Colleagues at Southern Seminary pay tribute to Honeycutt’s life and work

Communications Staff — December 22, 2004

Colleagues of Roy Honeycutt praised the eighth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for his gracious character, commitment to students and tireless service for Southern Baptists.

Honeycutt, who served as president of Southern Seminary from 1982-1993, died Dec. 21 from head injuries sustained the previous day in an accident in his Louisville, Ky. home.

Known as a prominent voice in Southern Baptist conflict of the 1980s, Honeycutt balanced service to the convention with service to the Southern Seminary community.

Born Oct. 30 1926 in Grenada, Miss., Honeycutt was a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary, receiving his Ph.D. in 1958 and his master of divinity in 1952. He served as academic dean at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1971-1975 and chairman of Midwestern’s Old Testament department from 1963-1975 prior to joining the Southern Seminary faculty as a professor of Old Testament.

Honeycutt served as dean of the school of theology at Southern from 1975-1980 and provost at the Louisville, Ky. campus from 1976-1982. After retiring as president, he was Southern’s chancellor from 1994-1997.

Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., who served as an assistant to Honeycutt from 1983-1989, praised Honeycutt for his leadership during a tumultuous time at the seminary.

“Dr. Roy Honeycutt was a Christian gentleman,” Mohler said. “He gave so much of his life to the Southern Baptist Convention and to Southern Seminary in particular. He led during difficult times and was not afraid of controversy. At the personal level he was as gracious a human being as you could ever expect or hope to meet.”

Mohler also cited Honeycutt’s statesmanship during the years of transition. “Roy Honeycutt proved his character and his love for this institution during the presidential transition of 1993 and years of redirection on this campus. Clearly we disagreed on some very basic principles and led in different directions. Nevertheless, he was always gracious, kind and deeply committed to Southern Seminary. For all his years of leadership and committed service, he is rightly honored by Southern Baptists.”

Former professor of Christian theology Wayne Ward, who was an instructor at Southern when Honeycutt arrived as a student, praised his friend’s leadership during his tenure as president.

“I would call him a courageous leader of the seminary at a most difficult time of conflict and transition,” Ward said.

Ward also extolled Honeycutt’s legacy as a husband, father, minister and teacher.

“He was a wonderful family man and wonderful church man,” said Ward. “He was a pillar in our church—Crescent Hill Baptist. … He was also a very good teacher. He loved students, prepared his lectures well, and he mentored students.”

During his tenure, Southern Seminary grew in student enrollment and faculty positions. Known on the campus as a friend to students, Honeycutt was responsible for leading the seminary to build a state-of-the-art student center and athletic facility in 1990. The “Roy and June Honeycutt Campus Center” was named by seminary trustees in the couple’s honor.

Andy Rawls, who has been at Southern since 1968 as a student and subsequently director of media services, pointed to Honeycutt as a gifted leader.

“He was really and extraordinary person and he guided the seminary through a very difficult and tumultuous time,” Rawls said.

Throughout his life, Honeycutt showed humility and gentleness, Rawls said.

“When I first met Dr. and Mrs. Honeycutt in 1975 they were just thoroughly human with no pretensions,” he said. “He was thoroughly welcoming and approachable and genuinely friendly and interested in people.”

Mohler also cited Honeycutt as man of strong commitment to his church, his family and Southern Seminary.

“He and his wife June were married for 56 years and were a model of commitment to each other and shared commitment to this institution,” Mohler said. “The entire Southern Seminary family grieves with June Honeycutt and the Honeycutt family and is praying for them at this time.”

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