Posted on : Wednesday March 3, 2010

By Lonnie Wilkey, Editor of the Baptist and Reflector

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–Wm. Fletcher Allen, editor of Tennessee Baptists’ Baptist and Reflector from 1987-98, died of cancer Feb. 27 at the age of 78.

Allen served on the staffs of two other Baptist state papers: as editor of the Baptist True Union (now Baptist Life), newsjournal of the Maryland-Delaware convention prior to joining the Baptist and Reflector, and as associate editor of the Baptist Courier in South Carolina for 17 years.

In his first editorial for the Baptist and Reflector, Allen reflected on his love and respect for his profession — Christian journalism.

“Christian journalism in Southern Baptist life has a long and illustrious history,” Allen wrote. “We must not allow that history to be blemished; the task is the same task that faced those first journalists — tell the news openly, honestly, completely, with integrity and compassion.”

During his 10-plus years as editor, Allen regularly emphasized stories on missions and evangelism, two emphases he believed in personally, participating in every mission partnership of the Tennessee Baptist Convention while serving as editor.

Allen also led the paper into the computer age, moving from typewriters and typesetting equipment to computer-based production.

Connie Davis Bushey, news editor of the B&R who was on staff when Allen became editor, said “Fletcher believed that if Baptists had information about Baptist life, they could make better decisions. That was why he felt the Baptist newsjournal was important in Baptist life and he worked so hard on it.”

Bushey, describing Allen as “an innovative editor,” said he led the staff “to travel much more, even overseas, to cover Tennessee Baptists.”

And Allen had a passion for Baptists, Bushey said, noting, “Fletcher simply loved Baptists despite their disagreements and divisions.”

James Porch, executive director-treasurer of the Tennessee convention, said Allen was “a champion of the state convention’s autonomy and friend to local churches … [who] pursued his discipline to chronicle the story of Kingdom life among Baptist people through the Baptist and Reflector.”

“Fletcher keenly knew the value of editorial freedom and protected the gift through fair and honest responsible writing,” Porch said, adding, “Tennessee Baptists have lost a great friend.”

Aubrey Hay, a retired TBC staff member and longtime colleague and friend of Allen, said, “He was a good newsman and a good wordsmith. Not only was he a gifted writer, he was a very caring person.”

Linda Lawson Still, a retired editor and newswriter at LifeWay Christian Resources, knew Allen both as a journalist and fellow church member at ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn.

“As colleagues in Southern Baptist communications, I worked with Fletcher Allen for many years. I knew him to be a journalist for whom truth was the highest priority,” Still said.

Still, who was a co-teacher in Allen’s Sunday School class, said he was “a student of Scripture who loved the fellowship of our class. His prayer requests in class varied from family members to friends to people around the world on the many mission fields he had visited and where he had ministered.”

Don Kirkland, editor of the Baptist Courier in South Carolina, joined Allen on the paper’s staff in 1974. “I spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder,” Kirkland said. “We worked together for about nine years, and it was a time in which I grew because of his abilities as a journalist. He was a very talented writer as well as a good editor, but he was an even better friend.”

During retirement Allen wrote and edited a family history, “Half a Dozen Assorted,” and two other personal books, “Plowing Wind and Time” and “Generations: Ripples to the River,” which was printed just prior to his death.

On the pages of Plowing Wind and Generations, Allen “shared his emotions in vivid, picturesque ways,” Still said, “especially when it came to his late wife Betty,” who died in 2003. “Seeing how he suffered at her death I can only rejoice that they will share eternity with the heavenly Father both loved so totally,” Still said.

In 2005 Allen also wrote “Telling the Truth in Love: A Brief History of the Baptist and Reflector from 1835,” which proved to be a labor of love. In the prologue to the book, Allen wrote, “I am privileged to be a part of this project. During my years as B&R editor, I admired the paper’s strength and character, and its role in ongoing convention life. I wondered why the history had never been written. This book attempts to tell something of that heritage.”

Allen, a native of Hartsville, S.C., and graduate of Furman University, is survived by four daughters, Amy Buckingham, Jennifer Howard, Monica Langdale and Melody Scott, and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service for Allen will be held on Sunday, March 7, at ClearView Baptist Church, Franklin, at 3 p.m., preceded by visitation at 2 p.m.

Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. With reporting by Butch Blume, managing editor of the Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.