Billy Graham Center

Interview with Paul Dean Votaw - Collection 105

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Paul Dean Votaw

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)


Transcript 1

Transcript 2

Brief Description.
Oral history interview in which Votaw describes his boyhood; education at Wheaton College, Dallas Seminary, and Princeton Seminary; and missionary activities in Syria and Lebanon. There are typed transcripts available for the two tapes in this collection.

Collection 105
[December 18, 2007]
Votaw, Paul Dean; 1917-2007
Interview; 1980

2 Reels of Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Paul Votaw was born June 20, 1917, in Kansas City to YMCA secretary Lemoine David Votaw and his wife Edna Frances Severance. He was the third child of the four children in the family. The family attended the Methodist Episcopal Church. At the age of thirteen, Paul had a conversion experience during a series of evangelistic meetings. He later joined the Presbyterian Church. After brief attendance at Texas Christian College (1937-1938), he came to Illinois to attend Wheaton College, from which he graduated in 1941. He then went on to Dallas Seminary where he received a Th.M. degree in February 1945. He next attended Princeton Seminary, where he studied under John Alexander McKay.

On March 29, 1946, he sailed for Syria as a missionary of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. After traveling through Egypt and Palestine, he arrived in Beirut on April 26 and joined the Syria Mission. He was assigned to language study in Jerusalem. In December of the same year, he married Betty Louise Brown, a girl from his home church who went to Syria for the ceremony. They were to have two children: Elizabeth, born in October 1948, and Paul Dean, Jr., born in June 1950. The Votaws had additional language study of Arabic in Sidon the next year and then were sent by the mission to Aleppo, Syria. Paul's main responsibilities there were teaching English and maintaining the mission's English reading room. He also helped distribute supplies in refugee camps. In 1950 the Votaws left Syria and returned to the United States. Paul served as assistant pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh from 1951 to 1954. From 1954 to the late 1970s he was pastor of the Gashland Community Church in Missouri. He retired to Freeport, Illinois in 1985. He died July 30, 2007.

Scope and Content

Reverend Paul Votaw was interviewed by Robert Shuster on March 4, 1980, at the Graham Center offices in Wheaton. Unfortunately, because of technical difficulties, the first ten minutes of the interview are barely decipherable. The rest of the interview, however, is clear. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview.

Tape 1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:15 Introduction
00:40 Family background
01:50 Conversion
03:00 Ministers in the family
04:30 Early college education, working on the Rock Island Railroad
05:15 [Beginning of very distorted part of tape, including bits of other tapes and different speeds]
10:00 Evangelistic meetings by Walter L. Wilson
12:10 Reasons for attending Wheaton, desire to enter the ministry; Moody Bible Institute
13:30 Academic standards at Wheaton College
14:50 Spiritual atmosphere on campus; prayer room, chapel
16:45 Starting classes with prayer
17:45 President J. Oliver Buswell, personal contacts, speaking style
19:00 Contrasts between Edman and Buswell; Edman's preaching at the United Gospel Tabernacle
22:15 Personal contacts with Edman; praying for the students
24:00 Change of administration from Buswell to Edman
26:20 Services at the Tabernacle
27:15 Attendance at the Tabernacle; attractions of the Tabernacle
28:30 College library; staff; Julia Blanchard
33:05 Clarance Thiessen
35:45 Edith Torrey
37:20 Hudson Taylor Armerding
38:00 Carl F. Henry
38:40 Kenneth Taylor, paraphrases in class
40:20 Rural Bible Crusade
41:05 The Beltonian Club; Joseph Bayly; Club activities
45:35 End of side 1

Tape 1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 [Overlap from side 1]
01:10 The Beltonian Club; Joseph Bayly; Club activities [continued]
01:35 Lack of effect of world tensions on Wheaton campus
02:50 Evangelistic services on campus; the services held on campus in 1941 by Milliam Rogers
06:05 Commitment to being a missionary; 1920s World Mission Conference in Kansas City
07:30 Preparation for the ministry; evaluation of preparation at Wheaton
09:15 Princeton and impressions of John McKay; McKay's Christian witness, views on ecumenism
14:15 Lectures on ecumenism
15:45 Interview for the mission field with Herrick B. Young
18:35 End of T1

Tape 2 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Continuation of interview
00:55 Filling out forms of the mission board, reason for choosing Syria when considering other mission boards
04:55 Gospel team work in Chicago; similarities to work in Syria
08:55 Strategy of the mission work in Syria-Lebanon; the need for an indirect approach in the Muslim world; rural evangelism
12:50 Training for Syria, the Newman School; preparation in seminary
17:15 Time spent in Egypt in 1946; the novelty of things American; city streets in Egypt; train travel; Easter in Cairo
25:15 Arrival in Syria-Lebanon; the making of the Presbyterian Mission in Syria-Lebanon; institution run by the mission
30:30 Indirect evangelism in Aleppo; teaching Arabic and English
31:20 Attendance at the Newman School in Jerusalem; tutoring system
32:50 Government of the mission; decision-making process
35:50 Bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem; Jerusalem in 1946; conflict between the British and the Zionists
40:20 Missionary opinion about conflict between Arabs and jews; anti-Israel and anti-American demonstrations in Syria; the situation of the Arab Christians
43:45 Language study in Sidon; teaching in Sidon
46:10 End of tape

Tape 2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 [Overlap from side 1]
01:20 Language study in Sidon; teaching in Sidon [continued]
02:20 Relations with the government; complaints against the missionaries from Roman Catholic priests
04:50 The Christian community in Aleppo; the Evangelical Church, the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic, the Orthodox, the Latin Church, and others; visitation in the Christian community over Christmas and New Year's
08:50 Maronite Church
09:55 Tutoring versus classroom teaching as ways of learning Arabic
11:40 Characteristics of the Arabic language; colloquial versus classical Arabic
16:20 Types of people who came to the reading room in Aleppo, bringing in people
18:20 Results of the mission work in Syria; secret believers
18:35 End of tape


The materials for this collection were received by the Center in March 1980.

Accession 80-38
February 9, 1980 [sic]
Robert Shuster
B. Pitra
M. Arnold

Accession 80-38
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE. Request by the Tape number at the beginning of each entry below.

Tape 1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 63 minutes. Interview with Reverend Paul D. Votaw, March 4, 1980.

Tape 2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 63 minutes. Conclusion of interview with Reverend Paul D. Votaw, March 4, 1980.

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Last Revised: 9/05/02
Expiration: indefinite