Benjamin Franklin Harding
The Life of Ben F. Harding
The first child of James A. and Pattie Cobb Harding was a little girl by the name of Woodson. When she was three years old, the family was blessed with a baby brother. When deciding a name, Woodson was asked what she thought they should name her new brother. She thought about it and said he should be called, “Tumbling Ben,” after a character in some childhood stories she had been reading around that time. Her father said, “Ben? Fine!” He added, “Pattie, let’s name him Benjamin Franklin.”
So, Benjamin Franklin Harding was born the 19th of October 1882 in Winchester, Kentucky. The Hardings were a family of preachers. His grandfather was James Walter Harding, a well-known preacher of the gospel in the northern Kentucky town of Winchester. Ben's father also had followed the steps of his grandfather in preaching, having attended Bethany College. In fact, the first ten years of Ben’s life his father was seldom seen, as he traveled widely in preaching engagements. James Alexander Harding was one of the premier preachers of his day, in constant demand that kept him away from home.
In 1891, his family moved to Nashville, Tennessee where his father became the founding president of Nashville Bible School. The school became Ben’s base of education. He grew up at the feet of David Lipscomb and, of course, his Dad.
After ten years in Nashville, the family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky where his father started Potter Bible College. At this point, Ben was nineteen years old, and very capable to help in what might be referred to as the family business. Soon, he became a teacher, along side his father and elder step-brother, Dr. Leon Knight Harding. Ben became the general overseer of the whole campus. He did the printing, the buying, correspondence, business, and even was involved in the maintenance.
In the year 1907, Ben received an offer to come and teach in the Nashville Bible School. The decision to go was difficult since his parents relied so heavily on him to conduct the Bowling Green campus. It was a great concern to his parents if Ben chose to leave. A couple of years previous, his older sister Woodson, and her husband, John N. Armstrong, who had been heavily involved with the college, had left to conduct a school in Odessa, Missouri.
It was also around this time that Ben met and fell in love with a local girl by the name of Elizabeth Griffin. Of great concern to him was the fact that he and Beth had been raised in very different religious backgrounds. So, while they were dating, it was his habit to take his Bible with him. The two of them studied the Scriptures often. It was of great importance to him that they both were on the same page spiritually before taking the relationship to the next level. One evening after they studied, Beth said she wanted to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins. The next morning, the two boarded a train heading for Nashville, where his father was involved in a gospel meeting. Upon their arrival, the senior preacher baptized Beth into Christ, and while her hair was still wet, he proceeded to pronounce the wedding vows for she and his son. That day she was in two weddings, first to Christ, and second to Ben.
In the end, the newlyweds stayed at Potter. Ben continued to conduct all the things he had been doing as well as helping his father with the production of his paper, The Way. When the college completed its school year for 1912, James A. Harding retired as president of Potter Bible College. In the fall, Ben taught public school in Bowling Green for a year, and then turned to full-time evangelism.
His celebrated and highly praised father passed away May 28, 1922. Carrying on in the great tradition of two generations of evangelists before him, Ben was in great demand as a preacher of the gospel. It was around this time that he and his family moved to Florence, Alabama. They lived there a couple of years before moving over to Huntsville where he preached for the Central church of Christ for a short time. In 1925, the Hardings moved to Columbia, Tennessee where Ben began preaching for the Seventh Street (now West Seventh) church of Christ. For the rest of his life this region was considered home. During the summer season, as was true with many preachers, B.F. Harding traveled much and preached in gospel meetings.
Of particular significance to this writer, brother Harding played a special role in blessing my family. As early as 1919, he had been traveling down into North Alabama where he preached meetings in the small town of Haleyville, in Winston County. The church in that region had been in place since before the Civil War, but by the time Harding came into the area, the work was still considered challenging. In late 1933, he was preaching under a brush arbor in the area known as South Haleyville. One evening it commenced to raining. The rain was so bad they had to give up the meeting all together. The brethren determined they needed to build a church building. When the first wooden structure was completed in 1934, brother Harding came back and preached at the dedication service and conducted the first gospel meeting at the South Haleyville church of Christ, my home congregation. For many years following, brother Harding was held in highest regard among the churches in that area.
He began to be in steady demand for the annual lecture series at David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). In 1940, he was asked to be on the Board of Trustees of his old alma mater, a position which he held the remainder of his life.
Within a few years of his moving to Columbia, he began being involved with the Tennessee Children's Home in Spring Hill. The Home had begun in 1912 and had become a staple of support among brethren especially in central Tennessee. He was selected to be Vice-President of the Home, but later was given the role of superintendent, a position he fulfilled until his death.
When Lloyd Cline Sears wrote the biography about James A. Harding, The Eyes Of Jehovah, he told of an accident Ben had while heading home after closing a gospel meeting in Columbia, Mississippi in July of 1938. After the last session, he drove all night back to Tennessee. Before reaching home he fell asleep at the wheel, and "at great speed his car struck the solid concrete end of a bridge, carried it twenty yards down the side of the highway, then leaped through the air and cut a telephone pole in two ten feet above the ground. The crash woke a farmer nearby, who found Ben staggering around the car unconscious. In the hospital at Columbia, Tennessee, his home, it was found that he had suffered only a slight concussion and torn muscles in his chest." (TEOJ, p.259) It was believed by the family that this weakening led to what happened six years later when Ben suffered a massive heart attack and died November 11, 1944.
Immediately after his death "Resolutions of Appreciation" came from the Board of Trustees at David Lipscomb College. The school president, Batsell Baxter, wrote the following, "I want you to know that in his passing away, David Lipscomb College has suffered a great loss. His deep and abiding Christian spirit, and his sound judgment and good common sense, and his courage have meant a great deal to the school, especially during the crisis through which it has been passing. He had the splendid ability of looking through all the excitement and seeing many underlying principles that many others failed to see. We were particularly glad to have him on our Board, too, because of your father’s great service in the old Nashville Bible School [the first name of the college] and the cause of Christian education. We have much to be thankful for in the memory of the service that the Hardings have rendered this school." (TEOJ, p.259).
Brother Harding's body was laid to rest in the Rose Lawn Cemetery in Columbia, Tennessee to await the coming of the Lord. As noted, Ben was preceded in death by his father in 1922. His brother Leon had died November 28, 1941. Ben was survived by his wife Elizabeth, and his four children: Mrs. Elizabeth Woolsey of Denton, Texas; Mrs. Mary Gartner of Spring Hill, Tennessee; Mrs. Patricia Blackburn of Pulaski, Tennessee; and one son, James A. Harding, a member of the U.S. Navy. His mother Pattie Cobb Harding also survived her son, along with two of his sisters, Mrs. C.H. Payne of Atlanta, Georgia, and Mrs. Woodson Armstrong, of Searcy, Arkansas.
Immediately, after his death, Elizabeth conducted the children's home in the interim until a permanent superintendent could be appointed. She lived another thirty years until her passing in 1974 at the age of 87. She was then buried by her husband.
-Scott Harp, 03.25.2020
Sources: The Eyes Of Jehovah, by Lloyd C. Sears. The photos above came from this book. Also, several reports were sent in over the years of his ministry to the Gospel Advocate.
J.D. Tant On Ben Harding
Marshall Keeble On Ben Harding
Gospel Advocate, December 7, 1922, page 1174
Directions To Grave
Location of the final resting place of B.F. Harding is to be found in the city Columbia, Tennessee.Take I-65 exit 46 and go west on highway 412. In Columbia, turn south on highway 31. Turn left on Cemetery Ave. Turn left just past the Rose Hill sign; Enter gate travel past the work building on the left. Turn right at 3AVE. and the grave is up on the right mid-way. Also buried in the cemetery is preacher, F.C. Sowell and famous newsman E.W. Carmack.
Photos Taken 03.17.2020
Webpage Produced 03.25.2020
Courtesy Of Scott Harp