John Thomas Lewis
Photo - December, 1910
Table Of Contents
Sketch On The Work Of John T. Lewis
Graduate of Nashville Bible School in 1906. Did much work in Alabama, helping to plant churches throughout the Birmingham area. During this time he fought the influence of the digressive movement, establishing new congregations throughout the area. He preached in a meeting at Childersburg when the father of Emily Cleveland Cliett was baptized into Christ. Emily later married the late B.C. Goodpasture in 1918. Her sister, Mildred married J.M. Powell. Their mother was the sister-in-law of J.M. Barnes.
He was a pall bearer in April, 1913 at the funeral of J.M. Barnes. A few years later he was a pall bearer bearing of body of David Lipscomb to his grave November 12, 1917.
He was very influential in his preaching. In 1917 he preached a meeting in Eldridge, Alabama. Attending the meeting was the young bride of Gus Nichols. With the impressions Lewis left on Matilda Nichols, she soon afterwards put her Lord on in baptism by Charley Wheeler.
Lewis once said, "I would rather have thousands to say to me at the judgment, 'We heard you preach, and you hurt our feelings, than to have just one soul to say, 'I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth'."
He was instrumental in founding many churches, including the church at Almaville very close to his home. When he died, his funeral was held in the little building that still stands at Almaville. He was then buried in a little family cemetery a few miles away.
Two Veteran Preachers
John T. Lewis and G. A. Dunn
I have one striking characteristic, only are however, in common with the prophet Amos. He began as a poor country preacher, and so did I. When I was a boy my home church, Antioch in Jefferson County, Alabama, had little contact with the brotherhood at large. My acquaintance with gospel preachers was limited to C. A. Wheeler, J. H. Horton. L. N. Moody, Pryde Hinton, Charlie Nichols, and M A. Creel. When I was a junior in high school, John P. Lewis made a sweeping tour through our community to talk to one of the seniors about his attending David Lipscomb College. I did not know until then that such a school existed among our brethren. I had preached my first sermon before I saw a copy of the Gospel Advocate. Verily, I did not begin my ministerial life as "a prophet, neither as a prophet's son."
In those days every gospel preacher was in my sight a great man of God and worthy of my imitation. When I began to preach, I added other able, dedicated preachers to my list of acquaintances. Those men took a sincere interest in my welfare. I sought out their company, and I asked for and received their instruction, guidance and counsel. I sat at their feet, and I learned.
In time, I learned that those gospel preachers were after-all only men and that they were subject to mistakes and the weaknesses of the flesh as other men are. I was momentarily disillusioned and discouraged, but I immediately recovered from my disillusionment and discouragement when I realized that I, too, am only a man. As I reflect upon the past, I have become increasingly more keenly conscious of how indebted I am to those gospel preachers who have helped me so much.
The years have passed swiftly, and many of those men have already gone on to their reward. Others are now counted as old men, and I myself am counted as a middle-aged man. Recently two men to whom I am very much indebted-John T. Lewis and G. A. Dunn, Sr. passed from this life.
On Sunday. February 18, I attended the funeral service for John T. Lewis. Bother Lewis died at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. His body was carried to the Ensley church in Birmingham for the funeral service, and it was then carried back to Murfreesboro for burial. The Ensley church is where Brother Lewis preached for such a long time. A. C. Moore, who succeeded Brother Lewis at the time of his retirement, conducted the funeral service. Though through seeming necessity, the funeral was held at 1:30 P.M., an overflow audience was in attendance. Sister Lewis had preceded Brother Lewis in death by some ten months.
As I reflect upon my acquaintance and association with John T. Lewis, I could summarize his influence upon my life by saying: As a boy I feared him; as a beginning preacher I respected him; and as a coworker I loved him. John T. Lewis set for himself one goal or aim in life and that was to preach Christ. In his mind, there was no calling greater than that of preaching the gospel.
If Brother Lewis had lived until the tenth of March he would have been ninety-one years of age. He had lived in Birmingham for sixty years. There is hardly a community in the great Birmingham area where he did not at one time or another pitch a tent and conduct a gospel meeting. Brother Lewis was a devout student of the Bible. He possessed a large and very select library. He was positive and outspoken, but he had the fine characteristic of bring able to disagree with another and at the same time maintain a cordial relationship.
I am thankful for the association that I have had with Brother Lewis. He has been a guest in our home during gospel meetings and lecture programs, and I and the members of my family have been enriched by our having had such association with him. I conducted some three meetings at the Ensley church when, he was the minister. I thoroughly enjoyed everyday of each meeting.
Early on March 1, I received a telephone call from Sister G. A. Dunn. Sr. , a gracious lady, a loyal wife, and a devoted Christian. She was calling to inform me that Brother Dunn has passed away the night before. Sister Dunn's desire, and also that of Brother Dunn, was that I should conduct the funeral. I was assisted by Tom W. Pickard, minister of the Edgefield church, Dallas, Texas.
The funeral was held in the Edgefield church building where some three to four hundred kindred and friends had gathered. In addition to Brother Dunn's children and grandchildren, a large number of nephews and nieces from several States were present. There were also present several gospel preachers. If Brother Dunn had lived until the second of June, he too would have been ninety-one years old.
Brother Dunn, is another one of the gospel preachers to whom I am much indebted. He was about sixty years old when I first heard him preach. I thought that he was one of the greatest preachers ever, but the brethren in Montgomery said that I should have heard him when he was in his prime. The late I. L. Boles once said of Brother Dunn: "No dancing master was ever more graceful on the dance floor then G. A. Dunn was in the pulpit." He was tall handsome and genial in manner. He was always dignified and well-dressed.
Brother Dunn, was a man of great intellect He held two graduate degrees, the M.A. and the B.D. degrees. Except for Gus Nichols, I never knew a man who had committed to memory so much of the Scriptures and thus could call up the book, chapter, and verse that would express so accurately the point at hand.
Brother Dunn was often in our home, and he had a great influence on my life and that of my family. He filled me with a burning desire to study the Bible and to go everywhere preaching the Word. In my mind, I can see him now when he would arrive at the Bus Station to conduct a meeting. He often would be carrying two suit cases, one containing his clothing, and the other one, made of metal, containing numbers of chart sermons.
Brother Dunn held from twenty to twenty-five meetings per year so
long as he was active, and he baptized thousands of persons. In a single
meeting at Sherman, Texas he baptized ninety-five persons. He engaged a
number of able sectarians in debate. The greatest sermon that I ever
heard Brother Dunn preach was on the subject, "Heaven." If anyone who
reads this should happen to have a recording of his sermon on "Heaven;"
I would like very much to get a copy of it.
-Rex Turner, Gospel Advocate, May 4, 1967, pages 277,278
The Gospel Guardian Commemorative Issue
January 18 & 25, 1968
Chronology on the Life of John T. Lewis
W.W. Sanders was born, will become Della's father, and JTL's father-in-law to be. C254
George Bird Lewis is born. C255
Mary A. O'Brian is born, mother of Della, and JTL's mother-in-law to be. C254
Judith Catherine Johnson is born, JTL's mother. C255
City of Birmingham is established by Colonel James Powell, the president of Elyton Trade Company. The discovery of red iron ore, white limestone, made the town grow quickly. C27
George William Lewis, older brother of JTL is born. C255
W.W. Sanders and Mary A. O'Brien marry. Within ten years they have five daughters, one of whom, Della, will become the wife of JTL. C83
JTL born on Stone's Run, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was the second of 10 children (9 boys, 1 girl) born to George Bird Lewis, and his wife Judith Catherine. C25, 99, 255
Birmingham population is 800, living in 125 houses. Same year cholera outbreak killed 128. C27
J.M. Barnes from Strata preaches a meeting near Birmingham, resulted in 9 being baptized in Five Mile Creek. In Brookside, between Gardendale and Adamsville — Starting the church in Birmingham. Very soon thereafter he preached a meeting in Birmingham and started the church there. C19
Emily Della Sanders born. Future wife of JTL. C154
Streetcar service began in B'ham, a source readily used to spread the cause of Christ in B'ham in the early years. C27
David Lipscomb starts Nashville Bible School on Fillmore St. in Nashville, Tennessee. JTL will enter in its seventh year. C47
Della Sanders is baptized by P.H. Hooten at Ashland City, Tennessee. C82
C.M. Pullias moved to Birmingham to work for a time with the church. C20
JTL is baptized by P.H. Hooten at Triune, Tennessee. C82
JTL, at 22, enters Nashville Bible School. Tuition is $99 per year plus $1 entrance fee = $100.00. He stays there for eight years. C45, 47
Della's mother, Mary, dies. C84
Mr. Lewis, JTL's father dies, leaving four grown sons and six younger children. C103, 255
JTL preached his first Gospel Meeting at Elkins Schoolhouse four miles east of Woodbury, Tennessee. In 2 weeks, 34 baptized and 19 restored. C120
JTL preaches his second meeting at Oakdale Schoolhouse in Dickson County, Tennessee — Closed September 7. No additions. C120
JTL's 3rd meeting at Oakdale, 1 response. C120
JTL's 4th meeting at Brown's Chapel, No visible responses. C120
07.05 — 07.22
JTL's 5th meeting at McMinnville, 9 responses. C120
07.25 — 08.06
JTL's 6th meeting, a tent meeting at DeKalb County — 4 baptisms. C121
JTL's 7th meeting, at Elkins Schoolhouse, 9 additions. C121
08.23 — 09.04
JTL's 8th meeting, at Iconium, 25 responses. C121
09.06 — 09.13
JTL's 9th meeting, at Short Mountain, 9 responses. C121
09.20 — 09.27
JTL's 10th meeting at Dark Hollow, 1 response — He received $83.91 for his first 10 meetings. C121
JTL was selected to begin a new society, the Caesarean Literary Society. H.Leo Boles started the Calliopean Literary Society. JTL chose as his first member, S.H. Hall, who would remain a life-long friend. Later the Caesarean Society became known as the Lipscomb Society. C53
JTL goes to Meaford, Canada to assist C.H. Jay in his work for the summer. C64
JTL begins a tent meeting, stays in the home of Brother Richardson — one baptism, and a small congregation established in Bay View, Ontario C65
07.17 — 08.15
JTL preaches in Centerville, Ontario. C66
JTL returns to Canada for another summer. C69
JTL graduates Nashville Bible School with the largest class of its 15 year history, with nine graduates, five men and four women. C55
Birmingham population increased from 38,415 to 132,685. C27
JTL preaches a three-week meeting in Portland, Maine. — Baptizes one person in the Atlantic Ocean at 3pm. C69
JTL preaches a meeting in Unity, Maine — 2 weeks. C69
J.M. Barnes suggests that the Birmingham church get JTL to move there. At first he lived in the home of Bro. & Sis. Anthony. Not long after he moved in with the Jabe McDaniel family where he lived for 6 years. C20, 28-30
JTL came to Birmingham's Fox Hall church, that had about 30 members. (C34 — says he was paid $50 for two months at the ender of the year for working with Fox Hall). (C123 says that upon his arrival he was already a seasoned preacher having preached 33 evangelistic meetings, baptizing over 100 people.) C2
Organized the Childersburg congregation, baptizing 13 people during a meeting. C3, 123
JTL averaged less than $5 per week during the year for a total of $107.90. The following year he made $185.30) Little wonder he walked several miles to save carfare. C34
Fox Hall church purchased a corner lot at Lomb Avenue and 7th St. SW for $1000.00 Put up a frame bldg. for $1800.00. — Seated 200 people, twice the size of the congregation. $400 worth of pews were added. Finished in the spring of 1910. — During the building, JTL spends time away with severe stomach problems. C2
JTL and JM Barnes have a tent meeting in Pratt City. It was there that the Birmingham brethren ask Lewis to come and work there. C21
Childersburg church purchases a lot for $200.00. C3
Returns to Tennessee for a few months due to serious stomach problems. C32
JTL spends the winter in Nashville getting treatments for his stomach problems. He is housed for free in the men's dormitory on the campus of Nashville Bible School. At one stage it was thought he would die, when he was rushed to the hospital late one wintry night. C60, 61, 72
JTL returns to Birmingham to the work. Within a few days, boards a train for NE. Goes through Niagra Falls, preaches in Maine, then on to Meaford, Canada for summer work. C72
West End Church helps to plant the work at Woodlawn, purchased a bldg. from the Presbyterianss at 60th St & 1st Ave. for $2250.00 — Woodlawn began meeting there in 1914. Lewis alternated between Woodlawn & West End on alternate Sundays. C3
J.M. Barnes dies in an auto crash near his home. C25
1914 — 1916
JTL made from Nov. 1914 to Nov. 1916 $100 per month between West End and Woodlawn. C34
E.H. Hoover presides over the marriage of JTL and Della Sanders C85, 254
JTL preaches a meeting at West End, baptizing 13, C3
JTL reports to the brethren at West End that he listed that he had done 99 weeks of tent meeting work, and had baptized 82 people. He said he had preached 39 meetings in church buildings and had baptized 52 people. He said that regular church services had produced 57 baptisms at Fox Hall, West End & Woodlawn. C33, 34
C.M. Pullias begins working with the West End church. JTL remains at Woodlawn for next ten years C3
JTL spearheads a drive to buy some lots in Ensley. To be used later. Lots were purchased by 1920. A church was finally established there and building erected in 1926. C3,4
Several of the churches wanted to buy JTL a car. They were going to buy a small Ford. When the money was given to him, he said he did not need a car, but he knew of a church that needed a building, so he put the money toward the building of that building. C35
JTL speaks at the Commencement Exercises at David Lipscomb College at the invitation of H. Leo Boles. C146
JTL spends his 46th birthday away from home in a meeting in Woodsfield, Ohio. The building had been erected in 1856, and Alexander Campbell had once preached there. C136
Fall - Spring
JTL conducted classes: Monday, at Pratt City; Tuesday, at Ensley; Wednesday, West End; Thursday, Owenton; Friday and Saturday at Woodlawn. C156
Evie Lewis Nelson, JTL's only sister dies in Abbot, Texas. JTL wrote in his diary that it was the saddest experience of his life. Buried in Mt. Calm Cemetery, near Waco. C111, 112
JTL holds meeting at Pratt City, advertised in 3.12. issue of Truth In Love C4
JTL writes in article in Truth in Love that congregations "looking after the Lord's business" would purchase properties for the purpose of establishing congregations. Truth In Love reported this year that eight congregations were in existence at that time: West End, Woodlawn, North Lewisburg, Bessemer, Pratt City, Tarrant City, & Spaulding Mines. C4,5
JTL holds a meeting in Houston, Texas, and spends time with Austin McGary. C127
JTL dates his book for release through Gospel Advocate: The Voice of The Pioneers on Instrumental Music and Societies. GA released in 1932 GA
H. Leo Boles invites JTL to be co-editor of the Gospel Advocate C165
A Chapter dedicated to a day by day in the life of John T. Lewis C134
JTL at David Lipscomb College. Spent time with John Allen Hudson, then with John T. Hinds. C135
JTL speaks on the radio for the first time. Said, "It makes no difference to me, but I not heard the results." C139
JTL visits the home of T.B. Larimore in Florence, Alabama C139
Depart Birmingham for a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. C141
Returns to Birmingham in time to attend a meeting conducted by Gus Nichols. (Other events are recorded in Chapter XI of He Looked For A City C141
JTL and friend, Dr. Joseph Barnett, take a vacation together. To Tennessee. They hear N.B. Hardeman preach in Shelbyville. Spend the night with T.Q. Martin. To Cookeville, Sparta, Spencer, Pikeville, Dunlap, Bridgeport, Alabama, Fayetteville, Tn, Huntsville, Decatur, and home. About a week's trip to get away! C143, 144
JTL was instrumental in buying the building for the Fairview congregation. Owned by the Presbyterians. Paid $2,200.00 C7
JTL's mother, Mammy, dies at home in Tennessee, at 6:45a.m. buried in the Cunningham Cemetery in Almaville, Tennessee (p.115) C114, 255
JTL was present when Montgomery Bible College opened, and preached on its lecture program many years. C204
JTL made $2600 for the year, and $520 of it went back into the collection plate. C35
The Woodlawn congregation helps to plant a congregation in the East Lake District. Services in the new bldg. took place on 1.9.1949. Half the congregation from Woodlawn went over to help in the East Lake work. C9, 10
JTL made $100 per week. Gave 10 to 20% of his income to the Lord. C36
Flavil Nichols related how in 1951, he and JTL visited Ben Horton, after the death of Horton's mother. They discussed Gus Nichols' involvement with Childhaven. JTL said he was against Childhaven and planned to write about it. When his 34 page tract on Childhaven was released, Gus Nichols' name appeared 35 times. However, they remained friends until JTL's death. C182, 183
Hueytown congregation was begun as a work of the Bessemer congregation. 1st service was held 3.15.1953. C11
JTL wrote, "I announced that the Berney Points church could build on the Midfield church lots, and the Ensley cong. Can build on the Pleasant Grove lots." C11
Huffman congregation meets in their new bldg. with 125 charter members for the 1st time. This was a plant of the 77th St. Church. Hugh Davis preached the first sermon. On the same day the Midfield congregation had been planted by the Berney Points church. C11
Ensley moved to a new building at Pleasant Grove. — 400 in 1st service C12
JTL attends one of his last lectureships, speaking on "The Establishment of the Church" at Alabama Christian College. C131
Makes his last trip to Texas, flying into Shreveport, LA, and were driven to Nacogdoches for a 2 week meeting. Saw Bro. Arceneaux, and old schoolmate at Nashville Bible School C131
Cahaba Heights work begins — 1960 Farris Smith joins the work as minister. C12
Meeting in Oakman, Alabama C131
Picture of JTL appears in Birmingham News under the title: "Minister to be Feted on Birthday." Article explains that he was observing his 85th birthday, having had a hand in establishing almost 50 congregations in B'ham. Explained that he started his ministry in B'ham in 1907 and played a leading role in establishing the first C/C within 100 miles of B'ham. C12
Shade's Mountain work is planted by the Homewood church. Robert Turner was its first minister. C12
Della Sanders Lewis dies after an extended illness. C98
JTL makes his final trip back to Birmingham. Stayed for 1 ½ hours, before returning to Tennessee. The funeral directors took his body to be seen by friends in Birmingham before taken to Almaville where funeral and interment would take place. C196
Cogdill Foundation Copyright date on He Looked For A City: A Biography of John T. Lewis, by Otis L. Castleberry, C
C = He Looked For A City: A Biography of John T. Lewis, by Otis L. Castleberry, c.1980
Chronology Prepared by Scott Harp, web editor, 07.2012
The Way of Life - 40 Year Recognition
Gospel Meeting Poster
Almaville Church of Christ
Church Home of John T. Lewis
Location of Funeral
Location Of The Grave Of John T. Lewis
From Nashville head southeast on I-24 to Exit 70. Turn right on TN-102 S. Almaville Rd. Turn left on 1 Mile Lane. Then take the second right on Pleasant Run Rd. Then take the second right on Sundown Dr. Then turn right on Stewart Creek Rd. Then turn right on E. Northcreek Rd. Go to circle. The cemetery is behind the farmhouse. While there in February, 2013, there was a sign to the left of the house stating that cemetery was to the rear of the house. It looked as if there was no need to knock on the door to ask permission.
From Murfreesboro take I-24 toward Nashville to the Exit 74A, Hwy. 840 exit west. Take exit 50 toward Beesley Rd. Turn right on Veterans Parkway. Turn left on Burnt Knob Rd. Turn right on Stewart Creek Rd. Then Left on (or straight into) E. Northcreek Rd. Go to circle. The cemetery is behind the farmhouse. While there in February, 2013, there was a sign to the left of the house stating that cemetery was to the rear of the house. It looked as if there was no need to knock on the door to ask permission.
GPS Coordinates Of John T. Lewis' Grave
N35° 53' 46.0" x W86° 33' 15.3"
or D.d 35.896067,-86.554269
John Thomas 1876-1967
Della Sanders 1880-1966