Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
R. T. HOWARD
(page 242 - 244)
R. T., son of Allison and Margaret Howard, was one of a family of four children. He was born in Rhea County, Tenn., May 9, 1826. He is of English descent, his parents coming from Virginia to Tennessee in the year 1796, settling in Rhea County. In 1842 he was converted in a meeting held at Macedonia Church, and was baptized by Elder Richard Taliaferro. In 1844 he was married to Penelope Majors; and to this union were born seven children, six sons and one daughter. In 1852 he was ordained by the Macedonia Church, Elder Absalom Vernon acting as a presbytery. In September of the same year he was elected Clerk of the Hiwassee Association, and was reelected to the same office for thirty consecutive years. He served the Association as Missionary for twenty-seven years and attended the Association thirty years without missing a single session.
He was pastor of the following churches: Macedonia (now Bethel), Yellow Creek, Privet Spring, Rhea Springs, Smyrna, Salem, Washington, Gum Spring, Friendship, Union Hill, Lone Mountain (in Rhea County), Mt. Vernon, Union Fork, Mountain Creek (in Hamilton), New Union, Georgetown, Birchwood, Friendship, Snow Hill, Salem, Ooltewah (James County), Concord, Decatur, Goodhope, Walnut Grove, Shiloh, Bethsaida, Shoal Creek, Short Creek (in Meigs), Old Sequatchie, Dunlap, Little Hopewell, Bethsaida (in Bledsoe). To the prodigious task of taking care of the above thirty-three churches he added the extra labors of missionary and evangelist.
Brother Tate Howard was a "born evangelist," and was especially gifted for that kind of work. For three years and a half he was Chaplain of the "19th Tennessee Regiment" (Confederate Army), but he was never off the job of evangelizing, of preaching the gospel to the needy and the destitute.
"Endowed with extraordinary physical strength and endurance, and with a heart burning with zeal for the cause of Christianity, he accomplished an amount of work that seems almost incredible. He encountered rain and storm, snow and ice, sometimes imperiling his life, to deliver his message of peace and goodwill." Like Paul, he was not only "in perils of waters, in perils in the wilderness and in perils by the heathen, but in perils among false brethren " -the "shafts or vilest calumny often leveled at his heart." In weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and privation, his faith was tried and purified as by fire. Out of it all the Lord delivered him, and enabled him to finish his course with joy and his ministry to the mountain people, to whom he had been sent, with "phenomenal success."
He passed to his reward February 8, 1891, breathing his last, as he had often prayed he might, "in the bosom of his family," from which he had been almost an exile during his strenuous ministerial life. As death rolled its dark waters at his feet he exclaimed, "All is well! All is well!"
The venerable William Whitlock, an old tune friend and colaborer, says of his fellow-worker and companion in the ministry: "Brother R. T. Howard was a strong preacher, a noted revivalist, and a successful pastor. He was a devoted husband and a kind father. He was greatly admired and loved as a minister, and wore his life away in the service of God and his fellow-men."
Brother J. L. Henry, a near neighbor and intimate acquaintance of Brother Howard bore this testimony: "Brother Howard was a man of stalwart Christian character. He had a rare knowledge of human nature and knew how to deal with and influence men. He was consecrated and spiritual; was pleasing in manners and captivating in his address. His education was limited, but it always seemed to me that God gave him special preparation and had set him apart to the special work of evangelizing the people of the mountain country, among whom his success was phenomenal. He had a fine personal appearance and his moral courage was unflinching. He gave his whole time and energy to the ministry, and his labors were abundantly blessed. Under his ministry there were more converts, perhaps, and more additions to the churches, than under any minister who has ever labored in this part of the country. His convictions of right and duty were strong, and he was outspoken on all subjects pertaining to religion, morals and temperance, never shunning to declare all the counsel of God."
R. T. Howard had a preacher-brother, Elder John Howard, who was a strong man; also a son, W. A. Howard, of near Dayton, Tenn., who is one of our very best preachers and pastors.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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