James Henry Stribling
Entrepreneur, Bank President, Financier, And Church Leader Around Lawrenceburg, Tennessee
J.H. Stribling was a church leader in and around Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He was an entrepreneur and financier of many works among churches of Christ. He helped to underwrite the works of men like J.T. Harris, R.H. Boll and E.O. Coffman as they evangelized in the south central Tennessee region.
The story of his conversion began with the tragic loss of his oldest child, Gladys. This is a beautiful example of how God can take the worst of situations and bring something good as a result. Read further about Gladys and the events that brought her parents to Christ.
Stribling's wealth and influence was felt greatly his community. He financed the building of the Salem church building just west of Lawrenceburg. He also financed the building of at least two children's homes as well.
In the Restoration Movement, names such as Emily Tubman and A.M. Burton are easily recognized as benefactors of great efforts and works. However, the name J.H. Stribling should be added to the list as being a man who did great things for the cause of Christ in South Central Tennessee.
See some of the Stribling contributions here!
James H. Stribling
It is not an “obituary” I am writing, but rather a brief life-sketch in remembrance and honor of one lately passed away—as I knew him, and knew of him—a great man and noble, whom it was my privilege to know during the latter half of his long life. I met him first in his home town, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. This was his birthplace, and there, a bare-foot boy, he spent his early years of privation and poverty; and to this town he also returned in the prime of manhood, after he had made the beginning of his ultimately vast fortune.
It was by his request that I came to Lawrenceburg in 1910. He had himself built a magnificent high-school building; and his plan was to give his town and county free use of it: reserving only one room in which the Bible should be taught every day to any and all who might choose to avail themselves of the opportunity thus given. This plan and purpose was carried out for many years according to the generous provision of Brother Stribling.
But back of all this enterprise lay a tale of mortal grief and of faith and hope and love; the story of which I will try to relate, and as nearly as I can in the way in which he himself told it to me.
J. H. Stribling was a man of such power and ability, that, had he been in public place he would have ranked among the most notable men of his generation. For executive ability, for wisdom and foresight and business acumen, and for force of character he had no equals. After having spent some years in the state of Texas, he settled down in Lawrenceburg for life. He was amazingly prosperous. In everything he undertook he was successful. His wealth grew from year to year. In all his dealings and transactions he was ruggedly honest and upright. He became more and more prominent—a successful, prosperous man of the world. And at that time his thoughts went no higher than that. He had one child. All the love he was capable of centered upon that little one. One night—it was near Christmas—the little girl, then about 4 years old, cried out during the night. The father rose up. and walked the floor with her; when suddenly she gave a gasp and died in his arms. “I can’t tell you how I felt,” he said. “Wife and I were simply crazy with sorrow."
After the funeral I said to her. ‘Let’s go away from here.’ So we took the train and traveled, north, south, east, west, anywhere, aimlessly hither and thither, hoping in some measure to forget our grief. But nothing helped. We landed in Dallas. My wife said, ‘I would like to go up to Denton County where my folks live.’ ‘Go.' ’I said, ‘and I’ll go back home, and will be waiting for you.’ After my return, I was like a man in a daze. I took notice of nothing—had no interest in anything. Along in March the men were clearing ground on my farm, and burning brush at the foot of a dead tree, and I watched the flames shooting up through the hollow tree, high into the air. That as I remember was the first thing that arrested my attention, and gave me a little pleasure. When gradually I collected my reason, in the weeks that followed, one thought took possession of me: If there is any hereafter (and I believed there was) I must see my little girl again. But I knew that being such as I was I could never go where that pure innocent child has gone. I made up my mind to find salvation.—“Brother Boll,” he said to me, “there is not a secret place on this farm (his farm was then about 9,000 acres—much larger later)—where I haven’t knelt and called on God for Christ's sake to save my poor soul. But I found no hope nor relief.”
One day my friend, W. R. King, an attorney in Lawrenceburg said to me, ‘Stribling, there’s a man preaching in town, and I think you would like to hear him. His name is T. B. Larimore.’ So I went with him.” On that night Brother Larimore preached a simple sermon on “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” and made it very plain; and at the close he said, “Whosoever will, let him come.” Stribling jumped up and said “I will'; made the good confession, and was forthwith baptized. From that day on he and all he had belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ.
God gave him another child—another little girl, so much like the one he lost as to seem as if God were giving him back what he had lost. This little one he loved almost insanely, and with daily, hourly anxious concern for its health. "When I am out on the farm,” he said to his wife, “if anything in the least should be wrong with the child, call me any hour of day or night, and I’m coming.” His anxiety for the child alarmed some of Brother Stribling’s friends, who feared that if anything should happen to her he might turn away from the Lord. So they asked Brother Larimore to write to him about it. The letter Brother Larimore wrote ran something as follows:
"Dear Brother Stribling:
To which Brother Stribling replied:
“Dear Brother Larimore:
When the high-school building was completed I was the first teacher in the Bible Room. That was the session of 1910-11. I taught whoever would come—classes all day, every school-day. On Monday nights I preached to the colored people in town. On Friday nights I gave a Bible lecture at the court-house. Sundays I preached part of the time for the church at Lawrenceburg, part of the time at Mars Hill (Brother Larimore’s old home and home church) and other Sundays at Sheffield, Ala. It was an over full program, and I was fagged out when spring came. Then, just about school-close, an epidemic arose, and within one week my child was taken away—little girl about 2 years old. Among the things I could never forget was the loving sympathy of Brother Stribling toward me in my bereavement. “Brother Boll,” he said, “I want you to bury your baby in my lot, where my child is buried.” So there has been her little grave ever since. The inscription on the marker reads “Madeline Boll “Born June 24, 1909 “Died May 28, 1911 “Leaving us both richer and poorer.”
But I could stay at Lawrenceburg no longer. I had preached at Portland Avenue in Louisville from January, 1904, to the time I took up the work at Lawrenceburg. During my 10 months’ absence they had got no one else to preach there regularly. They wanted me to come back, and I wanted to go back; and since then have remained with the Portland Church. Brother J. E. Thornberry took up the Bible work at the Lawrenceburg High school, and did it for many years afterward. Frequently, I have gone back to Lawrenceburg since both to preach and to visit the little grave.
Of the rest of Brother Stribling’s work—how and why the Bible-class work was at last discontinued, and the building sold to the county; and of the Orphanage Brother Stribling started on his place, its many buildings and provisions, and the church-house he built on the grounds, and the 22,000 acres of land he deeded to the orphanage—of that let someone else write. I admired Brother Stribling for his wonderful ability and wisdom, his qualities of head and heart. I used to marvel how perfectly he had all his work in hand: getting calls from all parts of his farm, from his sawmills, from his bank (The First National of I. .)—asking for orders, demanding counsel and instant, sometimes very difficult decisions, which he never failed to give on a moment’s notice. But greater than all his abilities was his unwavering righteousness and devotion to his God, and his love toward all men.
Once, when I held a short meeting for the church at Lawrenceburg he had me to hold daily services at his bank, at the opening hour—on his time. “You surely must be conducting your bank-business on a high level” I remarked to him one day, “or you couldn’t be having religious meetings in your bank with your employees.” “Why, Brother Boll,” he answered, “I wouldn't be in any business in which I couldn’t have the Lord Jesus Christ as my Partner. During all this depression, nor at any other time, did we ever foreclose on anybody.” Some may wonder and ask, “How could he run a bank on such principles?” Well he did, and suffered no great loss by it. On Lord’s day he taught the Bible, made talks, waited on the table; and on all days he served the Lord.
Now he has fallen asleep in Jesus. It was a long and busy life. He met all its problems and trials by faith in his Lord. He lived to the glory of God, and his works follow him.
-Word and Work, January 1952 (contributed by Larry Miles - 08.12.2015)
Little Gladys Stribling
Emma Page Larimore, in her book entitled, Letters And Sermons Of T.B. Larimore, wrote about Brother Larimore's love for children. In their travels they met so many families and touched so many lives. It always burdened the heart of T.B. Larimore when a family felt the sadness of a lost child. She writes as follows:
Location Of The Grave Of J.H. Stribling
The Stribling burial plot is located in the Mimosa Cemetery, Lawrence County, Tennessee. Going into Lawrenceburg from Florence, Alabama on Hwy 43, turn east on Hwy 64 toward Pulaski. Go about 1/4 mile and the cemetery is on the right. In the Stribling plot is also buried the oldest child of R.H. Boll, a preacher who lived and taught in the area around 1910.
Enter the main gate of the cemetery
on south side of Hwy. 64 and go to the first road and turn right. Then go
down five or six rows and look to the left for the Stribling plot.
Note Of Thanks: Thanks to Wayne Kilpatrick for providing information and photos for this page.
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