Robert Wickliffe Comer
Successful Business Man, Church Leader, Gospel Preacher, Writer, Elder, Church Planter,
Benefactor Of Many Great Works In The Early 20th Century & Into the 21st
Table Of Contents
Gives 2,500 Bible
Some Benefactors Of Freed-Hardeman College
A Great Man Has Fallen, Boles
Excerpt From N.B.H.
R.W. Comer Passes, GA Obituary
A Tribute To R.W. Comer, Shacklett
Funeral Service of R.W. Comer, Hardeman
Full of Days, Riches and Honor, Martin
Mr. R.W. Comer, Nashville Banner
Directions To The Grave of R.W. Comer
Photos of the Graves of R.W. Comer & Family 1941 Comer Trust Blesses Kentucky & Tennessee Churches in 2019 & 2021 Presentation On The Life Of R. W. Comer (Scott Harp)
Gives 2,500 Bibles
The largest gift of Bibles which has been brought to our attention recently was made Christmas, when R. W. Comer, head of the Washington Manufacturing Company, of Nashville, gave a three-dollar Bible to each of the more than 2,500 employees of the company. The order for these Bibles was handled by the Gospel Advocate Company-without profit-and consisted of one of the most popular types of Bible handled by this company.
The Washington Manufacturing Company's main plant is in Nashville. It has branches in one or two smaller Tennessee towns. It produces clothing; and since its products are so staple and essential, the Company weathered the depression more successfully than the majority of manufacturing Concerns.
R. W. Comer is recognized as one of the most practical and dependable of the leaders of the church in Nashville. He is an elder of the Chapel Avenue Church in East Nashville and a member of the board of directors of David Lipscomb College.
He is generous in helping every good cause of the church. Many of the 2,500 employees of the company are members of the church. However, this is largely due to the fact that there are so many members in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The Bibles were only one of the presents which the employees of the company found in their Christmas stocking, but they were an unusually nice and acceptable gift.
-Gospel Advocate, January 14, 1937, page 44
Some Benefactors Of Freed-Hardeman College
R. W. Comer was born April 4, 1860. He was active and quite successful in business for sixty-five years. In the early part of the century be established in Nashville the Washington Manufacturing Company which continues as an outstanding firm under the leadership of his son, Guy. He was responsible for the establishment of Chapel Avenue church of Christ and in it he served as an elder. He was known for his liberality to the cause of Christ. Always he was modest and humble. He never sought or desired publicity for the good works he did. His benefactions to mankind will not be forgotten. The Comer family made a donation of $200,000 to Freed-Hardeman College as a permanent endowment. Without this endowment the college could not have been accredited in 1956 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. R. W. Comer died in September of 1944.
Source: E. Claude Gardner, Gospel Advocate, September 22, 1960, pages 600,601, (Listed were R.W. Comer, Paul Gray, Mrs. Nannie Dungan Wallace, & Romus Wright Massey)
A Great Man Has Fallen
When David learned of the death of Abner, he said: "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?" (2 Sam. 3:38.) This statement of David has been used many times when applied to other great men, but it is truly applicable to R. W. Comer. He was "great" in many ways—he was great in his modesty and humility; he was great in his love for the church of our Lord; he was great as a servant of Christ and his fellow man; he was great in his liberality to the cause of Christ; he was great as a friend to man; he was great as a businessman; and he was great as a Christian gentleman. The writer has known but few, if any, who were as great in the private walks of life as R. W. Comer. His influence for God has been felt by thousands who have never met him face to face. He sent out literature that instructed people of Christ and persuaded them to live a better life. Many who read the books, papers, tracts, and leaflets which were paid for and distributed by Brother Comer never knew the good life that was back of the distribution of them.
It is known by nearly all the disciples of Christ in Nashville that R. W. Comer was responsible for the establishment of the Chapel Avenue Church, in East Nashville. This church is now one of the outstanding monuments of the work, sacrifice, and service of Brother Comer. Perhaps everyone of the more than five hundred members of the congregation there have already said since his passing that he had more to do with the establishment, growth, and work of the church than any other member. If he had done nothing more than to establish this great church and foster its growth, his life would have been a success. However, there are many other outstanding works that Brother Comer fostered that are too numerous to mention. He has been a leading figure in the work of the Lord among the churches of Christ in Nashville for more than a quarter of a century. As a member of the board of directors of David Lipscomb College, he served for more than a dozen years with efficiency and contributed thousands of dollars to the support of that institution; he has encouraged Freed-Hardeman College with his liberality; he has established other congregations and strengthened many others. He served as an elder of Russell Street Church, Nashville, Tenn., for a number of years, and moved his membership from Russell Street Church when he established Chapel Avenue Church. He was made one of the elders of Chapel Avenue Church and continued to serve in that capacity so long as he lived. The churches in Nashville will miss the wise counsel, liberality, and example of Brother Comer.
Nothing needs to be said here of his success as a businessman. He built up one of the largest businesses in Nashville, and thousands have reason to be grateful to him for the opportunity that he has given to them. He had associated with him, both in the business capacity and in the Lord's work, some men who have supplemented his work in a fine way. The elders and deacons of Chapel Avenue Church, together with many others, have cooperated with him and helped him in accomplishing the great work that he has done. It is good to know that his sons, Mont and Guy, are determined to carry on as best they can the work that their father has so well done. The memory of R. W. Comer will be a benediction to other generations, as it is a blessing to those who were in contact with him While he sojourned on the earth.
Although Brother Comer was a successful businessman and had large interest in the affairs of the business world, yet he did not let earthly possessions claim his entire attention; he found time daily to do something for the Lord's work. In the last years of his life he preached the gospel and wrote and distributed tracts on Bible topics. He was busy encouraging others to serve the Lord. The writer was blessed by having him present in meetings in Kentucky. He was interested in the people of his native state and his home county; he wanted them to hear the gospel, and he was ready and willing to give time and money to have the gospel preached to them. Many churches in south Kentucky have been blessed by the services and sacrifices of R. W. Comer. There are many who can rise up and call him blessed because of the interest that he has taken in their spiritual welfare. We shall not see his like in our generation. The writer knows of no man who has done more for the progress of the cause of Christ in this generation than has R. W. Comer. No wonder thousands join us in mourning his passing.
-H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate, August 24, 1944, page 565
Except From N.B.H.
(The Biography of N.B. Hardeman)
The love and appreciation between N. B. Hardeman and the outstanding businessman, R. W. Comer, of Nashville, was one of the richest treasures of his life. It was Comer who was largely responsible for the Fourth and Fifth Tabernacle Meetings. It was Comer who gave a good dairy farm to the College in Henderson; and who, because of his love for Hardeman, made the donation of $200,000 to Freed-Hardeman College, which endowment made it possible for the school to fulfill the recognition requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges.
That friendship has been continued in Comer's family, in the close bonds between Hardeman and the two Comer sons, the late Mont Comer (and his widow, "Miss Marie), the benevolent Guy Comer (and "Miss Nick"); also with Comer's two nephews, Alex Harlin (and "Miss Winnie"); and Wirt Harlin (and "Miss Luella"), as well as with R. W. Comer's brother Wirt (and "Miss Grace"). It would be impossible to recount the many tokens of esteem that have come from this outstanding family.
On May 16, 1944, R. W. Comer wrote a delightful letter to Brother Hardeman. On the letterhead of Washington Manufacturing Co., he said:
"Dear Brother Hardeman:
"I am enclosing a leaflet that I presented to the Washington Mfg. Company on my birthday. We are now taking you into the family and we remind you that in fourteen years and fourteen days, you will be as old as I am and then you will get to be a man. Hoping that you can live many more useful years in this life, my best wishes go with you.
"I am also enclosing a few expense accounts of . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not that I want to bother you with this, but thought you might know that he has spent a heap of this money on himself. He must have been out of everything except the wife and baby. I wrote him a pretty keen letter, and I would be glad if you could read it. I thought I had a duplicate to send you, but find out the young lady did not keep the duplicate.
"Everything about so-so here. Best wishes to you and family."
Signed, R. W. Comer.
The Sky Rocket of December, 1941, has an article called:
"Brother R. W. Comer in Chapel Speech." It goes like this: "Brethren R. W. Comer, W. W. Rogers, and Virgil Dockery, of Nashville, paid a welcome visit to Freed-Hardeman on November 18 and 19. They were at chapel on the morning of the tenth, when Brother Comer made an inspiring short talk to the assembly. He began by saying: 'I believe this is the greatest school today on the globe—because you're standing on God's Word and nothing else—we've got to put God in everything.' He quoted from the late E. W. Carmack: 'Youth is a blunder; middle age, a struggle; old age, a regret!' and advised the students: 'You're younger than I. So be careful about making mistakes. Watch yourself as you go through life. It is wonderful to go through without sowing wild oats. We don't have to sow wild oats.'
"The speaker further said: 'I don't feel like talking to these beautiful girls, but here is some advice to you boys from an old man. Don't think you know it all. Don't imitate——be yourself!' He referred to a certain young preacher who built a sermon around new and lengthy words he had just learned-just to use them. 'I was raised a way back in the sticks. I drove oxen to the plow and wagon one team was named Black and Muley.' With reference to adaptability to all circumstances, whether in the 'sticks' or not, he advised: 'Make yourself just as little trouble around a home where you're staying-country or not-as possible.' 'If you go out and think folks are stuck on you for the dress you have on, you're mistaken. You need to look neat, but you've got to know God's Word.'
"Brother Comer delighted the audience with a story of his 'drummer' days, when both he and a competitor were trying to sell their goods to the owner of a rural store. Brother Comer won the sale, but he ascribed it to his ability to adapt himself to the merchant's home and make himself pleasant to the merchant's wife and family. 'You see, I knew how to milk, and he (the competitor) didn't.''' On August 5, 1944, R. W. Comer peacefully passed from this life. On the afternoon of the seventh Hardeman preached his funeral in Nashville. This address is preserved in the "Memoirs of Robert Wickliffe Comer."
-J.M. Powell, Excerpt from N.B.H., The Life of N.B. Hardeman, by 295-297
R. W. Comer Passes
R. W. Comer passed Saturday morning, August 5, after a fight following a major operation, at a local surgical institution. The funeral
was conducted from Chapel Avenue Church, Monday afternoon, with N. B. Hardeman as speaker. The building was filled, and the assembly room of the basement, and an overflow crowd was seated and standing outside. Founder of Washington Manufacturing Company, Brother Comer was a successful businessman, and was a heavy contributor to the cause of the Lord.
-Gospel Advocate, August 10, 1944, page 528
A Tribute To R.W. Comer
During 1911, while he was one of the elders of the Russell Street Church, Brother R. W. Comer observed the need for a place of worship in the vicinity of Chapel Avenue. Realizing the fact that Russell Street church had a large membership, and capable eldership, he with a few others purchased from the Baptists the small meeting house, which Bro. T. Q. Martin referred to as the "cracker box," and began keeping house for the Lord. (In the near future we hope to give you a reproduction of one of the early bulletins of Chapel Ave. Church showing a picture of the "cracker box.") Having "put his hand to the plow," he has never looked back. Although the number was few at the beginning and many things discouraging, this group has never ceased to worship "upon the first day of the week" according to the divine pattern. The responsibility of this work rested almost wholly upon Bro. Comer for many years. From the beginning Bro. Comer stood upon the platform that the scriptures furnish a man completely unto every good work, and it has been his policy to do nothing as service and worship to God for which he could not find authority in the New Testament. There was no desire to make the services entertaining other than the simple preaching of the gospel, nor any effort to "soften" the gospel to make it more pleasing to men. Because of this solid foundation, Bro. Comer's determination to stand by it, and his refusal to make any compromise with the forces of evil, God has prospered him, both materially and spiritually. The Chapel Ave. Church has steadily grown in numbers and strength until it is now one of the outstanding congregations in Nashville.
Bro. Comer has always been a liberal contributor and his example has inspired others to be so. As God has profited him materially, Bro. Comer has increased his contributions proportionately. I am sure Bro. Comer understood God's formula for success. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (material blessings) shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33)
Like Jacob, Bro. Comer made a vow that at least a certain per cent of his income should go to the Lord. He made it a rule, when not able to be at Chapel Avenue at the service, to send his contribution anyway to help carry on the work. Although Bro. Comer has been one of the most liberal in his giving to the church, to orphans and aged homes, to schools where the Bible is taught daily and to charity, he has never boasted nor in any way advertised his gift or sought any publicity whatsoever. What he did along these lines was done for the good that might be done in the name of Christ. But very few of us who are very close to Bro. Comer knew of the extent of his liberality. We did not know it because of his boasting or of his telling us about it, but because we were in position to know, being associated in a business way. I do not doubt that many "good Samaritan" deeds were done about which no one knew but God, Bro. Comer and the recipient.
Another outstanding characteristic of Bro. Comer, was his ability to move freely in all classes of society and at the same time to make everyone feel at ease. Even in his business relations, he had many employees, both white and colored but he never intimidated them or showed any spirit of superiority. The most humble colored employee felt at ease in his presence, and felt free to discuss any problems with him. He tried to influence all to obey the Lord, but never to persuade or force anyone to adopt his view or policy simply to please him. He wanted them to act from conviction only. In the church also, there were no classes or distinctions with him. The rich and the poor were all treated alike. So far as I know, he had no personal enemies. There were men who differed with him politically, religiously and otherwise, but they felt free to discuss their differences without becoming enemies.
There are scores of preachers who sought and received wise counsel from Bro. Comer. Many, are they who have received financial aid from him in going into new and destitute fields to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. Brother Comer became acquainted with a man who had been a Methodist preacher for about twenty years with a salary of $250.00 per month and who, after hearing the gospel in its primitive purity, preferred to suffer persecution with the people of God than to enjoy the emoluments of the world for a season. When that man had lost his former friends and his salary, Brother Corner gave him employment, and as soon as he was able to begin preaching the pure gospel, Bro. Comer gave his personal endorsement and support, material, moral and spiritual. Such has been some of the work of R. W. Comer. His life has been full of events similar to these. God's promises being true, there is bound to be a rich reward for him "over there." When that white robed throng is gathered around the presence of Almighty God and Christ our King, (I am constrained to exclaim as was said of the beloved Charlotte Fanning about a century ago), if Brother Comer is not in that company, then Nashville and Davidson County will not be represented.
Finally Bro. Comer gave the best that he had to the Lord. He endeavored to do everything in word or in deed, in the name of Christ, thru the spiritual body of Christ, which is the church of Christ. We who are younger and who served with him in many ways, were often admonished by him to always stand for that which is right. His final message sent to me by his son was to guard that which is committed unto thee. Perhaps he had in mind Paul's charge to Timothy as recorded in I Tim. 6:20-21. I am sure he had the work at Chapel Avenue at heart. God forbid that we should ever deny our Lord, or betray the confidence Bro. Comer had in us. I know of no one left behind who is big enough to wear that great mantle which he wore, but I pray God that we may be true to that trust.
May God bless the memory of Bro. Comer.
-J. Clyde Shacklett, The Bible Banner, September, 1944, Vol. 7 #1, page 27
Funeral Service of Robert W. Comer
with Prayer by
James A. Allen
(The Apostolic Times, September, 1944.)
On Monday afternoon, at 2 o'clock, an immense audience was assembled in the large Chapel Avenue meetinghouse, and on the lawn in front. When the casket ,was placed before the pulpit, and the audience was seated, Brother Hardeman said: The program for the service this afternoon is quite simple, indeed. In just a moment, for the sake of uniformity, I will ask you to stand for the prayer while Brother Jimmy Allen leads us. After that, there will be another song, then a short talk. May I ask that you stand together now for the prayer. "Righteous heavenly Father, we come, upon this solemn occasion, before thee, in the name, the all-prevailing name, of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We thank thee, that, through Christ, we have the assurances, the comforts, and consolations of the gospel, the hope of immortality, of eternal life in the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We thank thee for the faith of Brother Comer, for his diligence in thy service. We thank thee, holy Father, for his great efforts to spread and to build up the cause for which Jesus died; and we pray that thy richest blessings may rest upon his loved ones, upon those who mourn his going away. May they have the comfort and consolation of the gospel and may they recognize that through the eye of faith we can look across the tomb to the land of pure delight. Heavenly Father, we commit us into thy care. We pray thee to lead us, and guide us, and finally in heaven save us. We beg in Jesus' name, Amen." After the singing of another song, Brother Hardeman spoke as follows:
There are multiplied millions of books that have been penned, on various and sundry themes. This splendid audience would be surprised if I were to attempt to read from any except the one called the Book of God. No matter what we think of it in the midst of health and strength, in the time of trouble and in the hour of death, our thoughts go to that one volume which has continued through the centuries and has defied all the attacks of its enemies. I am reading, therefore, some selections from this sacred Volume. Paul said in 1 Tim. 6: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." Then he said in 2 Cor. 5, beginning verse 1, "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked .... For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Then one other, 1 Thess. 4, "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus Will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain. . .shall not prevent [or go before] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. [That is, before the living in Christ.]" Be it remembered, that this chapter does not contemplate the resurrection of the wicked at all, but it presents the order of the dead in Christ and the living in Christ. We which are alive and remain shall not go before them that are dead or them that sleep. Then after those that are dead in Christ shall rise, we who are living shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
After all earthly matters fail and influences cease, God's word is the only lamp and light beyond the portals of the grave. The having of funerals is purely a custom that has developed among people of all civilized lands. I think in common with you, it is a fine custom, because if there is ever a time when men ought to be made to think that they have no abiding place here, it surely is while they sit in the presence of death itself and are reminded of the fact that this is the destiny of all mankind. I think, friends, that one of the greatest lessons that you and I have to learn is the lesson of being reconciled to conditions that prevail among us. One of the earliest ideas that ought to be mine to grasp is the fact that life is fraught with its sorrows, its shadows, and its sighs; with its cares, its burdens, and its disappointments; that there are many clouds through which we have to pass. We should have, however, a well-founded hope that beyond all of these experiences the glad golden sunlight forever shines.
We know one another here upon the earth; we observe our friends; we come in contact and carry on our affairs; we know quite a bit about life, its activities, its movements, and tragedies. But as to the hereafter, we have but one source of information. All the theories and philosophies of men fail us in our desire for a knowledge of the future. The Bible, friends, furnishes us the only definite assurance and satisfaction of what man shall be in the by and by. The brevity of life is pictured to us in many ways. We need, however, no revelation to convince us of our rapid flight across life's great stage. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away." I know that's so, even if it were not in the Bible. "What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." We have seen the vapor on many a morning as it obscures the sunlight, but it's only for a while, and then it passes away. Such is the picture and presentation of life itself. Solomon said, "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war." Such, friends, are the statements regarding the certainty of our passing and the futility of our efforts to escape the doom pronounced upon mankind. In common with you, I have studied just what life is. I have never reached a satisfactory conclusion. I have read the books of science and no man has ever dared to tell or define what that thing is which having, here we are; having not, there we lie. It's enveloped in mystery. We know about the working of it, the laws governing it, and the activities, all of that. What is that thing itself? Bob Ingersoll said: "Life is a narrow veil between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We look in vain beyond its heights. We cry aloud, but the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead, there comes no word, but in the hour of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing." Even from the great infidel, I think that you can gather that there was some kind of an idea in his mind of an eternity that lies beyond.
We talk much today about our fellows, their successes or their failures, and when we come to the close of our pilgrimage here, many want to know: "Was his life a failure? Was it a success?" I am quite certain that our standard of success in life is far different from what it ought to be. As a rule, we count that man successful who has climbed the social ladder to heights sublime, or has attained political power and prestige, or who has accumulated much of things material. Such a standard is wrong, because if a man should gain the whole world and then lose his own soul, he has made an inglorious failure in life. Let us reverse the standard and not measure a successful life by its accumulations, but rather measure it by its contributions. I think that man who has given to the world; who has been a great benefactor to humanity; who has brought joy and sunshine to others; and who has made his calling and election sure, is the only man worthy of being regarded as a successful character. I bid you think on such a conception.
My greatest ambition in life should not be the attaining of a fine physique; nor should it be the developing of a mind highly trained to cope with my fellows and to solve the many problems of the world; but my chief aim should be the unfolding of a moral and spiritual nature which will assure me that when this temporary and ephemeral existence shall come to an end, I can join Paul in saying: "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Unless a man, therefore, can read his titles clear to mansions over there, I think he has made an inglorious failure, no matter what else may be characteristic of him.
These are just some thoughts that I had in mind as preliminary to this occasion. I am talking now about R. W. Comer, and I fully realize that the presence of this splendid audience, the evidences of love and esteem and confidence manifest on every hand speak a greater eulogy and a finer panegyric than any living man could possibly pronounce to you who are listening so patiently and so politely. Any man who can so live as to have friends gather as you have this afternoon, even amid its unpleasantness, preaches for himself a greater sermon than all the preachers of earth combined could possibly do. Let us remember that:
"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."
Brother Comer was born April 4, 1860, a long time ago as we count it. That was just a year before General Beauregard ordered the firing on Fort Sumter that started the great Civil War among the states. He was therefore eighty and four years old last April. Think of the years that have intervened, of the changes in affairs that have come to pass, which by him have been witnessed with keen interest. 'His early life was spent at Gamaliel, Kentucky. There he grew to manhood, attended the public schools, and finally went to old Burritt College, at Spencer, Tennessee. From the beginning he was inclined toward the business afiairs of earth, which he learned in the great school of experience. He established a general mercantile business in the town of Gamaliel and there continued for quite a while. After some years he became an old-tiroe drummer.
I can recall just how they went about, with their hacks loaded with trunks filled with various samples. It was to me a joy, in the little town where I grew up, to have the drummer come around and open up his samples. I always wondered if he would ever get them back in his trunks. Brother Comer engaged in that kind of business for a number of years. His territory was the Upper Cumberland section and he has told me time and again of his experiences on the boats and amid the towns. Especially have I heard him tell, with interest to me, of going to Celina where young Cordell Hull always met him and took a keen interest in his unpacking his samples, and of his sales to the various customers. The confidence of the world in Brother Comer's honesty and uprightness dates from early manhood. He did things back there that no prudent man would dare do now; that is, he served as the banker, largely, for all the merchants up. and down the Cumberland River. He has told me repeatedly of the hundreds and thousands of dollars that he brought on his. person from merchants there to the banks of Nashville. Is it not a reflection that I have to say that a sober minded man would not do that now? Thieves, robbers, and murderers have so multiplied that no man would 'assume such risks.
After some years spent on the road, Brother Comer moved to Glasgow, Kentucky, and there entered into a wholesale and retail dry goods business. Just how long he continued in that, I do not know, but he finally sold out and in about 1905, he moved to Nashville, which city has been his home all the days since. Some eight or ten years after moving here, he organized and established the Washington Manufacturing Company, in which he took great delight, and served as the active head of it until his recent sickness and passing. Brother Comer enjoyed, and I emphasize the word "enjoyed," his business life for sixty-five long years. They were not always years of success. He had reverses, but amid all of those he had that tenacity and determination to make a success out of what he had chosen as his lifework. Hence, with the growth and development of the Washington Manufacturing Company, success, as men call it from a financial point of view, crowned his efforts and characterized the business. Just how great the accumulations were, I do not know; but I do know this, that no sooner were the dollars coming in beyond that which he thought he would need than he set himself to work on how to dispose of them in a way that would be pleasing to God Almighty. And I can announce to you that which, I am sure, but very few know-namely, that the last ten years of Brother Comer's life were devoted most largely to the shaping up of his business matters and the fixing of things to be perpetuated after his departure. I doubt if any man among us has ever died leaving both his spiritual and business affairs in better shape. There will be no need for lawyers to help wind up his estate. That was all put in order according to his wish and will. There is a great trust fund set up that is to continue on down the line and it is to be used for the glory of God and the benefit of mankind. He not only provided for his own house, but also for all employees who proved loyal and faithful in the discharge of their respective duties. In case of sickness or disability, they will .be cared for. Brother Comer has given away multiplied thousands of dollars. I doubt if he ever refused anyone or anything that even looked worthy. I am glad to say to you that, under the directors of that trust fund, the same consideration will be given to calls that come and that Brother Comer's passing will in no way stop the help so generously given. I think that is most unusual, most marvelous. Regarding this fund, Brother Comer saw to it that all taxes were paid and every legal demand met. In other words, he has set his financial house in order and the brain that could organize and direct the business and make a success of it has likewise set about that process through which it must be spent, and that always to be according to what he believed for the glory of God.
I want to suggest another thing right in connection there. I believe you will agree that, comparatively speaking, there are just a few men who are able to hear prosperity. Nearly all of us can bear adversity and still keep our feet on the ground, but you know that it is characteristic of human nature that when a man becomes wealthy, he is disposed to be heady, highminded, arrogant, domineering, and dictatorial in his relation to his less affluent fellows. That is a weakness of mankind. I think, friends, that the attaining of what we call a large estate did not in any way affect the attitude of R. W. Comer. He lived the same simple life that he always had. There never was any great tooting of the horn, nor blowing about what I've done or what I've given. He lived as he had lived years and years gone by. He wore the same type of clothing, and no man was ever able to discern any distinction whatsoever. I think he made it an "invariable rule to treat every person with perfect civility, no matter what garb he wore or what infirmity he bore." There are just a few of that kind left upon this earth, and I regret the rapid passage of such men.
There's another thing. It just seems rather natural that when men grow old, they lose the care of their person and become other than they were in former days. Be it said to his credit that, though fourscore years were upon him, Brother Comer was alway clean in person, neat, attractive, inviting. He was meticulous in the garb he wore. He had sufficient pride and respect for his fellows to keep himself in fine shape and fine appearance. I think that is but a part of Christianity. "Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Present your bodies clean as the medium through which the light from within is reflected to the world about you. Such is pure and undefiled religion. Pure in heart, undefiled, unmarred in body, so that the kind of heart within may shine out the more brightly and with a greater influence to all those whom you meet. I don't have to tell those of you who knew him that he was one of the finest entertainers I've ever known, It was a joy and a pleasure and a sunshiny occasion to be with him. He had sorrows, troubles, and cares aplenty, but he never unloaded them on his friends. He went through life bearing men up to higher heights rather than pulling them down to lower depths, I really think that his greatest delight was in plucking the thorns and brier, along life's pathway, and in scattering sweet-scented flowers and roses in their stead. Such is my impression of him from whom I have had occasion to learn so much and to love and appreciate as I have but few men upon this earth.
Brother Comer believed Solomon's statement when he said, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth 'shall be watered also himself." He was an exceeding busy man; he took a keen interest in all the affairs with which he had to do; he entered into a lively discussion of all problems that confronted the business of which he was active head. But he was never too busy to try to impress upon men the absolute arid the superlative importance of giving themselves unto God. He made talks and admonitions and exhortations' telling them, "Don't look to men; don't look to me; but take the Bible; believe what God says, do what he requires, live as he directs." His greatest worry possibly may be summed up after this fashion-the failure to properly impress humanity with the necessity of believing with all the heart on Jesus Christ as God's Son, of genuinely' and truly repenting of their sins, of confessing his name, and being buried in baptism for the remission of sins, and then arising to walk in newness of life. He sought to impress just such things upon mankind as are clearly taught in the Bible. Years and years ago, he became a Christian only. Just that—nothing else. What do you think about it? Was that enough?
He took God at his word, believed what he said, did what he commanded, lived as he directed, and trusted him for the promises. I can truly say this afternoon our worry need not be regarding him. I am saying something that I rarely, rarely ever say, but here it is. I think that if R. W. Comer has failed to be greeted on the other shore, you and I might as well quit. There is no hope for the rest of us. He was blessed with a sound body for all these many years until some five or six weeks ago when trouble arose, and then the fight began in which he lost. He had a keen, active, sound mind. He was not an old man mentally and until he passed into a coma on last Saturday that mind was apparently just as active and keen in perception as it had ever been. Isn't it fine that his family and all who loved him, as but few men have been loved, can think that his sun set in a halo of glory? I wouldn't say that he was without fault. I am sure that's not true, but every time there was a spot upon him, he sought to have his garments laundered in that fountain filled with the precious blood of God's Son. He recognized that if he walked in the light, as Christ is in the light, he would have fellowship with all of God's saints and that the blood of Christ would cleanse every stain. He passed without a spot upon his character, with no man having right or reason to point to some dishonest act, or even an unkind act. As Paul would say, he has departed. I rather like that expression. It means he has just left this earthly home. He has bidden us good-bye here, to say good morning to loved ones over there.
No wonder Solomon said, "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth." How many of you, friends, are looking and longing for your sons and daughters to come back from the terrible conflict in which the whole world is engaged? Can't you say, "Precious in my sight will they be as they come marching home, and the lights go on again all over the world?" There was evidently joy in that eternal city when the angels kissed Brother Comer's eyelids down to sleep and then, as God's. pallbearers, they gently bore his spirit home to nestle forever in his Father's love. Such are some of the things I think can be truly said regarding him whose memory we" will cherish, whose benefactions to mankind will never be forgotten. I just pray God that this congregation, of which he was an elder and an influential member, may carry on as he verily believed God required.
I can never forget how he sat over there and took such an active part in singing. I loved to hear him lead the prayer which he always began, "Our dear, loving, heavenly Father."
I close by saying,
"Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare's past.
The battle's fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last."
The closing service will be at Springhill Cemetery. The undertaker will please take charge.
-Memoirs Of R.W. Comer, Chapter 1, Transcription of the funeral of R.W. Comer.
"FULL OF DAYS, RICHES, AND HONOR"
"And he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor." (1 Chron. 29: 28.)
This is the brief biographical sketch of the life of David, Israel's second and greatest king. And I neither transcend the bounds of truth nor propriety, when I apply this language to the passing from earth of the lamented Robert Wickliffe Comer. "Full of days"; he lived more than ten years longer than did David. "Riches"; he was not a rich man in the modern world's conception of riches. While a "successful businessman," his chief riches consisted in a loyal, loving family, a countless host of loyal friends, and the love of a great host of the children of God. "Honor"; he enjoyed the honor of those with whom he transacted business, by his associates in business, by all his employees, from secretary to janitor; by a loving family and by God's children wherever he was known.
In his going, Nashville loses an outstanding citizen; his family loses a faithful, loving counselor and guide; Chapel Avenue loses her most highly honored elder; the cause of Jesus Christ loses a stalwart defender; and dozens of cripples, shut-ins, and dependents lose a faithful friend, known only to themselves and God.
The first of the Comer brothers that it was my good fortune to know, was A. B., in whose home I spent two weeks, while engaged in a meeting, in 1903, in Fountain Run, Kentucky. In that meeting, I was associated with the lamented J. D. Smith. Those were days of the sad, sweet long ago, and will never fade from my memory so long as I have a memory.
I heard Brother A. B. speak of his brothers, "Wick" and "Wirt." But surely, thought I, there can be no more Comers as lovely and godly as Byrd and Mattie. But in later years I came to know the other brothers and their families, and I thank God today that it has been my privilege to know and love the name Comer. R. W. Comer was a just man. I have known well, and associated intimately with, many who knew him best, but never have I heard of an unjust act of his toward his fellow man.
He was one of the great common people, just as kind and polite to .the most humble employee as to a fellow businessman. The humblest soul felt no embarrassment in the presence of this great man.
He was transparently sincere. He hated no human being, but he did hate sham, show, hypocrisy.
He was an humble man, and to him egotism was revolting.
He loved the church, and gave much of his time, means, and influence to the building up of that body of Christ bought with his own blood. He often had preachers, at the noon hour, come to his factory and engage in worship and in preaching to the employees. Just how much good came out of this, eternity will reveal. It was ever a joy to him when one whom he had taught orally, or by handing out a gospel tract, came to Christ, and how many persons have been influenced, directly or indirectly, to obey the gospel, by R. W. Comer, will perhaps never be known until we reach the other side.
His loyalty to the word of God was never questioned, so far as I know, by friend or foe. In the almost forty years that I knew R. W. Comer, I never met an avowed enemy of his. In using the expression "friend or foe," I am assuming that he .may have had enemies. Indeed, it would be entirely outside the ordinary for a man of positive convictions, such as Brother Comer had unconcealed, never to stir the enmity of some one. But this I say truly of him, he was the enemy of no man.
I believe there was no man on earth, black or white, old or young, whom "Wick" Comer would have willfully hurt or harmed.
He has built for himself a monument that can never be destroyed. He lived a life of service to God and man, and such lives never die. "He being dead yet speaketh," and the influence set in motion by his life will extend into eternity. The news of his going crushed my heart, especially since I was not physically able to go in person to "weep with them that weep."
By T. Q. Martin, (-The Apostolic Times, September, 1944), As recorded in Memoirs of R.W. Comer, pages 18-21
Mr. R.W. Comer
A fine Christian gentleman has passed this way, and in passing left his stamp upon those countless lives he touched.
Because personal modesty was a major attribute of Mr. R. W. Comer, he lived and served, and heavily contributed to the religious influences which were throughout his life a paramount interest, without ostentation.
A successful businessman, he built a great industry. He was a solid citizen of the business community-a follower, in business as in private life, of the Golden Rule.
That host of friends that knew him best, those influenced by the example he set in his four decades of citizenship here, mourn his passing.
-The Nashville Banner, As Recorded In Memoirs of R.W. Comer, pages 21,22
The Leaf-Chronicle, Clarkesville, Tennessee, Sunday, November 3, 2019
The Life Of R. W. Comer
Sunday Evening, February 28, 2021
Speaker: Scott Harp
Directions To The Grave of Robert W. Comer
R.W. Comer is buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison, Nashville, Tennessee. On Briley Parkway (Hwy. 155) go to the northside of town to exit 14. Just north of the exit is the old Spring Hill Cemetery. Enter the main entrance to your right. Then turn right. Go about 150 feet and stop the car. The Comer plot will be on your left facing the road. Garden of Hillcrest - Lot 16, Burial #2
GPS Location of the Grave
or D.d. 36.240986, -86.722304
Photos Taken 12.31.2010
Webpage Updated 10.23.2019
Courtesy of Scott Harp