Curtis Hutson

BORN: July 10, 1934
Decatur, Georgia

DIED: March 5, 1995
Murfreesboro, Tenn.

LIFE SPAN: 60 years, 7 months, 23 days

CURTIS HUTSON was a dynamic evangelist, pastor and editor of the Sword of the Lord, succeeding its founder, John R. Rice, in 1980. It was not always this way.... Curtis was so shy as a young man that he would take a zero before he would give an oral book report in school. Although people thought he was the least likely to ever become a public speaker, he would go on to receive five honorary doctorates.

Hutson was the second of five children, a son of a barber and hair dresser. One night, alone in his bed, he gave his heart to the Lord as he thought on what he had been taught about living a spiritual life. He knew that it had to start with his conversion. Later, at age 11 (1945), when he went forward in his church (Bethel Baptist of Redan, Georgia), his pastor called all his kinfolks to gather around him and pray. Only a few blocks from the location of his future church ministry, Curtis went on to Avondale High School. Barbara (Gerri) Crawford, (born August 22, 1934) was also a student there. While walking to work one day at the Scottdale Textile Mill, he met Gerri and asked for a date. On November 21, 1952, they were married. He had several jobs before he surrendered to preach. But God was dealing with this still shy, unassuming man and in 1953, he surrendered to preach.

The following year, the first of four children, Sherry, arrived (March 17, 1954). All the children would eventually enter full time Christian work: Sherry married Rick Camperson, pastoring in Suwanee, Georgia; Donna (February 1, 1956), married David Janney, pastoring in Orlando, Florida; Tony (December 6, 1962), with his wife Tracy, lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee where he pastors. and Rhonda Kay (December 3, 1969), married to Rick Chandler, pastoring in North Gainsville, Florida.

While supporting his family as a mailman, Curtis was invited to preach in several of the country churches around Atlanta. In 1956 he conducted a revival in Forrest Hills Baptist Church of Scottdale where 12 of the 40 members attended the first meeting. His preaching soon filled the church which only seated about 50 people. At the end of this revival, the pastor resigned and Hutson was called to pastor. For five years (1956-61) he delivered mail all week and preached on Sundays. During this time, he spent every opportunity studying the scriptures. Like others, such as Harry Ironside and Jack Wyrtzen, Curtis Hutson had no formal training. The Bible was his only source of "preparation" for the wide ministry God had for him in the years to come.

In the course of his postal work, one of his subscribers moved, not leaving a forwarding address. It was his duty to file forms with the senders of the 3rd class mail before destroying it. He decided to keep a piece of mail, a copy of a little paper called Sword of the Lord. It advertised a nearby meeting in Antioch Baptist Church, indicating that the speaker, Dr. Jack Hyles, had baptized 700 people that year. Hutson assumed it was a misprint, but made plans to take time off from his job to go meet Hyles and hear him preach. This was 1961, he would later testify:

"For the first time in my life, I heard sensible preaching. I was enlightened as to the New Testament Church and realized that I didn't have a real church, even though I had been a pastor for five years."

Hyles also gave his famous two-hour soul-winning lecture. Hutson's heart burned within him and he felt that he too wanted to aggressively win the lost to Christ. Returning home, he went out the following Saturday and won three people to the Lord. Every week there after, for a number of years he led someone to Christ. As he began to preach about soulwinning his people began to grow and follow his pattern, winning others to the Lord.

In a step of faith, Hutson left the post office job to live on the $75 a month that the church was paying him. By 1968, the attendance had grown to 350. As it grew, the church moved to the Scottdale Elementary School, then a basement building in the middle of Scottdale. In 1969 it was another building and in 1972 they moved into their new building seating 2,500 on Valley Brook Road. From 1969-72 the church grew from 350 to 2,300 and the offerings were up to $10,000 a Sunday. It was now called Forrest Hills Baptist of Decatur, Georgia.

Many are the stories telling of Curtis Hutson's soul-winning exploits. One worth sharing here is the time when his wife was gone visiting relatives and he couldn't sleep. He called up one of the men in his church at 1 a.m. and said, "Let's go soul-winning! I'll pick you up in 15 minutes." They took a red gas can and drove out to Interstate 85. His friend kept asking, "where are we going?" After a few miles, they saw a stranded motorist. Hutson approached the driver stating, "I've been looking for you." The poor fellow figured that Hutson was going to take advantage of his distress to make some money. When Hutson assured him he didn't want any money, just an opportunity to talk with him, the motorist was very responsive. Hutson led the man, his wife and children to the Lord on the spot. That night he and his partner kept going back, refilling their red gas can and finding additional stranded motorists. They led 18 people to Christ before the sun came up. Hearing about Hutson's patrolling of the interstate, a man left the church a pick-up truck in his will shortly thereafter.

Hutson soon developed his own lecture entitled, "How to Win Souls." One night he visited a couple who had visited the church four months previously. He found a rental truck backed up to the front porch. He wasn't sure whether someone was moving in or out. He learned the husband was moving out and separating from his wife. Hutson took the young husband to the back room and led him to the Lord. Then he talked to the wife and she too was converted. He then stayed on, happily helping them unload the truck to reclaim their marriage. There are a number of couples in the church that Hutson remarried to their original mates after winning them to the Lord.

The first news of Hutson's ministry in the Sword of the Lord appeared December 25, 1970. In 1972, the church opened a Christian High School. They purchased the school building he had attended as a teenager, Avondale High School. That year the Sunday School increased from 1263 to 2109 and merited the "America's Fastest Growing Sunday School" plaque on November 5th from Christian Life Magazine and Elmer Towns. Bus riders increased from 600 to 1,000 and there were 879 baptized on profession of faith. On the day of the presentation, 5,138, a record attendance was made with 2,600 riding the buses.

In 1976, when Hutson resigned after 20 years of pastoring there, the church had grown to 7,900 with the Sunday School averaging 3,031 a Sunday. All this time, John Reynolds and John Stancil had been at his side to help. They also became his associates at the Sword of the Lord. Another close associate was Frances Hoffman, his secretary of 35 years. Hutson also was president of Baptist University of America from 1974-1980 which was located near Atlanta.

In full time evangelism, Hutson held area wide evangelistic meetings from 1977-1980. As many as 625 were converted in a single service. In one eight day meeting, some 1,502 were converted. The ministry was called Curtis Hutson Revival Campaigns and his song leader soloist was Ray Hart. Large soul winning and revival conferences were held in Macon, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama and Columbus, Ohio in 1979; in Wichita, Kansas and Atlanta, Georgia in 1980. From 1980 onward he continued to hold conferences while he headed up the ministry at the Sword of the Lord. These annual Sword Conferences were held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1981; Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1982, 1983 and for several years in Chattanooga, Tennessee beginning in 1984. Later on, these conferences were held in Greenville, South Carolina at Bob Jones University and in Walkertown, North Carolina.

In 1978, John R. Rice invited Curtis Hutson to come to Murfreesboro as an associate, mentoring him to take on the editorship of the Sword of the Lord. Dr. Rice died two years later in 1980.

Dr. Hutson served as editor of the Sword of the Lord for 15 years (1980 1995), still conducting crusades and speaking at conferences, colleges and churches. This was a difficult time in fundamentalist circles as isolationism and factions separated good men over various issues taking a toll on the movement and discouraging area wide meetings. The Sword of the Lord, born the same year as Hutson, the new editor, continued to promote revival and soul-winning.

Curtis Hutson could move an audience to laughter and tears within a few minutes. Humor and pathos kept them on the edge of their seats. But it was more than human persuasion, it was the Spirit of God working through a dedicated man of God's choosing.

He wrote some 75 sermon compilation books, booklets and pamphlets, including the 17 volume series called "Great Preaching." Then there were tapes and tracts; his most famous tract, "How To Know You're Going To Heaven" has been printed in 30 languages. At the time of his death, it was estimated that some 11,000,000 of his publications were in circulation. Possibly his best known work was the two volume set, Salvation Crystal Clear.

On May 2, 1992, Hutson was invited by Dr. Jack Hyles to speak at their annual Pentecost Sunday endeavor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. The goal was to see at least 3,000 people converted. By the end of the day, 4,720 had been dealt with at various altars, 1,035 in the morning service alone, where Hutson spoke. 36,902 were in attendance that day in 23 other services all over town. Converts were still being baptized when Hutson had to leave.

Curtis had never gone to a doctor. Finally, in 1992, his wife pressed him to have a routine physical examination. With suspicious symptoms, further tests were made by a urologist who found a cancerous tumor. The news was not good. In fact the devastating pronouncement was, "Six months to live."

The schedule altered greatly with special family time taking priority. However, he continued preaching, weak as he could be towards the end. His last major preaching opportunity was at the Southwide Fellowship meeting at Northside Baptist in Charlotte, North Carolina in October of 1994. Just prior to that, on September 21, he was honored at Hyles Anderson College in a great demonstration of love from Jack Hyles, who had helped start his career in the aforementioned incident. Hyles read a poem he had composed to honor him just prior to his introduction.

Three days before his death, Curtis awakened from a deep sleep to give his last sermon. It started at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and lasted until 3 p.m. on Thursday, a 26 hour discourse full of wisdom and praise. The last soul he won was that of the home care nurse attending him.

He died at his home in Murfreesboro, very thin and weak, on a Sunday night at 11:15 p.m. The news of his death brought a sense of great loss to fundamental circles around the country.

His funeral was conducted on March 7th at Franklin Road Baptist Church in Murfreesboro. Speakers included Clyde Box, Tom Malone, Shelton Smith, John Powell, Clarence Sexton, R.B. Ouellette, Jack Hyles and John Reynolds. The three Hutson daughters sang "I'm Sailing Away" for their father. He was buried the following day in Atlanta with a great crowd of people at the graveside service.

Hutson, a close friend of Clarence Sexton, pastor of Temple Baptist Church, encouraged the development of Crown College on the campus of that church in Powell, Tennessee. In April of 1999, a new building, known as the Curtis Hutson Center for Church Ministries was dedicated there.

For 34 years Curtis Hutson was consumed with introducing people to Christ. He was a rare combination. A master of both personal evangelism and mass evangelism. He was everlastingly at it. Misunderstood by some, as all great men are, he still lighted a fire in unnumbered lives and a generation that never knew John R. Rice had the blessing of knowing the one upon whom his mantle fell ... Curtis Hutson.


Cancer can hurt you, but it cannot harm you.

Cancer can shorten your earthly life, but it cannot affect your eternal life.

Cancer can steal your days, but it cannot steal your dreams.

Cancer can cause you to be immobile, but it cannot keep you from being immovable.

Cancer may make you weak, but it cannot take away the joy of the Lord which is our strength.

Cancer can incapacitate you, but it cannot captivate you. Cancer may bring pain, but it cannot keep you from praising the Lord and rejoicing in His name.

Cancer may make you look bad on the outside, but it cannot change the inside where you have everlasting life and the very presence of God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Cancer may take your physical life, but it cannot destroy the everlasting life which is given to you the moment you trust Christ as Saviour. 

As a matter of fact, it can't even diminish it. It is just as real to your weakest moment as It was the day you trusted Him as Saviour.

Cancer may put you in the grave, but it cannot keep you there. There shall he a resurrection.

Cancer may destroy the physical tabernacle in which you live, but it cannot touch the heavenly mansion that is being prepared for you.

Cancer may cause a temporary separation from your family and friends, but it cannot stop the blessed reunion that is going to take place someday when all of God's children are called on to Heaven either by way of death or the rapture.

Cancer may weaken your body to the place where you cannot even say to your dearest friends, ' I love you," but it cannot keep you from loving.

Cancer, at times, may cause you to want to give up; but it can not keep you from going up. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

Cancer may follow you to the graveyard, but it cannot follow you beyond. Cancer may rob you of strength, but it cannot rob you of your Saviour.

Cancer may make you weep for the night, but it cannot take away the jot- that is coming in the morning.

Cancer may temporarily separate you from friends, but it can not separate you from the love of God.

Cancer may confuse your mind and understanding. but it cannot confuse or change your standing with the great Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ which has been settled by a simple act of' faith in Him.

Cancer May stop your labors, but it cannot undo your works.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. Revelation 14:13

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

"After hundreds of hours together, I can say that Dr Curtis Hutson was the most pure gold man I have ever met. He was honest in every area of his life He was a great preacher and a great leader. He was fully surrendered to Christ. I miss him so much." Dr. Tom Malone

Dr. and Mrs. Curtis Hutson

Curtis Hutson Center, Crown College, Powell, Tennessee
Dedicated April, 1999

Curtis Hutson, as a Bible believing Christian, knew that his place in Heaven was secured by repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed for our sins when He died on the cross of Calvary. Brother Smith is with the Lord Jesus Christ right now, but do you know, with 100% assurance, from God's Word, that you will be with Jesus when you die?

If you do not have this assurance, please read:

God's Simple Plan of Salvation

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God;
that ye may know that ye have eternal life,
and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1John 5:13

The scores of sources used in obtaining data for this series are too numerous to mention. They include back issues of many Christian journals, such as Christian Life, Decision, Sword of the Lord, etc. The major sets of encyclopedias plus the Who's Who in America series often provide factual data not obtained elsewhere. A library of close to 500 biographies plus numerous other books, booklets and files have been most valuable as well. Questionnaires returned from Christian leaders now living have also been helpful.

1. Biographies have always been used of God to stimulate more service for Christ. Paul said, "Be yea followers of me as I am also of Christ." Only eternity will reveal how many have gone into Christian service or a deeper walk with God as a result of reading such as David Barren's journal.
2. Biographies keep the wonderful ministries of many people alive and fresh before us. Many might soon be forgotten unless their challenging stories are brought to the attention of the Christian world afresh.
3. Biographies introduce people to us whom we might not know, or perhaps have misunderstood. This would be especially true of people now living. In a day when Christians seem to be divided into many "camps", it is hoped that this series will help give all true believers a new appreciation of ministries other than their own.
4. Biographies introduce us to people we will soon be living with for all eternity. The "family of God" is such a wonderful family. If you do not have the assurance that heaven is your home, that your sins have been forgiven, and that Jesus Christ lives in and through your life, please write us. We would like to introduce you to the Saviour, and welcome you to this wonderful eternal family.
ED REEVE, Psalm 35:28

Fundamental Publishers
Publishers & distributors of Christian aids & reference works

The scores of sources used in obtaining data for this series are too numerous to mention. They include back issues of many Christian journals, such as Christian Life, Decision, Sword of the Lord, etc. The major sets of encyclopedias plus the Who's Who in America series often provide factual data not obtained elsewhere. A library of close to 500 biographies plus numerous other books, booklets and files have been most valuable as well. Questionnaires returned from Christian leaders now living have also been helpful.

The people who have encouraged me and worked hard in the project are also rightfully acknowledged. The designing and editing of my wife Margaret, and the typesetting of Griffin Graphics have all made these biographies possible. I am thankful for this team God has put together.

Also a word of thanks to Harold Henniger of Canton, Ohio for allowing me to use the Christian Hall of Fame title, which he originated.

Biography Index

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