Billy Graham Center

Collection 5 - Vernon William Patterson. T2 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (62 minutes).

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Vernon William Patterson (Collection 5, T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded were omitted. In a very few cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case "[unclear]' was inserted. Also, grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English. Vida Patterson, wife of Vernon Patterson, sat in on the interview and contributed her comments, most not easily heard as she wasn't intended to be part of the interview.

. . . Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.

. . . . Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

( ) Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[ ] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.

This transcript was completed by Wayne D. Weber in August 2000.

Collection 5, T2. Interview of Vernon William Patterson by Paul Ericksen, March 4, 1985.

ERICKSEN: This is an oral history interview with Vernon W. Patterson by Paul Ericksen for the Billy Graham Center Archives. This interview...interview took place at the Patterson's home in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 4 at 6:00 pm. When we finished our last session, we were talking about your responsibilities as field representative for Moody Bible Institute. You mentioned that you were sent out to make some contacts in the city of Chicago and you talked with one gentleman who was a lawyer from Harvard who was very resistant to [pauses] the Institute. How were these contacts developed that you were given?

PATTERSON: I was given cards from the Institute but the names of their sup...of those who were friends of them that they had on their list. And in Chicago I...I visited those in the Loop the the Loop district [downtown area of Chicago with a high concentration of banks, stores, and offices] of Chicago primarily. Then when...about the last of December, Dr. Gray just before Christmas sent me on a trip to Texas and...and the deep South. And he gave me...I was given cards to call on in these various places which were co...those had...who had already shown interest in Moody Bible Institute.

ERICKSEN: And so what were...what was the purpose of your meeting with them?

PATTERSON: Well, it was to increase see that their interest in the Institute was...was increased and also to...

VIDA PATTERSON: Bible conference.

PATTERSON: get them to contrib...continue contributing the Institute.

VIDA PATTERSON: Bible conferences, Bible conferences.

PATTERSON: Well, at that time I didn't set up many Bible conferences. But I...I went down through [pauses] Arkansas and on down to Texas. And when I got to [pauses] Arkansas [pauses] I saw that Dr. Gray was speaking there. I learned one lesson right from him there. So I went to hear him. Now I had never heard him preach. So was an afternoon meeting. I went to see him, hear him preach. And I came away very much disappointed. But it taught me a lesson. Dr. Gray took the first chapter of II Peter (I believe it was II Peter) and he simply gave...he gave a very simple [pauses] letter...verse-by-verse exposition of that...of that ver...of that passage. "Add to your salvation..." one after thing after another, "that ye be not barren or...or unfruitful." [II Peter 1:5-8] And I came back disappointed.

ERICKSEN: What were you disappointed in?

PATTERSON: Well, I expected a...sort of high power evangelistic [pauses] eloquent speech. It was none of that. It was simply a childlike almost exposition of the true meaning of that passage. And it wasn't one of these high-flown lectures that I expected. And it taught me a lesson. I have never forgotten that...that message. It's stuck in my mind [almost cries]. I would have forgotten some high-flown lecture but that passage remains in my mind to this day. And so I concluded right there the greatest preaching is to expound the Scriptures and not depend on human ex...elocution or high-flown language or [pauses] pathetic stories and all that. But make plain what the Word of God says. There's the power in the Word of God, not human eloquence and...and pathetic stories and one thing and another. They are well...they have their place in illustrating the Scriptures but the Scr...the Bible itself is where the power lies. That was a lesson [almost cries] I learned from Dr. Gray.

ERICKSEN: Now speaking of Dr. Gray, at the end of the last session you had mentioned an incident that occurred in his house when he invited a few of you over for dinner.

PATTERSON: Yes. Well, let me tell you about...that's a...

ERICKSEN: Would you...could you tell that stor...that story?

PATTERSON: ...that's a very important thing. We had a lovely dinner. He pad...the dinner was for the six or seven field secretaries that he had employed. I was one of them. He got us into the living room and when we were out there seated he said, "Now, would like for me to tell you how I came to come to the Institute?" And, of course, we all agreed that we wanted to know it. Well, he said, Mr. Crowell (Henry P. Crowell) approached him and asked him if he would like to [pauses]...whether he would like to consider coming to the Institute and would he like to know more about the...the Institute before he decided. Well, of course, Dr. Gray said, "Yes." So Crowell brought him a voluminous volume of correspondence and turned it over to him. And it was a record of the events of...of what went on at the Institute over a period of about two years, telling what happened day by day. And he found out when he read it that Henry P. Crowell of the Quaker Oats Company was considering a life work, Christian life work for him. And with the same acumen of...of discernment he wanted to be sure he was investing his life where it would be most...most useful. So he had sent a man to the Moody Bible Institute as a student who was there two years. But he was more that a student. He was a representative of Henry P. Crowell, who was wanting to know what actually went on in the Moody Bible Institute and whether that was where he should invest his life. And that...that supposed student was making a daily record of what went on in the Institute and reporting it to him. And so when Dr. Torrey resigned as head of the Institute they considered Dr. Gray. And when they got in touch with Dr. Gray they asked him or Crowell did, "Would like to have a record of the Institute, of the work of the Institute before you decide?" And they brought him this voluminous volume. A student had been there for two years just as a student,but he was an agent of Henry P. Crowell and he was delivering...he was writing him a report of what went on day by day. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: And so that's how Gray....

PATTERSON: And that...and on that basis Dr. Gray took the...the deanship. And by the way, in this article last Moody Monthly they speak of Dr. Gray as president. Then...then from...from [pauses]... from Torrey on they...they called it dean not president. It was after Dr. Gray's death that they gave the title president. So....

VIDA PATTERSON: Bible conference. Tell about the Bible conference in Hendersonville.


VIDA PATTERSON: Bible Conference [unclear] Hendersonville.


PATTERSON: Oh. Well, I...I went out then with...with my trip around the South over Texas. I went as far west as Herendon [sp?], Texas.

ERICKSEN: This is as field representative?

PATTERSON: Yeah. And another incident occurred. I got...well, I...I told you about the one Arkansas when I first heard Dr. Gray. I...I had never heard him speak before that and I was disappointed. But as I look at it, it's the greatest...well, I never forgot what he said.

ERICKSEN: Yeah, you mentioned that.

PATTERSON: It was the Word. The power is in the Word of God, not in human wisdom. And so everybody make pretty speeches and all that, that tells sun...funny stories and pathetic stories. That's all right as [pauses] it...if it is [pauses]...throws a light on the meaning of Scripture. But the Scripture is where the power lies, not the wisdom of man.

ERICKSEN: What...?

VIDA PATTERSON: The Bible conferences.


ERICKSEN: What other responsibilities did you have as field representative?

PATTERSON: Well, my main thing was main purpose was to....

VIDA PATTERSON: The Bible conferences.

PATTERSON: All right, Vida, all right. main th...thing was to keep in contact and keep them in contact with ...with Moody and if they were contributing to Moody they...I wanted to encourage them to keep on...keep their contributions coming.

VIDA PATTERSON: And you spoke at churches. You spoke [unclear]....

PATTERSON: Well, yes, I spoke in many churches that I was invited to speak there. At one of them, I told Dr. Gray about and after I got through he said, (this was his...this was his gesture, those two fingers)...he turned to me and said, "You should not have done it. 'You' are not your own. You are bought with a price.' [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]" And that ...that event was this. I got to...well, I forget right in a minute the town there just above Austin. And I spent the weekend there and they...I'd called on the pastor of a church there who was a Moody graduate. And he asked me to come out and take a morning service for him, which I consented to do. Well, Saturday night I had a snow storm, one of the Texas northers came across and there was about four inches of snow on the ground the next day. But I made my way. I got transportation and got out to the church and when I got to the church it was being remodeled and the windows were out and the doors were out and it was just cold. And I sat there on the platform with my teeth chattering and I hardly could speak. I told Dr. Gray about that. The next week I got to Austin and I was sick with the flu for about a week. And I told Dr. Gray that. Dr. Gray was very very pucti[lious]...

VIDA PATTERSON: [unclear] conference.

PATTERSON: ...about his health. If he felt like a cold was coming on he'd go home and take rhinitis pills.

VIDA PATTERSON: What about the conference?

PATTERSON: But he was very...and he wouldn't...when...when he spoke he would...and he would...and came down to the...from the pulpit to welcome those who came forward, he wouldn't speak to anybody until he put on his overcoat.

VIDA PATTERSON: Pat, Hendersonville.

PATTERSON: He was very punctilious about his

VIDA PATTERSON: Hendersonville conference. [unclear]

PATTERSON: Well, then...then I went along. I went around visiting these people. Of course, this side, this first trip I made, Vida, I wasn't setting up conferences. But after I'd gone some...after I'd made that trip and we had a meeting over George Gill's (he was on the extension staff at his... his home in Tennessee), and they asked...I asked him if I could set up summer Bible conference at...up in Hendersonville. I'd made contacts up there and he gave conditional consent. One of his older men was there at that conference and he wanted the...he...he gave me consent to set up a Bible conference up there for the summer if this other man, the older man, who had been with him for some time give his approval to it. So he did and I set up a conference there, a summer Bible conference that lasted for seven years. We had a...we had a big...great meeting there. We had a t...they had a tabernacle and I got use of that. And we advertised it or got it advertised and organized and they came in right from the start. They had such a good conference that [pauses]...that it lasted for seven successive years before it...before they stopped it. Well, then...then....

VIDA PATTERSON: What about in Tyron [North Carolina] when you spoke?



PATTERSON: Oh, then I...I came on home after I'd been to this trip all down in Texas and all. I came home and later...well, I stopped....Vida was...the summer had come...come. I'd gone around to other states after that, made other trips. And Vida went...went...went up from Spartanburg and we rented a house up at Tyron. And I...I got to Tyron [clears throat] and they asked...asked me if I would preach at the church up there Sunday. Well, one of men in the Moody...had had a [pauses] a...a Prince Albert...not Prince Albert but what's this gray, you know, the...

VIDA PATTERSON: A cutaway. It wasn't a Moody.

PATTERSON: A cutaway coat.

VIDA PATTERSON: It was yours. It wasn't their's.

PATTERSON: But, yeah, a cutaway coat. And they had...he didn't want it.

VIDA PATTERSON: [unclear]...Pat.


VIDA PATTERSON: It was yours.

PATTERSON: Well, Vida, you...what's this kind, you know, where know, my memory slips on some of these things. But this gray vest and a...

VIDA PATTERSON: I told you. A cutaway.

PATTERSON: ...cutaway coat. Well, I had English cutaway coat on and when I...I bought from one of of the Moody men that...that had worn out it...didn't want it any longer. So I put on that cutaway coat and I dressed up real good. They asked me to speak that Sunday morning.

VIDA PATTERSON: Presbyterian church.

PATTERSON: Presbyterian church, I believe it was. And I...I spoke on sin, is...its...its cause and it's cure. I believe that was it. Well, I thought I got along pretty well. I dressed up and looked like I was somebody [laughs], and Dr. Gray wrote me a letter after that. He said, "A college president was...that he knew was in that audience that day and the college president wrote Dr. Gray that he wanted to compliment him [laughs] for sending out representatives like me. [laughs]


PATTERSON: Sin it's cause and it's cure. That was my sermon. And so then...but now, go back to the Ham meeting and I...the laymen's operation now.

ERICKSEN: Well, one...I have one other question before we...we talk about the layman's work in detail. I guess at the time when you were the field representative you hadn't established all of your responsibilities in the different lay organizations yet. Is there a time prior to all of that when you sensed that you weren't going to be involved in full-time Christian work, that you were going to be a businessman and be involved in all these different ways? Or is that something that just developed in the course of your career?

PATTERSON: Let me...let me...let me...let me think just a minute. I went to Louisville and was secretary of the YMCA. And I...I thought maybe I ought go into Christian work and I went down to see the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary there. And they were busy and didn't have time to talk to me so I dismissed that for that time. But then came the...the situation about my marriage and then my getting back up to Louisville and...and being in this insurance business. And then...then this back...this collapse of...of the value of the dollar and the...the deflation after World War I. And then I was left there just with the...the knowledge I wasn't even making a living [pauses]...enough to...enough to support my family. And that's when I prayed earnestly for the Lord and I seemed to get the answer, "Write Dr. Gray."

ERICKSEN: And then you went to work with Moody.

PATTERSON: And then I went to...up to Moody.

VIDA PATTERSON: [unclear] training. Training, that's all.

PATTERSON: Well, that's my part of it. But I should [pauses]...that would...that would lead me up to '25. Well, I worked with Moody until '25 and then I think Moody was in [pauses]... well, I know they were in difficult times. That was back in the deep Depression. Well, so Dr. Gray let me...let me go about '25 and...and the others too. And to show the situation at that time, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer [founded of Dallas Theological Seminary] had written Dr. Gray and had told him that he was considering forming a seminary down at Dallas and asked Dr. Gray's advice about it. Dr. Gray sent me the correspondence. And he answered Dr. Chafer and said that he would not advise him to open that seminary, that conditions of the time were such that he thought that it would be wiser to...for the Evangelicals to consolidate their forces and...and make and strengthen what they had. That was the substance of the letter. He sent me a copy of it. So he advised Dr. Chafer not to ma...start that seminary. But he did go ahead with it. I knew Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer well too. So that was correspondence that he sent me. That's...that was his case there. That was the situation with Moody. Well, then so he later sought them as field secretaries and then I went to work with Dr. Pace.

ERICKSEN: In? Where did you work with him?

PATTERSON: Dr. Pace wanted to start a...a Bible conference center down in Florida and...for missionaries...return missionaries and...and for Bible conferences. And he asked me if I would come and work with him to that end. Well, I had a good deal of confidence in myself that time and I thought the...the Florida real estate boom was about at it's height then, so I thought I could support myself and work with Dr. Pace. So I accepted it and I took the family down at Saint [pauses]...what's it [pauses]...?


PATTERSON: The city across from Tampa.

ERICKSEN: St. Petersburg?

VIDA PATTERSON: St. Petersburg.

PATTERSON: St. Petersburg. And we lived there for about two years. And I worked...we got a group together and when I...driving over this...over the state and we finally got a group of people up at Longwood above Orlando who gave us about seventy-eight acres of land including a lake. And we st...tried to start a Bible conference center there but we couldn't get this.... Dr....Dr....Dr. Pace was the main one that was leading it and we couldn't the financial support. We...I got out letters and we worked and we had it all set up but...and even got enough money once to build house. And I...I remember I'd lie there and pray often about the Lord to prosper that work. But I...we got the...all organized but the...we couldn't the...the financial support. And....

ERICKSEN: What was the...what was the stumbling block for people? Was it just the economic hard times or...? What was the problem?

PATTERSON: Well, it wa...well, this was [pauses]...this was right [pauses].... me see just a minute. I'll tell you. This was about '25, '24 and the boo...the...the...we got started up there at Longwood.

VIDA PATTERSON: Four years after [unclear]....

PATTERSON: And in October [unclear].... I went down to...I went down there with the idea that I could...I had been traveling down there for Moody and I had...the...the big boom real estate boom was in the it's height. And I saw all that going on and I thought I could...I could make my own way in real estate, so I went with a real estate company and after some months I started making some sales and getting started to support myself. Had my family down there and right then the real estate boom broke. And those breaks were just overnight. [snaps his fingers] One night they were up in the millions, next night there was nothing. And I was working with the gov...ex-Governor [Wilson Godfrey] Harvey of [pauses]...of South Carolina and he had a proposition there that would have been thousands of dollars but that collapsed [claps his hands] along with the rest.

ERICKSEN: So the Bible conference center collapsed...

PATTERSON: That collapsed.

ERICKSEN: ...the plans collapsed in the wake of all this other.

PATTERSON: Yeah, yeah. And that...that...that break was just like a...a collapse of a [claps hands] building suddenly falling [claps hands]. was overnight and it was...we tried to [pauses]...we tried to make ourselves believe that it wasn't real but it was. Well, that...that moved...those real estate dealers down there, then they moved up to Asheville and they promoted another boom up there.


PATTERSON: By that time I had gone up to Asheville and so I was getting started up in Asheville when that collapsed. They built L...Lake La...La...Lure up there and they built a big hotel up on the mountain at...


PATTERSON: ...Hendersonville that they couldn't finish and that...that half way building stood up there as a monument for about ten years after that.

VIDA PATTERSON: We didn't have anything to do with that.

PATTERSON: So I was...that was another collapse.

VIDA PATTERSON: We didn't have anything to do with that.

ERICKSEN: So then it was at time you moved to...?

PATTERSON: Vida, I didn't have anything to do with it. I was...I couldn't do any business hardly. I couldn't get any...I couldn't...I couldn't...I didn't...I was...I was selling...I was selling for the American Sales Book Company then.

ERICKSEN: So is that when you moved to Charlotte?

PATTERSON: So I...I went to that...that collapse. And then...that was in seventy...'25. And then we got settled up here in '27 and...and in '29 came another the...the...all over the country. And that lead to the Great Depression. And then in '32 [1933] Roosevelt came into office and he closed out...the whole banks...banks and in all over the country. That was so bad. So we went through all that. [laughs]

VIDA PATTERSON: But that was in training for your work.


VIDA PATTERSON: In training for the work you did.

PATTERSON: All right. Vida says that was training for the work I did. All right. Than came the Ham-Ramsey meeting here in Charlotte but we couldn't the...the preachers...the churches here....

ERICKSEN: Yeah, you...I've...I've listened to the tape, the other interviews where you...


ERICKSEN: ...talked about that. I don't think we need to


ERICKSEN: cover the Ham meetings.

PATTERSON: Well then, then after that...after that we put on this...I got with Jimmie Johnson. I told you about that. And we put on then a state-wide program of evangelism. And we carried that on from '35 to '41 or '40. I think it was ni...1940 when I resigned as president. I was president all those years.

ERICKSEN: President of?


PATTERSON: Of the Businessmen's Evangelistic Comm...Committee of...of...Clubs of North Carolina. We called them...


PATTERSON: ...Clubs.

VIDA PATTERSON: They were national. You were national.

PATTERSON: Well, I...later I was national president and that was in the 40s though, but this was the...the period from '35 right after the Ham-Ramsey meeting when Billy [Graham] was saved on to '41, that period.

ERICKSEN: Where were the...where were the different meetings held that they coordinated?

PATTERSON: Well, we...we...we bought...we got Haymaker to design a....

ERICKSEN: That was the...the tabernacle that was used?

PATTERSON: ...a tabernacle, moveable. And he started in May 19...about 1936 here in Charlotte and they had a good meeting in May down on Mint Street. And that was the year that Billy [Graham] and Grady [Wilson] graduated from high school. And we moved it from...after the meeting here in May, we moved it Monroe and that's were Billy and Grady got started.


PATTERSON: And then...then we...well, we didn't...that wasn't in the tabernacle but we had a meeting the previous fall down at Marshville in the high school. And Helen Bell was converted in that and she went as a missionary to Africa. And then after....

VIDA PATTERSON: Fayetteville.

PATTERSON: Well now, wait a minute now. Wait a minute. All right, well, wait a minute. So we...we then...we then wanted...then we went over.... We'd made friends with Dr. [pauses], who's the preacher in...over there?

VIDA PATTERSON: He was...he's the dentist.

PATTERSON: I mean the...the preacher that helped us in Albemarle.


ERICKSEN: Dr. Whitely. He was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and he went right with us, and against the will of his session [ruling body of elders in a Presbyterian church] in a way. He helped us set up a...a meeting there in Albemarle. And that resulted both in Dr. Whitely's resignation of the church (his elders were against us) and starting a new church. But [pauses] it [pauses] well, that...that's what it was.

VIDA PATTERSON: Fayetteville was most important.

PATTERSON: Well...well, then right...we were stuck there. We prayed and prayed where we could go...go next. And [pauses] we...we were almost at the end of the...Jimmie's...Jimmie Johnson was working with us at that time. He was our evangelist. Well...


PATTERSON: ...toward the close of that...that campaign we went over there.

ERICKSEN: Went over where?

PATTERSON: Over the meet...meeting in Albemarle. And a girl that had been...had...had been...Helen Bell was converted the previous year in Marshville. She was a school teacher there. And we held a...a meeting in the s...high school down there. Had a good meeting when Jimmie was starting out. That's before we had the tabernacle built, I believe. And she had been saved in that meeting. And then she had moved on down Fayetteville. And when we finished...when we...the meeting Albemarle was drawing to a close we were puzzled about where to go next. I felt that we...well, I felt a great leaning toward us that we should go east. And we prayed and prayed about that. And then when I went over meeting just before it closed in Albemarle and there was Helen Bell. She had gone...that's the school teacher that had been converted in Marshville meeting. And she had...had...she had gone down to Fayetteville to teach. And she had a Christian girl there that with her had gone around Fayetteville and she had come across J. P. Lee and...


PATTERSON: ...and Dr. Judd and several others of the Christian Businessmen that...and had talked to us about our work. So she got them...she and her parents got them to invite us to come down and...and tell them about our work. So we Sunday afternoon we drove down there and met with J. P. Lee and some of the others and they s...they said they would support us if we'd move that tabernacle down there.

VIDA PATTERSON: Tell about the good conversion of that big preacher, Methodist preacher.

PATTERSON: All right. Well then, we stayed there about three years.

VIDA PATTERSON: Three months, you mean.

PATTERSON: No, three years. We...they kept that tabernacle there about three years. And Jimmie...they...they...they had got so much response and the meetings just went on and on.

ERICKSEN: This was in Fayetteville?

PATTERSON: Fayetteville. We were there about three years. And among them was Dr. Judge. In that meeting, Dr. Judd, a of the ones that invited us to come, his son was converted. He was Malloy Owen, a ne...a...not his son but his nephew. Dr. Judd was a prominent dentist and Malloy Owen was converted in that meeting. And Malloy became a...he was a Methodist. Well, that leads on to another line of...of...of [swallows] work but I'll...I'll tell you events...just what that...

ERICKSEN: Let's not follow that now.

PATTERSON: ...that turned out to be. But Malloy became...he was a Methodist and he was about to graduate from...from Duke...Duke [University, North Carolina]. Well, anyway he came...he was very conservative and he...he met us...he came up to Calvary Church about last year or...or little more and I saw him. And he's now district superintendent with sixty-three Methodist's churches under him. He's real conservative. And he was on the radio. He preached on the radio. Malloy Owen. He's...


PATTERSON: ...he's prominent in the Methodist Church now with, he said, I believe, sixty-three churches he's supervising.

ERICKSEN: How were decisions made by the...the evangeli...the Men's Club as to where the next meeting would be or...?

PATTERSON: Well, they we were. We were stuck in Monroe. We didn't know where to go but we were just prayed and the Lord... Well, Whitely...we had already made contact with Dr. Whitely, so that we...that we knew where we were going then but when we got to Albemarle we didn't know where we would go.

ERICKSEN: How many men were there in the club you were...?

PATTERSON: Oh about twenty-five or so.

VIDA PATTERSON: But you don't [unclear]....

ERICKSEN: From throughout the state or just from Charlotte?

PATTERSON: No, right here in Charlotte. There were probably more than that but twenty-five real active ones.


PATTERSON: Well, then we went to...we prayed when...I remember we had...praying very earnestly about where to go from Albemarle with that portable tabernacle. And I felt definitely lead to go east but I didn't know where. Well, I went over to one of the meetings near the close of the Albemarle meeting and Helen Bell who had....

VIDA PATTERSON: You told....

PATTERSON: ...gone...gone ahead, but....

ERICKSEN: So then you went to Fayetteville.

PATTERSON: Yeah, well....

ERICKSEN: Yeah, you just explained that.

PATTERSON: ...she...she...she came up to this meeting. She came up to this meeting and...and she and another girl, a school teacher with her.

VIDA PATTERSON: Pat, you told him that.

ERICKSEN: Yeah you just finished telling that.

PATTERSON: Alr...alright. Well, then she had...they had gone around and met leaders...laymen down there and told them about our work and...and made an appointment for us to come meet them.

ERICKSEN: And so you had the nex...the meetings.

PATTERSON: We went down there and we had fine...a fine group of laymen down there that supported that meeting so much so that Jimmie stayed there three years, about three years. And Jimmie....

ERICKSEN: What happened after Fayetteville?

PATTERSON: Well, let me give you one incident that occurred there before I get to that. Jimmie would leave the meeting every once in a while without...without...without our knowing it. And he'd go off and hold some meeting that he had made an engagement for about several years later...previous in Bob Jones College, I believe it's [unclear]. Well, so he just left the meeting there for a while and went off but he'd get somebody else to preach for him while he was gone. And when he came back, we never knew who.... Our house was here on Seventh Street. That was the headquarters of the whole program and that was the head...headquarters of the statewide program. Well, Jimmie came in one day and he said, "Well, I've...I've got..I've been up to a meeting up in Minneapolis." And he said, "I've found me a young man up there that can play a trombone and he could preach some too so I brought him down here." He didn't ask us but he brought Merv Rosell and family and parked them in our backyard. [Ericksen laughs] Wear yourself out. [laughs] Merv Rosell. He said, "He can...he can play a trombone and preach some too." Well....

VIDA PATTERSON: Tell him about that big meeting with General Harrison down here....

PATTERSON: Well, Vida, that goes way back [pauses]...a little long in the future.


PATTERSON: Well, I know but later. That's much later. That's not in this.... Well, then we moved from Fayetteville after about three years over to Clinton. And from Clinton we moved up to close to Raleigh. And then from there we moved it on to Raleigh. And we moved it and put it round within a block of the fire station. We didn't know about this fire restriction. After we had been there a month and built the tabernacle, to find out...somebody found out that we were there and they complained out it. So we were in a fire zone and shouldn't have a wooden tabernacle there. So the pastor of the First Baptist Church invited us to move over to his church. And we finished the meeting there and we sold the tabernacle there to a co...a group that wanted...wanted it start a new church.

ERICKSEN: So that was the end of tour.

PATTERSON: That was the end of that.

ERICKSEN: And what year was that?

PATTERSON: That was '40, 1940.

ERICKSEN: And how many...had the...the size of the committee in Charlotte grown any during that...those few years?

PATTERSON: Yes, there were probably fifty or sixty altogether, but the core...the hard core was about a dozen to fifteen or twenty.

ERICKSEN: Now did all the men divide up their responsibilities?

PATTERSON: Yes, what we would...did here, we had a president who kept the office there. He was a prominent leader here and had an automobile agency. [tape turned off and then restarted] Tom Glascow [sp?] and his....

ERICKSEN: He was the president.

PATTERSON: He was president up here for about five years. He was one of the leaders in the business and...and...and social affairs too of...of Charlotte. Tom was a very outstanding man, a fine Christian and a great...and a fine speaker too. He...he preached in many of our meetings...gave the messages. Well, and Tom was a highly respected leader in the businessmen affairs of...of Charlotte. And so he was president for about five years. And then after that I...I was made president. That was in the early '30s. Tom, [unclear] the meeting...the...the Club here was founded in '24.


PATTERSON: On the close of....

ERICKSEN: After the....

PATTERSON: ...close of Jimmie...close...

ERICKSEN: ...Billy Sunday's.

PATTERSON: ...of Billy Sunday's meeting. That...that came out of that. But Tom was...was president for...up until the '30s...about 19...about 1930.

VIDA PATTERSON: It was...why don't you tell him about [unclear]

ERICKSEN: And then in became president.



ERICKSEN: How...when was that...?

PATTERSON: ...the of our...I think between me that was president and then I was elected president. And from...from that on I...I...I later became president of the state organization. And then later on still I was president of the national association which went all down to Alabama and Mississippi and Georgia and...and all around there.

ERICKSEN: Now what the Charlotte club what other responsibilities were there than the president's position?

PATTERSON: Well, there's the president and vice president and the...and, of course, they had secretary and treasurer. And the vice president, he...he didn't want to be president. He is a friend of Tom. He was a prominent lawyer, formerly one of the...the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And a very...they were both of them Tom Glascow and...and...and Fahr [sp?], Edgar Fahr. They were...they were wonderful characters. They were...Edgar Fahr developed this...this development down here not too far down...down below this Runnymead section all the way in there. He...that was the Fahr Farm, his father's farm and he developed it. But he...he was right knowing that the development was coming out that way. The growth of the city was growing that way. But he...he couldn't....

ERICKSEN: He didn't want to be president.

PATTERSON: No, he didn't want to be president.


PATTERSON: I'll tell you about that in a minute.

VIDA PATTERSON: ...about the number twelve.

PATTERSON: Well, I will. I'll tell...I'm getting to that right now. So Edgar insisted on just being vice president because he gave out the assignments. We had twelve teams in the club, tel...twelve teams. And Edgar Fahr was vice president and he would...we would meet every Friday night at the YMCA. And he would give...we had our committee...our club all divided into twelve teams.

ERICKSEN: How many people on a team?



PATTERSON: ...maybe three, four, five, or six or something like that. Well, we would go to the jail every Sunday and to the, I've forgotten just what they called it but it was for prostitutes, a home for them. But we'd go there and the country...and the [pauses] county home for the indig...indigents. We'd go there and then we would...then we did more that. We...they... we hunted up the neediest places in the city and we'd go down, some of our leaders would go down there and ask the...go into a home there and ask if he could come and have a prayer meeting down there. Well, the ladies, many of them would...would...some of them were probably disreputable places but we'd go in ask if we could come hold a prayer meeting there.

VIDA PATTERSON: What about the 18th Street Mission revival meetings?

PATTERSON: Well, we....

VIDA PATTERSON: The revival.

PATTERSON: ...we had whole series of prayer meeting round town like that. That we...which went to other places that we went to and held meetings. And one of them was one of the most effective ones and...and fruitful ones was a chapel out in the Belmont section, a...a sort of second level section. Nice people out there but not...not in what you would call the...the...the better...the best residential section. And the A. R. P. Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, had...they owned that but they couldn't get their members...enough members to hold meeting out there. So they...that...that was just an open door for us. So we took it over gladly and we held meetings there and...


PATTERSON: ...we had a real revival out there.

VIDA PATTERSON: What about that [unclear] wagon?

PATTERSON: What's...?

VIDA PATTERSON: Singing on that wagon.

PATTERSON: Oh, yeah. One of the permanent men here in town was Walter Scott, who was head of the Scott Drug Company. And he had a big truck and he had a little portable organ. And he put that organ up on that flatbed truck and Vida sit up there and play the organ. [laughs] We'd have some singers up on there [laughs] and...


PATTERSON: ...we'd go through that Belmont section singing. [laughs] And one night we afternoon before the meeting we had...the ARP Church couldn't get any of their members to keep up meetings over there so they turned that chapel over to us. So we were glad to get it and we'd go out there and we had a regular revival out there.

ERICKSEN: And what did you try...with...with the wagon people would follow and then...

VIDA PATTERSON: Oh, one girl....

ERICKSEN:'d end up there?

PATTERSON: No, we'd do that before the service and we would....

ERICKSEN: And advertise where the meeting was going to be?

PATTERSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

VIDA PATTERSON: Yes, and the organ.

PATTERSON: And...we...we...Vida was sitting up there playing the organ, a little pump org...not...pump organ...

VIDA PATTERSON: Marching to Zion [?].

PATTERSON: ...I believe...portable organ. And when...when Walter Scott, (he has a prominent drug company down here, he was head of that), he was up there, it was his truck and they were singing....

VIDA PATTERSON: Marching to Zion.

PATTERSON: "We're marching to Zion," what was it? "We're [pauses]...the Promised Land," what was it?

VIDA PATTERSON: "I'm bound for the Promise Land."

PATTERSON: Yeah, "I'm bound for the Promised Land." And we got out there and had a meeting. We...we went all around the neighborhood in that truck playing the songs like that and singing and inviting them to the...

VIDA PATTERSON: We got a good crowd.

PATTERSON: the chapel. And that night one girl came forward and was saved and said that she couldn't stand [laughs]...

VIDA PATTERSON: Couldn't stand that singing.

PATTERSON: ...couldn't stand that song, I'm Bound For the Promised Land. And they kept...they kept that up for several years and they had great rev...real revival in all that neighborhood. It was...we had lot...many saved out there. We kept...that was one of our regular assignments. Then we had an assignment in the jail. Then we....

ERICKSEN: Now was that the assignment of just your team or was...was everyone in on it?

PATTERSON: They had twelve teams and Edgar Fahr, the....

VIDA PATTERSON: No, that was your team, that twelve.

PATTERSON: Well, twelve. Well, we did. We were the main ones in that but they all of them had....

VIDA PATTERSON: I know, but twelve was your's.

PATTERSON: Yeah. We...we practically...rather our team was twelve. Well, we had done that and the...the house for...they didn't call it that [pauses]...prostitutes really out there on the...on the Concord Road. We'd go out there and to the county home and then we'd find places that...that were vacant and we'd just go in and ask if we could use it and we'd hold a meeting in there. We held...held one meeting right down in the center of town. There was a store that was vacant. We got the use of that. And out of that grew the rescue mission. And....

ERICKSEN: How would your team run the meeting?

PATTERSON: Well, we'd just go in there...

VIDA PATTERSON: Like a church [unclear]....

PATTERSON: ...and...and of them would take the lead and they'd give testimonies and they'd read their Bible and give a gospel message and...and ask the people to accept Christ. And we...we just did that all over the city. We were the only...well, the churches...none of the churches that I know of had any real out...outreach meet...meeting those days. That was the early Depression, the early 30s, you see. And this...but we...we went out...everyplace we could...the neediest place in the city is what we picked out. We'd find a vacant building down in the rundown section of the city. We'd take hold of it [laughs] and send a team down there and hold Sunday meetings. And then we'd have our whole team...whole club meet on Friday nights at the YMCA. And Edgar Fahr, the sec...the vice president would give out the assignments to these twelve teams.


PATTERSON: And we went in the...the neediest places we could find.

ERICKSEN: Now when was all this taking place?

PATTERSON: In the early...all through the 30s.

ERICKSEN: Okay. So this was even taking even place before the Ham Campaign?

PATTERSON: Yes. Before that...that was....

ERICKSEN: Up until...?

PATTERSON: That group...that was the major...just our group was the real group that really brought Ham here. The par...the meta...the...the...the Ministerial Association...

ERICKSEN: Yeah, I...I....

PATTERSON: ...was hot against us. So was...


PATTERSON: ...the was the city council and so was the...the news.

ERICKSEN: I remember you talking about that in one of the other interviews.

PATTERSON: Well, you see...

ERICKSEN: What about...?

PATTERSON: ...every Sunday we'd...we'd...every Friday we'd had our meeting of the Club and get...and Edgar Fahr would give out the assignments. And they'd vary them from...from week to week. So sometimes we'd go to the jail...jail...jail, sometimes to the...this women's place out on the road there.

ERICKSEN: But everything was covered?

PATTERSON: Yeah. I remember one funny story. One of of our leaders was head of the county...the county farm...the county home out there where...for the indigent people. We were...we had...we had a meeting in the jail every week. And I was there one Sunday and he...he had the assignment to take that meeting that Sunday but I...I was there with him and he came in late. We had already gone in and were in there and that sort of started the meeting a little. He came in late, rushed in and he said, [huffing sounds by Patterson] "Well, I'm glad to see so many of you here today." [laughs] And not one of our committees [unclear] without a man in that. Said he didn't know how to make up a speech, but he...what he did was he listened carefully to his...sermon his pastor preached and he'd go and try to give that to an assignment. We did that just for...practiced it. We had here spread to the other cities. Well, you had a....

VIDA PATTERSON: Lakeland and all those lakes.

PATTERSON: Alright. We [pauses]...he...he...he decided that he didn't know how to give a ser...ser...speech so he would just try to repeat what the preacher, his pastor preached on when he took...took his assignments. So the pastor preached that morning on tithing. And he had his assignment at the county home, [laughs] so he went out there and preached on tithing. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: these evangelistic meetings, was there any sort of follow-up that you provided for people who made some sort of decision?

PATTERSON: Well, we organized a t...a...a team and left them there. A team...a lay...a laymen group there to carry on.


PATTERSON: And I told you about Jimmie [Johnson] bringing in this man he said could play a trombone.

VIDA PATTERSON: But that's a team looks after their own. [?]

PATTERSON: Well, we...we moved from...well, after the Ham-Ramsey meeting I was elected state chairman so I...I said we best put on a statewide campaign. Then we built that tabernacle.

ERICKSEN: Yeah, we talked about that.

PATTERSON: Well, that inspired Statesville [North Carolina] up there to build a tabernacle too. And then some men from South Carolina came up and wanted to buy ours. And I believe, well, they built one down in Anson [County, North Carolina?]. Well, I don't know...say it out loud, Vida.

VIDA PATTERSON: I don't like to because I interrupt you, but you've got some very important meetings in Lakeland and we're just about....

PATTERSON: Well, I've told him about that just....

ERICKSEN: There are some other things I'd like to ask about.

PATTERSON: I...I've told him about the Lakeland meeting.

ERICKSEN: Were the...we were just talking about follow-up for the Ham Campaign. The Evangelical Bible League was formed to work on follow-up and you were part of that, I understand.

VIDA PATTERSON: You organized it.

ERICKSEN: organized the...the Bible League.

VIDA PATTERSON: Uh-hmm, he organized that.

PATTERSON: Bible League.

VIDA PATTERSON: You organized it, honey.

PATTERSON: Now let me....

VIDA PATTERSON: Evangelical League. You organized it.

PATTERSON: Oh...oh...oh. I know what you're...

ERICKSEN: Can you tell me about that?

PATTERSON: ...I know what you're talking about. No, we got together and we were having meetings all over town. And we'd go to neediest places that we could find nearly. Well, what we did there was this. We drew have the papers up there {BGC Archives in Wheaton, IL] in your file now. We drew up with the two...two pastors were working with us, both of them very strong conservatives. And we'd drew up a doctrinal statement. have the copies. I've sent them up there. A doctrinal statement, Evangelical Bible League. And we got...we would give those out in the meetings that we had George Stevens as the evangelist coming...


PATTERSON: ...and...and then...then others.

VIDA PATTERSON: Dr. Buswell [James Oliver Buswell, president of Wheaton College] and Woodbridge.

PATTERSON: Yeah, we had Buswell...and we'd have Buswell there...down here and Woodbridge and Gaebelein [Arno?] and [pauses]...oh, many of the Bob Jones' boys, Bob...Tom...Brown and, you know, several of them. And then we...we did was moved all over the state. And we went on from Fayetteville....

VIDA PATTERSON: No, we didn't, Dad. You stayed here. It was a[unclear]....

PATTERSON: Vida, I'm, I've been tell him about the...the meetings over the state, moving that tabernacle. We moved it from Albemarle....

VIDA PATTERSON: I know, honey, but we had had that Evangelical League and it was just here [unclear]....

PATTERSON: [Vida Patterson speaking in the background] Well, this Evangelical League that we wanted was trying to get the people to get a sound doctrinal...


PATTERSON: ...grounding.

VIDA PATTERSON: And teaching.

PATTERSON: And we as a team, we drew up a...a doctrinal statement and got about twenty-five hundred people to sign it the various meetings we had.


ERICKSEN: So that was used for follow-up?

PATTERSON: Yes, yes, have copies of that up there.

ERICKSEN: Now, if I'm...I'm curious why did you form the Evangelical Bible League when there was already the Evangelistic Men's Club.

PATTERSON: Well, this was...

VIDA PATTERSON: This was teaching.

PATTERSON: ...this was for those who made...

VIDA PATTERON: Confession.

PATTERSON: ...for new converts and...and those who made decisions in our meetings.


VIDA PATTERSON: It was teaching.

ERICKSEN: So they would join the Bible League?



PATTERSON: In other words we wanted them to have a straight sound, knowledge of the Bible. So we..we drew that up and put it on card form and got them to sign it and keep it, of course.

ERICKSEN: And was there any...were there any teaching sessions that went along with that.

VIDA PATTERSON: Well, that's what it was.

PATTERSON: Well, that was what we did.

VIDA PATTERSON: You had all the [unclear]....

PATTERSON: We brought the preachers and all did that. [simultaneously with Ericksen's next statement]

ERICKSEN: You brought the Bible teachers then. I see.

PATTERSON: Well,, you asked about that. Yes, there was. Billy Sunday left here in '24 not only the men's witnessing club but...who was...who was Billy Sunday's Bible teacher? Asher, Miss Asher's Bible Class.

ERICKSEN: You mean Virginia Asher?

PATTERSON: Virginia Asher. We left out the evangeli...the Virginia Asher Clubs for the ladies.

VIDA PATTERSON: And the Christian....

PATTERSON: And that lasted for forty years or so. Just like our...our...the other [tape ends abruptly]


Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 6/25/07
Expiration: indefinite

© 2016 Wheaton College. All rights reserved. This transcript may be reused with the following publication credit: Used by permission of the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.2005