most of his work consisted of evangelistic meetings and public discussions. His only local work was with the Capitol Hill congregation in Oklahoma City in 1932 and 1933.
After Bro. Black had preached for twenty-one years, the Blacks moved to McAlester, Oklahoma. This was in 1914 and the territory of Oklahoma had enjoyed statehood for only eight years. Much of the work of Bro. Black was of a missionary nature and he was known as one of the pioneer preachers of Oklahoma. The Blacks lived in McAlester until 1929 when they moved to Oklahoma City.
Ligon Portraiture Photo
In the Christian Worker's memorial issue honoring the martyrdom of Bro. M.S. Mason and dated November 7, 1930 Bro. Black wrote some memoirs: “Many years ago while conducting a meeting on the Myatt, in Fulton County, Arkansas, eighteen persons were baptized and delinquent Christians were reclaimed. As I now recall a young sister had been divorced and married again. She became alarmed at her plight. We had dinner on the ground and before beginning the afternoon services she went to the stand and secured my Bible, bringing it to me, she said: "I want you to hear my case, take your Bible and read what the Lord has said on the subject. I cannot afford to be wrong. I must and will get right. I saw at a glance that she was in great trouble. I reached my Bible to W. M. Oldfield, a young preacher who was ready to give her the information. I excused myself and moved into the crowd.
I knew the young preacher was there only for a brief time and I had a premonition that portended danger to me. The lady notified her husband that she refused to live with him. My life was in serious danger. One man at the night services placed himself, drew a large knife, and declared that he would cut my throat. Friends and brethren prevented this murderer from taking my life. A fine brother, by the name of Poteet, now living out from Sikeston, Missouri, (this was George W. Poteet, father of my stepfather Grover C. Poteet and who then lived out from Ravenden Springs, Arkansas, B.E.M.) related to me how he had felt toward me when he was a sectarian several years ago. He said that he felt like it would be a relief to him to get me and make a short work of me. Since that feeling possessed him, I have baptized him, his wife and his mother, and I think some other members of that fine family. Others have related similar feelings in former years toward other gospel preachers, but one in many thousands, perhaps, will risk his own worthless life to avenge himself on gospel preachers. We sometimes think the only weapon with which we are, in our day, persecuted is the poison of slander. We hear now and then of some fine young Christian teacher failing to secure the position as teacher in the public schools because of their stedfastness in the faith of the true gospel." This noble minister was a great evangelist and during his thirty years in Oklahoma returned many, many times to Northeast Arkansas. I heard him entirely through one two weeks meeting conducted on the lawn of the Lawrence County courthouse in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. This was in 1931. A masterful speaker with a tremendous knowledge of the scriptures, he was able to draw and hold large crowds. One peculiarity I recall about the meeting is that the then small congregation in the town had a limited number of song books. Bro. Van Bench led the singing and we sang the same songs, five of the m every night, mostly from memory. The meeting was an open air meeting. One had only to ask Bro. Black where something in the Bible could be found and quick as a flash he would reply with book, chapter, and verse. I know, because I did.
A very noble debater, his services were solicited far and wide to defend the gospel. I feel certain, but for Bynum Black, that Northeast Arkansas would have several Mormon churches today. He ably routed them from the polemic platform until they just disappeared. Once at Williford, Arkansas he debated a Mormon named Ward. This debate was scheduled for nine days. Mr. Ward said that If Bro. Black would prove what he had said about Joseph Smith that he (Ward) would quit debating. Bro. Black proved it, and Mr. Ward proved a man of his word. He not only quit debating but quit preaching and went into the mercantile business.
A notice in the August 14, 1930 issue of the Gospel Advocate reads: "Bynum Black, 100 E.C. Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is in a meeting at Morris, Oklahoma. He will engage Elder T.H. Dixon, a Freewill Baptist in debate at Checotah, Oklahoma, beginning on the night of August 27th." The notice was followed in the September 25, 1930 issue with this statement. "Jack Free reports the debate recently held at Checotah, Oklahoma, between Bynum Black (Christian) of Oklahoma City, and T.H. Dixon (Freewill Baptist) of Arkansas. The debate was largely attended, and the truth ably defended by Brother Black."
The “Gospel Advocate” of October 29, 1931 has the following report. "Bynum Black, 228 Southwest twenty-eight Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, October 19." After three months in meetings, I am again preaching for the church at 2900 S. Harvey Avenue, Oklahoma City. Five by membership yesterday. While away this summer, I conducted two debates, one with Burt F. Marrs, Adventist at Ashland, Oklahoma lasting eleven nights. One man was baptized. Conducted meetings as follows: Wesley, Arkansas, twenty-seven baptized; Thayer, Missouri, foul" baptized; Poughkeepsie, Arkansas three baptized; Bearden, Oklahoma, twenty baptized.
Bro. Black wrote three small books that were well known: "Fifty Reasons for not Being a Baptist.", "Sixty-foul" Bombshells in the Mormon Ranks, " and "Thirty- Six Plain Contradictions Between Methodism and the Bible."
Some of his close preacher friends were: Brothern W. A Schultz, J. Will Henley, J.W. Chism, J.H. Lawson, Joe H. Blue, Joe Warlick, Joe Crumley, and L.E. Steward. His last meeting was conducted in the same place where he conducted his first meeting, and in each meeting there were fifteen who obeyed the gospel.
Bro. Black suffered much sickness in the last few years of his life which resulted in his death on Wednesday, February 2, 1945 at the age of seventy-three. He left his wife, seven boys and two girls. Sister Black still lives and is still residing in Oklahoma.
-Boyd E. Morgan, Arkansas Angels, pages 53-55 Note: This is a timed piece. Some of those enlisted as living may be now deceased.
The Life Of Bynum Black
Bynum Black was born March 28, 1872 of Elic and Harriet Black near Ravenden Springs, in Sharp County Arkansas. His father, with two brothers, left Ireland because of the “potato famine” and came to Missouri, where he continued his work of teaching school. He later moved to Arkansas, where Bynum was born. He attended the rural schools available in Arkansas, but at the best received only a limited education. After he began preaching, he made a life-time study of the Bible and was exceptionally well educated in it, and kindred subjects. We have no record of the religious affiliation of his parents, but his son, Judd, an Oklahoma City lawyer, thinks most of them became Christians. In the early nineties, at the age of nineteen, he was married to Miss Maggie English, of nearby Randolph County. She was fourteen years of age, and is still living in Oklahoma City. Ten children were born to them, five of whom are still living. They are: Mrs. Annie Fay Brown, Norvel, Judd, Coleman, and Bynum. They all live in Oklahoma City. Garth Black, son of Judd, is a gospel preacher.
The year following their marriage they attended a gospel meeting being conducted by the Opposition congregation near Ravenden Springs, and here Bynum and his bride obeyed the gospel, being baptized on a Sunday afternoon in the beautiful Spring river. After their immersion, they returned to their home and attended services that evening in a small rural congregation near their home, and he made a talk. His “talk” caused a man to obey the gospel that night. The following Sunday he preached his “first regular sermon,” and thus began a preaching career that was to span almost half a century. We have no details of his early preaching ing work, but he continued to live on his farm and preached in nearby places.
In 1912 he bought a good bottom land farm in the Ward Springs community about twenty miles Southwest of McAlester, Oklahoma. He moved his family there in a covered wagon in 1914. His land was good, but it was unfenced and covered with timber, and had no improvements. Times were hard and money was scarce and he had to be away from home much of the year in his preaching work, the very time of the year when he needed so badly to be working the farm to support his growing family. The family did manage to live, largely off the land, with the exception of the small amount of money he was paid for his preaching work. Judd writes: “I was the third oldest boy and it fell my lot to hunt and provide fresh meat for the table, such as squirrel, rabbit, and quail. Game was plentiful and no game laws regulated the quantity taken.. . .”
After about ten years in Pittsburg County he moved to Oklahoma City, where he worked with the Capitol Hill church as local evangelist for a few years. (This was the only “local work” he ever did.) Even while with Capitol Hill, he continued much meeting work and many debates.
With the exception of the few years at Capitol Hill, he engaged in evangelistic work, writing and had hundreds of religious debates. He was considered by most brethren to be one of the most capable defenders of The Faith available, especially in debate with the Mormons, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Methodists. Preachers of his time not only had to defend what they taught, they usually had to do so at their own expense, or largely so. The preacher and his family “paid the price” for this service. Once he went to a prosperous community in Southwest Texas and had a good meeting. At the close, one of the elders took him to catch the train. As they were nearing the station, the elder took a large roll of currency from his pocket and started counting the money off. When he had counted aloud to the sum of $250, which was about half the “bundle,” Brother Black was so elated that he began to graciously thank the people of the church for being so responsive to his preaching. When he did this, the elder stopped counting, and put the rest of the money back in his pocket.
He was quite successful in meeting the Mormons, and some well informed brethren give him credit for keeping the Mormons out of Northeast Arkansas. Once he met a Mormon named Ward at Williford, Arkansas for nine days. Mr. Ward said that if Brother Black would prove what he had said about Joseph Smith, he (Ward) would quit debating. Brother Black did and Ward did, going into the mercantile business and not even preaching any more. Judd tells about attending a debate his father had in 1923 at Utleyville, Colorado a hundred and twenty-nine miles from the railroad with one of the Mormon’s “twelve apostles,” who of course they said was inspired. The debate was held under a brush arbor, the people practically all lived in dugouts, and the only building in the community was a small frame building that housed the general store and post office. Brother Black knew much of the Bible by memory, and his ability to instantly recall and quote any passage he needed proved to be both a source of wonder to this “Apostle” and also a serious problem for him. Of course this “apostle” did not know The Book, and he kept checking the quotations to try to catch Brother Black in a mistake. Brother Black severely chastised him for this, insisting that if he were really an inspired apostle he would not have to check to see if the Bible was correctly quoted. Another time he met the President of the University of Arizona in debate. This man was also a Mormon, and the debate continued for six days. Brother Black was thoroughly able to refute Mormon doctrine with a “thus saith The Lord,” and did so, always giving chapter and verse. This completely startled and upset this adversary, just as it had done so thoroughly at Utleyville, Colorado. So many of our preachers today have abandoned “chapter and verse preaching.” We wonder why a method that has proven so successful in the past should be abandoned. Maybe present day preachers do not know the book!
Not only did the gospel preacher of his time have a hard time keeping his family housed, fed, and clothed, he also sometimes faced actual physical danger. In his work, Arkansas Angels, Boyd Morgan tells of a time when Brother Black’s life was seriously threatened because he had taught the truth about divorce and remarriage. The husband involved was about to lose his wife because she felt their marriage was wrong. He showed up at a night service with a large knife, declaring he would cut Brother Black’s throat. Fortunately friends and neighbors disarmed the man. (But a “crank” DID kill M.S. Mason, a gospel preacher, in 1930.) Many people in the early years of this century took their religious views so seriously they often allowed their prejudice to make threats of bodily harm to a preacher they did not like.
Brother Black was a powerful preacher, and thousands of people came to know their Lord through his very fine preaching. Boyd Morgan tells of hearing him in a two weeks meeting in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas in 1921. Brother Morgan says: “He . . . was a masterful speaker with a tremendous knowledge of the scriptures, he was able to draw and hold large crowds. Brother Morgan also spoke of his great ability to instantly recall, and quote almost any passage of scripture. He wrote three small books that were well received, and no doubt had much to do with the many challenges for debate that he received. They are: “Fifty Reasons For Not Being a Baptist”; “Sixty-Four Bombshells in the Mormon Ranks;” and “Thirty-Six Plain Contradictions Between Methodist and the Bible.” The family would like to have copies of these, and if any reader has one he would be willing to let them have, please contact Judd Black, 335 Oklahoma Natural Gas Bldg. Okla. City, Okla. 733102. Brother Black lived for some years in the Ward Springs community in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. After living in this community for several years, he held a meeting there and baptized seventeen of his friends and neighbors.
After moving to Oklahoma City in the early twenties, he bought four small houses, and later a small acreage. Oil was found on four of these five pieces of property, and though oil sold for ten cents a barrel he still was helped along much financially in these years. A few years before the end he suffered a stroke, but recovered from it, and had fairly good health to the end when a heart attack took him. His last meeting was conducted where he held his first, and he baptized fifteen people in each of them. His last sermon was preached at Twelfth and Drexel in Oklahoma City in 1938 while sitting in a wheel chair.
On February 2, 1944 he was taken to a better land and his body sleeps in Oklahoma City. His companion is still living, and will be a hundred years old on April 27, this year. The family is planning a special party for her at the Wiley Post Club House in Oklahoma City on April 24th. from two to four in the afternoon. (For more information call her daughter, Annie Fay Brown, 524-8321.) Judd says she is mentally alert and physically active, considering her advanced age. Though the family has not indicated any unusual hardships, I know something of what this good woman experienced. Ten times she went down into “the valley of the shadow” to bring a new life into the world. She stood faithfully by her husband while he preached and she looked after the farming and the children. It could not have been an easy life. She was faithful through it all. Most of you never met her, but why not attend that party on the twenty-fourth if you live close enough? At least send her a birthday card to 310 N.W. 16th St. Oklahoma City, Okla. 73103. See Romans 13:7
-Loyd L. Smith, Gospel Preachers of Yesteryear, pages 38-41. Originally, this article appeared in The Christian Worker, Published, April, 1977
Note: This is a timed piece. Some of those enlisted as living may be now deceased.
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The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Thursday, February 3, 1944, page 5
Directions To The Grave Of Bynum Black
Bynum and Margaret Black are buried in the Sunnylane Cemetery in Del City, Oklahoma. The address is:4000 SE 29th Street, Del City, OK 73115 Phone #405-677-8384. The cemetery lies just SE of downtown Oklahoma City, between I-35 and I-40. The actual GPS location of the family plot is: 35°25'57.1"N 97°26'38.3"W / or D.d. 35.432525, -97.443968
From I-40: Heading west, take Exit 155a and turn left on S. Sunnylane Rd. If heading east from downtown, take Exit 155a and get on the Frontage Road. Go one block and turn right on S. Sunnylane Rd. Go down to 29th St. SE and turn right, the cemetey will be on your left. Enter the main entrance to the cemetery and head into the center of the cemetery. Go nearly to the third crossroad and begin looking to your left. The Black plot is close to the corner. See photos below. The actual GPS location of the family plot is: 35°25'57.1"N 97°26'38.3"W / or D.d. 35.432525, -97.443968
From I-35: Take Exit 124A, Grand Blvd. and head east. Turn right on 29th St. SE. The cemetery will be on your right. Enter the main entrance to the cemetery and head into the center of the cemetery. Go nearly to the third crossroad and begin looking to your left. The Black plot is close to the corner. See photos below.
Photos Taken February 24, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Web editor note: In February, 2012, it was my privilege to visit the grave of Bynum Black. I was invited to take part in the annual Affirming The Faith Lectureship in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Getting into the area early, I was afforded the opportunity to put about 2000 miles on a rental car in order to locate graves of gospel preachers and church leaders of yesteryear in a wide area. My fifth day I was able to visit the grave of Bynum Black.