Holston (Methodist Conference) Journal - 1942? - pages 173-176


When one attempts to assess the life work of Dr. W. R. Hendrix, he is
impressed by his contribution to the cause of the Christian religion
and the Christian Church in the South. Dr. Hendrix was born near
Florence, Alabama, August 26, 1869. The South was then emerging from
the devastation of the Civil War. His parents were Dermis C. and Mrs.
Jamie Oakley Hendrix. He was reared on the farm and disciplined by
farm labor. In early life he became interested in the work of
educating the youth of his native state. He received his training for
the teaching profession at the State Teachers College in Florence,
Alabama. After a brief experience as a teacher he felt the call to
the ministry and was admitted on trial into the North Alabama
Conference of the former Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1895.
He served rural churches and small stations in that conference until
1907 when he was appointed pastor of the Methodist Temple in
Louisville, Kentucky, which he served for four years. From 1911 till
his death, Dr. Hendrix was recognized as one of the eminent pastors
of his church. His services were in demand by the larger and more
influential congregations. His pastoral record after leaving the
Methodist Temple is as follows: Wesley Memorial, Atlanta, Ga.,
1911-14; St. Marks, Atlanta, 1914-18; St. Pauls, Houston, Texas,
1918-20; Highlands, Birmingham, 1920-31; Church Street, Knoxville,
1931-37; Munsey Memorial, Johnson City, 1937-41.

It is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Hendrix was an exceptional man.
His brilliant record in the pastorate is ample testimony in support
of his extraordinary capability. He was first of all a Christian
gentleman. John Galsworth has defined the essential characteristics
of a gentleman as "The will to put himself in the place of others;
the horror of forcing others into positions from which he would
himself recoil; the power to do what seems to him to be right,
without considering what others may say or think." This definition of
a gentleman is basically Christian in its content. It harmonizes with
the principle of the Golden Rule, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye
would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them." Courtesy
and social graces, which are among the vital qualities of the
character of a gentleman, are developed by the practice of the Golden
Rule. Dr. Hendrix never forgot to be polite and courteous. The tempo
of our modern life has been greatly accelerated by scientific
discoveries, and in our rapidity of movement it is more difficult to
remember to be courteous. Though Dr. Hendrix had to assume heavy
responsibilities in the large churches which he served, and though he
suffered physical pain during the last twenty years of his life, he
never let go the culture and the refinement, and those acts of
courtesy that are the marks of a true gentleman. Another quality
expressed in Galsworth's definition of a gentleman is courage. No man
will ever achieve anything of moment without courage. It was Carlyle
who said "The courage we desire and prize is not the courage to die
decently, but to live manfully." Dr. Hendrix had the courage to live
by his convictions, and to express them on all subjects of Christian
faith and conduct.

Dr. Hendrix had been a thorough student from the beginning of his
ministry. He continued to study until he preached his last sermon.
His years of study had ripened into scholarship during later life.
Through constant study he acquainted himself with a vast store of
facts in such fields as Biblical literature, Christian doctrine,
homiletics, psychology, and English and American literature. In his
late years, he attained the intellectual capacity to judge soundly
and to deal broadly with facts. Mental insight and ripeness of
experience are the marks of the true scholar. Dr. Hendrix possessed
these to a rare degree. He did not have the opportunity to pursue his
theological studies in a seminary, but soon after he entered the
ministry he became dissatisfied with the plenary and verbal theories
of Biblical inspiration. By the study of books on the subject of the
interpretation of the Bible, and by contact with scholars in that
feld, he arrived at the conclusion that the Bible is a divine human
book; that it was not written to teach history and science, but
religion and morals; and therefore its inspiration is confined to the
distinctly moral and religious themes. He held this view of the Bible
until the close of his life. Dr. Hendrix worked through Horace
Bushnell's writings on Christian Nurture, and came to share with him
the view that the child may grow up a Christian and never know
himself otherwise. This was regarded as a radical doctrine for a
minister in the Southern Methodist Church to hold at the time when
Dr. Hendrix accepted it. Dr. Hendrix was liberal in his theological
thinking, but he was never radical. He accepted what he believed to
be the truth from both the old and the new trends of thought. He
possessed an open mind towards the conclusions of modern scholarship
in so far as these bore the marks of an honest and sincere search for
truth. This is the spirit of the true liberal. Dr. Hendrix read
extensively in the field of current events, and was able to discuss
contemporary national and world happenings intelligently and
interestingly. At the time of his death it was estimated that he had
more than a thousand volumes in his library. During the years of his
ministry he had given valuable books to young ministers who were in
great need of books, but lacked the necessary funds to purchase them.

Dr. Hendrix was a preacher of genius and power. He had the gifts of
presence, voice and style, that immediately helped him to win and
interest an audience. He knew that preaching "is a message plus a
personality," and he was determined that his personality should have
its full share. He chose common subjects, gave them personal points
of view, personal treatment, and personal impact. Dr. Hendrix was
true to his own genius and cultivated it in its strong, natural
lines. He never imitated; he was always himself. The prophetic note
was manifest in his sermons. He was bold with the courage of
conviction. His authority did not come from his ministerial office,
or his standing in the community. It came from the consciousness that
he had a message of truth for the needs of mankind, a message that
was laid on him as a divide charge. If men do not accept this message
of redemptive love as manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, they
are as wandering sheep. It was the burden of God on his heart that
gave him his boldness, enabled him to have fear of no man, and
dispelled self-distrust. He was always humble. He was bold, but not
too bold. Those who had the opportunity to hear Dr. Hendrix from
Sunday to Sunday marvelled at his resourcefulness. He always had
something new in his sermons. The Christian message was presented
from a background of wide reading, a rich experience, and a life of
consecration and loyalty to Christ and His Church. His sermons were
scholarly, but never bookish. He avoided the use of technical terms.
He constantly drew from his boyhood experiences on the farm and from
his varied experience in the pastorate. He was unusually skilled in
the use of illustrations. Dr. Hendrix was a man of strong faith in
God and man. His faith remained anchored in God despite personal
sorrow and the uncertainties of our national and international life.
He believed in the possibilities of man for spiritual growth and
development. God has not deserted man, his highest creation. He still
works in the hearts of men, and though evil may seem to be the ruling
force in the world, it is only temporary, and will ultimately be
supplanted by the principles of righteousness. Such a faith as this
furnished the foundation for the sermons that Dr. Hendrix preached.

Dr. Hendrix was an administrator of discernment and foresight. His
work as a pastor was outstanding. He had a deep insight into human
nature. He had devoted much time to the study of psychology, and had
developed to a high degree the skill of pastoral counselling. It
would be difficult to pass judgment as to whether he was more
effective as a pulpiteer or a pastor. Many of his sermons grew out of
his pastoral experiences. Even during the closing years of his
ministry when his health was failing, he did a surprising amount of
pastoral calling. His people knew that he had a sympathetic attitude
toward them, and that he was always ready to counsel with them, and
to help them solve their problems whether they be religious or of a
different nature. One might wonder why Dr. Hendrix did not publish
some of his sermons in volume form. This question can be answered by
those who knew him intimately. In the early years of his ministry he
resolved to put himself into people, knowing that they would touch
other people; those, still, others; and so he would go on living and
working forever.

The services of Dr. Hendrix were not confined to the duties of the
pastorate. He assumed the responsibilities involved in good
citizenship and was active in the affairs of his community. He held
membership in one of the leading civic clubs of Johnson City. He
served for several months as a member of Washington County Draft
Board No. 1, but resigned because of failing health and the heavy
demands his church made on his time. During the first World War he
was active in the work of the American Red Cross. While a pastor in
Birmingham, Alabama, he devoted much of his time to the improvement
of negro education. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on
Dr. Hendrix by Birmingham-Southern College in 1925 in recognition of
his noteworthy service as a pastor and citizen.

Dr. Hendrix died on May 19, 1941. He had been ill of double-pneumonia
for six days. The funeral services were held in the Munsey Memorial
Church on the morning of May 21st. The Rev. Lester H. Colloms was in
charge of the service, assisted by Dr. J. Stewart French, an intimate
friend of the deceased, Dr. D. B. Cooper, and the Rev. M. L. Gamble.
The body was taken to Birmingham for burial. A brief service was
conducted in the Highlands Church where Dr. Hendrix had been pastor
for eleven years, by the present pastor, Dr. M. A. Franklin. A
memorial service was held in the Munsey Memorial Church on Sunday
afternoon, June 8. Bishop Paul B. Kern, and Dr. C. C. Sherrod, a
member of the Official Board of Munsey Memorial Church, gave a review
and an analysis of the life and work of Dr. Hendrix. Survivors
include his wife, the former Miss Amanda Coeburn, a native of
Alabama; a daughter, Mrs. R. H. Scrivner of Birmingham; three sons,
N. B. Hendrix and James R. Hendrix of Birmingham, and H. C. Hendrix
of Clearwater, Florida.

Written by Lester H. Colloms.

Return to Individual Obituaries