History of the Restoration Movement

Elden William Stovall


The Life Of E. W. Stovall

Elden W. Stovall was born June 7, 1902 in Rives, Obion County, Tennessee. He was married to Johnnie Woody September 23, 1923. Together they had four children, two sons of which were gospel preachers, Charles E. Stovall and J. Woody Stovall.

Stovall was raised in the Methodist church. He was sprinkled into this church, and took an active role in it in his early years. He was ordained as a minister, and preach for it for a few years. After a good bit of personal Bible study, also some with his wife who was a New Testament Christian, he studied his way out of Methodism. Elden was baptized by Ira A. Douthitt September 2, 1927.

Immediately after his baptism, E. W. Stovall began preaching in Marmaduke, Arkansas, September 9, 1927. He received college training from Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia. Later he attended Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee.

Through the years he served churches in Bonham, Texas from 1932-1935; Winchester, Tennessee from 1942-1945; the church in Blytheville, Arkansas from 1945-1949, and others.

He was a good writer and submitted articles for print in the Gospel Advocate, The Christian Messenger, Search the Scriptures, and The Noble Searcher magazines. He was very successful in debates. In 1934 he was part of the England-Stovall debate. England was a Holiness minister. The subject of the debate was, "The Plan Of Salvation." In 1948 he debated a Baptist in the Hopper-Stovall Debate in which was discussed the subjects of Baptism, Church Establishment, and the Possibility of Apostasy. In 1949 he was in the Ivy-Stovall Debate. Ivy, a Baptist, discussed with Stovall the subject of Baptism and Apostasy.

Stovall preached in as many venues as he saw profitable. One way was through Radio Evangelism. He preached on the radio in Dublin, Texas, Carlsbad, N.M, on KLCN, in Blytheville, Ark on WFUL, and in Glasgow, Kentucky.

He was a greatly successful preacher. He preached between four and ten gospel meetings every year. Over the years he baptized thousands of people, most of whom belonged to denominations.

Elden William Stovall passed from this life August 30, 1981, and is buried in the Stovall Cemetery in Rives, Tennessee.

Sources: From Preachers of Today Volumes 1,2

-Scott Harp, 04.03.2016

(1902 – 1981)

First, a bit of background to this edition of Hugh’s News & Views: On February 5, 2018, as part of the 82nd Annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship, I spoke at the Friends of the Restoration luncheon on “The Power of Radio & TV Preaching in the Restoration Movement.” Several months prior to my presentation, I had contacted Nancy Stovall Jones, daughter of E. W. Stovall, to get information about him, and particularly his radio preaching. It was not until after my speech that I heard from Nancy. Health issues and other matter prevented her from responding sooner. On March 16, 2018 I received several pages of information about the life and work of her father, and want to honor him and his faithful life in this edition of my News & Views. I will summarize much of what Nancy said, and will use quotation marks when I am quoting directly from her. I will maintain her verbiage, spelling, capitalization, etc.

Elden William (E. W.) Stovall was born June 7, 1902 into a devout Methodist family in Obion County, TN, the fifth child in the family. He became the first of his family to go to college, attending Emory and Henry College in Virginia with the ambition to become a Methodist minister. On September 23, 1923, he married his high school sweetheart, Johnnie Pauline Woody. Johnnie was the sister of David Dorrence (D. D.) Woody, well known gospel preacher of his day, and of Robert Woody, a longtime elder in the Allen & Edgewood (now North Jackson) Church of Christ in Jackson, TN. I served as the preacher at Allen and Edgewood in the early 1960s and had a high regard for Robert Woody. D. D. Woody and E. W. Stovall often had long religious discussions when the family would be together.

E. W. studied hard and realized his ambition to become a licensed, ordained Methodist minister. By teaching piano lessons and icing cakes, Johnnie helped him complete his college work. He began his ministry with Methodist churches in Rector and Markmaduke, Arkansas, and supplemented the family’s income by teaching and serving as principal of Mary’s Chapel School in Rector. While the Stovalls were living in Rector, Ira A. Douthitt came to hold a meeting at the church of Christ. “Johnnie, being a devout young Christian mother, attended nightly with her two little ones (Woody and Charles, both of whom became gospel preachers, hf), and her Methodist Minister husband tagged along, sometimes engaging in lengthy conversations with the visiting minister at ‘her church,’ followed by searching the scriptures when back at home. When Sunday morning came, Johnnie set about to ready her family for church, noticing that her dawdling husband had laid out his ‘old suit’ to wear. When questioned about it, E. W. replied, ‘Yes, I thought I’d wear it today.’ As time passed and it got later, she cautioned him: ‘You are going to be late,’ to which he replied, ‘I thought I’d go with you today.’ ” Johnnie thought it somewhat strange that he played “hooky” from his Methodist preaching appointment.

“During the sermon, E. W. held baby Charles, who went to sleep. When the congregation stood to sing the invitation song, Johnnie cringed when E. W. practically threw the baby on the pew and walked away, but she turned to pick up her child with eyes closed and this prayer in her heart, ‘Lord, help me to stay faithful even if E. W. has gotten angry at the sermon.’ When she turned around with her eyes opened, she saw E. W. shaking hands with Ira Douthitt, who baptized him (in his old suit) that very happy day!

“The following Sunday, E. W. Stovall stood in the very same pulpit at the Church of Christ and preached, with Johnnie later telling that she had ‘sat on the edge of her pew,’ afraid E. W. would preach Methodist doctrine.”

Johnnie had no need to fear E. W. Stovall’s commitment to the truth. “He never strayed from scriptural doctrine and his preaching led perhaps as many as 8,000 to baptism into Christ Jesus.” E. W. went on to serve churches in Texas, New Mexico, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. In nearly all of his local ministries he conducted a radio program – either daily or weekly.

In all of his sermons brother Stovall strove to make people aware of the importance of following the Bible alone and turning from denominational error that they had previously been taught. In one town where he lived (I think it was perhaps Glasgow, KY, but it may have been Blytheville, AR), a man and his wife listened to brother Stovall every day on the radio. One day after the broadcast, the man turned to his wife and said, “Mama, we have been wrong, and we have to get right.” They obeyed the gospel and became faithful members of the New Testament church.

In Bonham, TX brother Stovall debated a Pentecostal preacher whom he met while attending a Pentecostal tent meeting. Seeing E. W. in the audience, the Pentecostal preacher invited brother Stovall to come up to the “Mourner’s Bench,” saying, “Come help us get these folks prayed through.” Brother Stovall went to the front, explaining he would be glad to do what he could. He would ask the people if they wanted to be saved, and when they said “yes,” he would begin to tell them what the Bible says. The Pentecostal preacher stopped him, and asked him to go into the pulpit and tell the congregation what he had been telling the people. E. W. went to the pulpit and began quoting scripture. But the Pentecostal preacher had the lights turned out, “thinking that would end that.” But the local sheriff, who was in the audience, stood up with his flashlight and said to brother Stovall, “Go on preacher . . . I’m the Law.”

“The most productive radio work that I recall was my father’s Blytheville, AR daily broadcast at 12:15 (noon) for four years over KLCN, a rather powerful station owned by a member of the Church in Blytheville where E. W. Stovall was the full-time minister. Throughout the 70 years since that program, I have encountered many people who listened to the noontime program daily with their families as lunch was served, some of whom were baptized because of teachings from it. My Ladies Bible Class Teacher said her mother listened daily and was converted through it, even telling her daughter, ‘That man tells the gospel truth. Don’t ever listen to anyone preaching anything different from that.’ ”

Nancy reported, “We often drove miles into TN, MO, or other places in AR for my father to baptize someone or more perfectly enlighten them if they were on the brink of a conversion.”

“In his tent meetings (often set up as a follow-up to radio teaching) he used illustrated sermons drawn on bed sheets or large brown paper charts. One such sermon I loved as a child was ‘The Vine and the Branches’ on which he depicted a vine with various vegetables and fruits coming from the same stem (squash, turnips, watermelon, grapes, corn, etc.) contrasted with a vine consistently producing its own fruit. The inconsistent vine was likened to the denominational world producing various churches. One lady left his sermon saying, ‘He called me a gourd!’ . . . proving that he had made her understand the point of his lesson.”

For 59 years, E. W. Stovall preached in local work, conducted gospel meetings, engaged in debates with denominationalists, wrote tracts (one titled “Why I Left the Methodist Church”), and published sermons and lectures. As mentioned earlier, his two sons, Woody and Charles, both became gospel preachers. Both are now deceased. Nancy lives in Germantown, TN, and the youngest child (a daughter) lives in Mobile, AL where she is the Chairman of the Sociology Department at the University of South Alabama. E. W. Stovall passed suddenly from this life on August 30, 1981. His life is a glowing demonstration of the power and of the appeal of simple, undenominational, New Testament Christianity.

-Hugh Fulford, "Hugh's News And Notes," December 14, 2021

Directions To The Grave Of E.W. Stovall

E.W. and Johnnie Stovall are buried in a family cemetery in Northwest Tennessee. From Memphis head east to Jackson. Take Exit 80 north toward Humbolt. Travel about 50 miles north of Jackson on Hwy. 45. Before getting into Union City, you will turn right on Hwy. 216, Pleasant Hill Rd. This will take you about a couple of miles into the township of Rives, Tennessee. Head through Rives and continue east. You will see the Stovall Cemetery on the left. Enter the cemetery and note on picture below where in the cemetery the grave is located.

GPS Location
36°19'43.0"N 89°01'29.1"W
or D.d. 36.328600, 89.024750
Graves Faces West

Stovall Cemetery - 1855 - Note location of the Stovall's grave on right edge above

Elden William June 7, 1902 - Aug. 30, 1981
Johnnie Woody May 17, 1904 - Sept. 3, 1981
Married Sept. 13, 1923
For Them To Live Was Christ, And To Die Is Gain. (Phil. 1:21)

Johnnie - A Virtuous Woman Clothed In Strength And Honor . . .
Her Children Call Her Blessed, Let Her Own Works Praise Her.
E.W. - A Laborer Worthy Of His Reward . . .
Speaking The Truth In Love, He Grew Up In Christ, Edifying The Church.

Webpage produced - 04.2016
Photos Taken - 03.19.2016
Courtesy of TheRestorationMovement.com

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