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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the first oral history interview of William John Barnett (CN 248, T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded are omitted. In a some cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case they put "[unclear]" in the place of the missing word or phrase. If the transcriber was not absolutely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted. Also, grunts, 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.
... 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 transcription was completed in November 2005 by Bob Shuster, Evan Kuehn and Brent Brollier.
Collection 248, T4. Interview of William John Barnett by Robert Shuster, May 30, 1995.
SHUSTER: ...the Archives of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. This interview took place [blank tape for a second] May 30th, 1995 at 10:00 AM at the home of Dr. Barnett's daughter in Peoria...son and daughter...son in Peoria, Illinois on...as I said, on May 30th, 1995. Dr. Barnett, last time we were talking you talked about being at Columbia University and then going on to Wheaton. Do you remember your first impression when you came onto the campus? What...?
BARNETT: Yes, I have [unclear] it was in 1937 that I came. I graduated from the Bible College that year and had pretty well come to the conclusion that I wanted to go into medical studies. I needed to get free medical training. My previous education, high school in Africa and now through Bible college had given me practically nothing in the way of sciences. So I had almost no preparation for...this is what I was in Wheaton for, basically. At the time when I came to Wheaton, that year Wheaton was celebrating the fact that it had its first thousand students. [Shuster laughs] That was....
SHUSTER: It's old history.
BARNETT: That was the old history. And Oliver Buswell was the president at Wheaton at the time when...when I started in there. [clears throat] [J. Oliver Buswell was president from 1926-1940]
SHUSTER: And you transferred in 1937, is that...?
BARNETT: 1937. I was a transfer student from Columbia [Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina]. I was quite surprised that Wheaton gave me as much credit as they did for my studies at Columbia. In fact, they gave me about...almost, almost three years credit for the work that I did there, while I would have needed a full year and a summer, if not a little bit more in order to graduate from Wheaton. But to take advantage of the credit they gave me, I majored in Bible in...at Wheaton and I had my degree in that. But I did graduate from Wheaton in two years.
SHUSTER: Hmm. But you were taking pre-med courses?
BARNETT: In 1939. And I started taking some of the pre-med work, which was basically courses in zoology and biology and botany and...and beginning of some chemistry and so on. But I still was lacking in several of the basic science courses that I needed to get, and so I continued on in Wheaton up through '41. Though I graduated in 1939, I kept on and completed my pre-med work in '41. So I actually went four years in Wheaton...
BARNETT: ...even though I had graduated in two years. And....[high pitched feedback from microphone]
SHUSTER: How did Wheaton compare with Columbia? What...how were they alike and how were they different?
BARNETT: Well, it was certainly a totally different curriculum. You get to Wheaton...I mean, I was basically at Bible studies and so on in...in Columbia, and all Bible-related studies. Columbia just started the year before its graduate school. And the first few students that came to the graduate school, several of them had come from Wheaton, Wheaton grads. Will Norton [Dr. G. H. Wilbert Norton, see BGC Archives Collection 567] was one of them. And that's where I first formed my fast friendship with Will Norton. (Let's see, he was in Columbia the year that I was a senior down there at Columbia). And Wheaton, well, it was a totally different thing here. You suddenly...you're having over a thousand students in...in a school. [clears throat] And that was two or three times what Columbia had at that time. I think Columbia, when I went there, was about two...between two and three hundred students there at that time. And you had a lot more secular studies and so on at...at Wheaton, which you didn't even hear about in Columbia.
SHUSTER: Such as?
BARNETT: Well...[laughs] For one thing, you get into a music department, for instance. You know, with all the music majors that they had. And you had such things as the...as the (what do you call it?) clubs that they had in those days....
SHUSTER: Literary clubs?
BARNETT: Literary clubs. I joined the Knights, the Naitermians. [clears throat] That was a totally new experience. And the...the whole concept of training in public speaking, getting up like that was a new thing for me, very interesting. But, of course, the sciences to me was a fascinating field which I hadn't even tasted before. And some of them were pretty difficult for me to do because starting in college not having even tasted chemistry in high school, and getting no sciences in Bible college at all, was something. And I...I had to form all the basic foundations in college for some of these studies, where they expected that you had already had some background for it [clears throat] in high school.
SHUSTER: As you say, you had no background in science at all. Why had you decided...why were you interested in being a doctor?
BARNETT: Well, I had...I had come to that conclusion through contacts years before. Probably, I think I mentioned once before in one of the...in previous interviews of the influence that my mother had on me in her medical work in Africa that she did and caring for the sick people and so on, what an impression it did make on me, just seeing her serving in that way. And ever since I was a kid I'd had a deep sort of a desire to...to do that sort of a thing if...if I could ever do it. I...I questioned whether I'd ever be able to get to that place of being a doctor. But the desire was always there. And I said before that I...I loved practical work. I got that probably from my dad, because my dad was a very practical man. And I loved to use my hands and work in that way, and it would have been very easy for me to have just drifted off into one of the trades and worked that way (auto mechanics or something like that I loved). But there was always that desire, to be a doctor and to serve in that way. I never did have a desire to use it as a living. The...for some reason or another, I never thought of medicine that way. It was.... If I was going to be a doctor, virtually from the beginning, before I ever went into medicine, it was...I want something with which I can better serve the Lord. That was my desire behind it. My motivation, really, behind it.
SHUSTER: When you came up to Wheaton from Columbia, of course, coming up from a small southern campus to a much larger Wheaton...northern campus, what was the social life, social atmosphere on campus like?
BARNETT: Well, there again [chuckles] it was definite...a difference than the.... You take athletics for one thing. I'd never been in an atmosphere where athletics had any part in the school. At....
SHUSTER: Not even at Rift Valley [Academy in Kenya]?
BARNETT: At Rift Valley it was...at that time...when I finished Rift Valley there were only about thirty...between thirty and thirty-five students in the school at that time. Our sports programs was kick-the-can and play some cricket, or something like that. And the games that we made up ourselves, mostly. At Columbia there was no sports program except intramural, we played intramural basketball and some baseball, and so on like that. But here you get to Wheaton and suddenly there's organized sports programs. And I think that if I had started in as a freshman in Wheaton, that I would have loved to go out and into some of the sports. I would have loved playing basketball or baseball, perhaps even football, but I never got into it. One thing that I did take when I was there was getting into wrestling class. And I thoroughly enjoyed the wrestling class, but I never had the opportunity, starting in as I did virtually as a senior in the school (because of being transferred), of getting into any of the organized sports, but I loved to get out and watch them, and to cheer, and that was a totally new thing. And the whole social program in the school, and the dating and so on that went on, that was something fairly...it was a new thing for me, coming from my background where you'd never heard of such things as dating and so on, out there on the field. We got a certain amount of it in...in Columbia, but it was something more prominent in...in Wheaton. I can remember one of the things that made a deep impression on me right from the beginning at Wheaton was the early special services that were held in the beginning of the school year, and so on. And I was there, that first year was when they had one of the Wheaton revivals that they spoke of, with (can't remember the name of the speaker now, who came...came from Washington, state of Washington...Seattle). And I can still remember, I was sitting up in the balcony of the...of the, what was then the auditorium.
SHUSTER: Pierce Chapel?
BARNETT: Pierce Chapel, that was the auditorium. And because of my name, "B", I was way up in the balcony, up in the front row I could look down on the platform [coughs] and see them, and the speaker hadn't even given the first message. He was on the platform with Dr. Buswell when...it was just spontaneous, like a spontaneous match that had been lit in that place that evening, and students began to stand and to give their testimonies. And to...before long it was a...people were in tears. They were confessing their...their need for the Lord and...and their wrongdoings. And people were...had their arms around each other asking for forgiveness for things that had gone on. And it was just, on and on and on. It went on all night long.
SHUSTER: What kinds of things were people confessing?
BARNETT: Well, a lot of it was such things as lack of love, and lack of consideration for one another. And I can remember even matters, sins of pride, feeling that Wheaton was a better place than other places, you know. And...and then there was frank disregard of Wheaton's code and....
SHUSTER: The code of conduct?
BARNETT: The code of conduct. And rules of conduct in the school, and...and cheating, and so on in...in the classrooms. And it...it was just...it wasn't any put on thing, that's one thing. You could tell very soon that it was a genuine working of the Spirit of God. And it went on, and not only among the students, but among the faculty.
SHUSTER: They were confessing as well?
BARNETT: The faculty was standing up to confess their lack of real concern and love for the Lord, and...and doing just a job instead of a heart service for the Lord, and so on. And it certainly made a very deep impression on all of us, I'm sure, to see.... Wheaton at that time, you may recollect, was going through a...a transition period in its history. There were some difficult things going on. It was all a new thing to me. I was coming into it. I never realized that there were these sort of conflicts going on within the Christian community, and the different Christian churches and denominations, and so on. At that time, the Presbyterian Church was in the process of splitting up into many of its factions, and besides, Westminster came into being out there in...in the East. The seminary.
SHUSTER: Westminster Seminary?
BARNETT: Seminary. And it came in through these differences and conflicts that were going on within the denomination. And Buswell was a very strong voice in the Presbyterian Church. And that was, to me personally, a meaningless thing, because I didn't know anything about these conflicts going on. But they affected the entire campus.
SHUSTER: How did that affect the entire campus?
BARNETT: It affected you...you had at that time a lot of intellectuals developing in Wheaton. And these young fellows, their voices, were standing up and they were arguing too. And....
SHUSTER: Arguing with Buswell, or....
BARNETT: Well, arguing not only with Buswell, but among themselves. There was real arguing going on. And these...they got pretty hot, some of these conflicts that were going on. And there was...that was the atmosphere that was on the campus when I started there in 1937. [child in background]
SHUSTER: So the atmosphere was tense?
BARNETT: It was tense. Yes. It was tense. It was an atmosphere which eventually led to the...to the displacement (let's say) of Oliver Buswell from the campus, from the College, and the coming in of...of Dr...[snaps fingers]
BARNETT: Edman, yes as the President. [V. Raymond Edman was president from 1940-1965.] And it was...it was a very interesting thing, really to be almost on the sidelines. I was...I never got involved in those discussions that were going on, but I was an interested observer, and it was an education for me, to see that...that sort of a conflict was going on within the Christian church, and in the Christian campuses, in the schools, in the Christian schools and so on. And Wheaton played a very important part at that time, in it.
SHUSTER: You had not seen conflicts such as this among missionaries in Africa?
BARNETT: I had never seen it. No. I had never seen it on the field. I'm sure that there were those conflicts. I can remember as a boy seeing my dad talking, discussing biblical subjects and so on, and I'm sure that some of these were...were doctrinal type of subjects, where there may have been differences of interpretation and so on. It wasn't years later that I began to realize that there must have been differences in ideas, especially when you came down to an interdenominational mission that had personnel drawn from all the different denominations. I can still remember one of my dad's jokes that would every now and then come up when they got on the subject of baptism and the difficulties because in the country like this with the primitive people to try and lay a proper biblical foundation for them, for a church out there. And then you talked up on one side and not far from this one mission group, the Friends [Society of Friends or Quakers] people and one of the other mission groups and one of them taught "big bath," as he said. Another one taught "little bath," and this is the way the people would describe it, "little bath", and over here is the other one, "No bath at all".
SHUSTER: Baptism, basically.
BARNETT: Yes, talking about baptism. [chuckles] So these things were definitely a problem on the mission field. And it wasn't until...until years later I realized how problematic some of these things could be, and real conflicts. And the mission itself had to take, eventually, a real stand, for instance, on the charismatic movement and how far they were going to allow the charismatic movement to develop within the AIM. Because there were other groups, of course. The Pentecostals were a growing denomination out there in the work and yet it had brought many dissensions and conflicts, apparently, within the mission that I wasn't really aware of as a boy growing up out there. But later on as I became a missionary out there and worked in Tanzania, as our first mission, suddenly I became aware that there were groups within the mission. And there was one group particularly right on our own station that were having their own little meetings and the others were virtually excluded from the meetings and it...it came down to the point that unless you had a certain special experience that you really had not been baptized by the Holy Spirit. And these conflicts were there.
SHUSTER: Looking at the conflict at Wheaton that you mentioned about doctrine, particularly among Presbyterians. Was there a connection...influence between this conflict and the revival?
BARNETT: Yes, definitely.
SHUSTER: What do you think that connection was?
BARNETT: I think that there...a bunch of what came out in the confessions and so on that we heard from the floor were wrapped around these fact that people obviously were actually angry with each other, and there was that feeling, an attitude that would come and people had to make those things right with each other to get on to a proper relationship with the Lord, they felt, in that. And that, of course, as far as the problems connected with the...with the churches, and so on, that concern, that went on to its conclusion. I know the board...[chuckles], the Wheaton board [of trustees] must have had a real tough time at that time, coming to the decisions that they did, the difficult ones. And, of course, Dr. Buswell went on to become one of the strong leaders within the...the Westminster group, and so on, in the [Presbyterian] church. But the Lord had prepared the College [child talking in the background] for the coming, let's say, of Dr. Edman.
SHUSTER: You mean [unclear]....
BARNETT: The Lord.... Yes, the...I mean, Dr. Edman was...was indeed a godly man. He was very different from Dr. Buswell. Both of them loved the Lord deeply, but their personalities were very different. And [pauses] Dr. Edman, I'm sure, had been prepared for [sic] the Spirit of God to come in at the time when he did because Wheaton needed a man of his sort to come in. He was a salve to the hurts at Wheaton at that time, a real...a healing...a healing man.
SHUSTER: This continued after the revival?
BARNETT: Yes, yes, and it carried on.
SHUSTER: How many...how many days did the meetings last?
BARNETT: I don't remember exactly but I think there were three or four days that it just went on.
SHUSTER: And you were...?
BARNETT: And the...the classes were on a very limited basis, they'd cut the classes...the...the hours way down short. And they weren't excluded at all, the classes, but they did cut them short and people were...the meetings went on most of the night and then started again the following night or evening.
SHUSTER: Did you go to all of the meetings?
BARNETT: Practically all of them. I didn't sit...stay through them all, no, but I was there and....
SHUSTER: Were there...was there...we talked about the confessions and the praying that went on. Was there music as well?
BARNETT: Yes, there was. There was a lot of music that went on, and that made a big impression on me too, because Wheaton was known for its music and I loved music, but I'd never seen it or heard it the way it was there. I was active in the...in the quartet at Columbia Bible College and we traveled around as a quartet singing. But at the...the music that I heard at...at Wheaton, for me, was out of this world. I just loved it. I...I tried out for the Men's Glee Club [laughs] when I came to Wheaton first, but theagain, there was...I was coming in as a senior and trying out for the...for the Glee Club, and I can say I never...there...I was...there was a lot of competition. I was a bass, and there were a lot of others that were basses that were trying out for it too, but...and then.... I think [H.W.] Nordin was the director of the Men's Glee Club at the time, and he...he left that you'd have to get in there and sing a solo in front of the entire Glee Club, and they were the judges [laughs], not Nordin, for purposes of.... So, you talk about critics, they were critical all right, and you just made the least little mistake and you're...and you're...in your singing and the whole crowd of them were down on you. [laughs] Anyway, [laughs] I failed to get in...[laughs] I failed to get into the Men's Glee Club at that time.
SHUSTER: What was music like during the revival? Was it just spontaneous singing or was it...?
BARNETT: A lot of it was spontaneous singing, but some of it also was by these...these...I remember the...there were two or three of the singing groups and quartets and so on that joined in and took part in...in the singing during the meetings and so on, and Bob Savage, Jim and Bob Savage, Robert Carlton Savage, class of 1938 and James A. Savage, class of 1939 [for Robert Savage, see BGC Archives Collection 250], really made a tremendous effect on me 'cause they were the ones that were the musicians and the singing, the leading of the singing at the time, and one of them was a...the trombone player, and I'd never heard a trombone played like that before. It was really something, and it was just spontaneous and these fellows really loved the Lord. You could just see it coming out of them in their music...singing, and...and the...the quartets were great and I loved to hear that, the...the singing, the music, and the...the different groups, the Women's Glee Club was great, you know, but.... Yeah, music came on spontaneously.
SHUSTER: What kind of things were people singing spontaneously?
BARNETT: Well, it was certainly none of the today's music. It was...it was all of the old time hymns that the...the.... It...it was just beautiful. It was wonderful [chuckles], like in the.... This was...this had nothing to do with the...with the revival period in song, but as time went on the...the...the singing, congregational singing during chapel hour and so on, was great too and the...the way the students joined in in congregational singing, it...it'd just about take your breath away, but one of the greatest hymns that they would cut loose on the longest was Wonderful Grace of Jesus and that got to be a...a bit of a showpiece after a while, the...the students did so wonderfully on Wonderful Grace of Jesus that it got to the place where it looked like every time a special speaker was there on the platform to give a...a message, Buswell would...would call for this [laughs]...this hymn to be sung, Wonderful Grace of Jesus, and finally the...the rather snide statement began to be going around quietly on the...on the...on the campus that if there was a...a special speaker who was a potential supporter for the college, we would be singing Wonderful Grace of Jesus. [laughs]
SHUSTER: Let me ask you, did the revival that you saw at Wheaton have an effect on you personally?
BARNETT: Yes, it did. It did. It...it did a great deal to strengthen my own resolve in terms of service for the Lord. Even after I got to Wheaton, I was not totally settled in the matter of going on to medical school, not because I didn't want to go, but that I...I wasn't sure that...that I could make it. I was not more than an average student and I kept hearing what a difficult thing it was to get into medical school unless you were a top grade student and able to keep up with that. So, it took a lot of...of real thinking through in my own heart of what my motivations were in wanting to go on into medical studies and what I was going to do with it. And that period did. It helped me a lot in terms of coming to a conclusion that what I needed was something of this sort to really serve the Lord with. I'm not a preacher, though I often would've loved to be a preacher, but I was not that kind of a person, but it...it...it came down to the point that I...I really believed that the best instrument I could have to serve the Lord with would be medicine, and that helped clinch it for me at that time, and really as I went on through...through Wheaton it was no question in my heart that this was what He had for me. I had to struggle with chemistry particularly and getting sufficient with that to the point where I felt I could really get into medical school. I took physics also at the time. I think I made a mistake in taking physics during summer school, and, boy, that was...that was a real jam session for me getting through physics in summer school, but we got through that. Paul Wright was teacher in that and he was great. We loved Paul Wright. [Paul McCoy Wright]
SHUSTER: Did you...(going back to the revival) were there any negative results from it on campus or any criticisms of it on campus?
BARNETT: I don't recall really that there were any negative results and in the.... You got the inevitable from certain individuals, criticisms and so on to the fact that this was just a...a built up, put on sort of thing, you know, but I've heard that many times relative to any real working of the Lord in people's hearts, "Is it genuine or isn't it genuine," you know, but other than that I don't recall anything relative to that.
SHUSTER: You said that it became clear very early that this was an authentic moving of the Spirit. How did it become clear to you?
BARNETT: Well, just seeing the way it went on, and then seeing the way lives obviously were changed. You could see many of them that...that it made a big difference in their living. The atmosphere and attitude on the campus changed, and there was just a real sense of closeness, walk with the Lord. I can remember the attitudes within the footb...in the athletic teams we saw. The winning of the game wasn't the most important thing anymore. It was the way in which it was won, the way in which they played, [child talking in the background] and their attitudes in the...towards the opposing teams. You could see that in the...in the teams that were there.
SHUSTER: If you had to describe in just a couple sentences or in a nutshell what happened during the revival, how would you describe it?
BARNETT: Well, spontaneity was probably one of the most impressive things, you see, that just did not...there was nobody out there working it up at all. Nobody on the platform that was doing that. They were leading very quietly. The leaders were there and...and keeping a hand on it, but not in any sense building up any sort of a...an atmosphere, attitude or.... And this was very evident to me that it was an inner working of the Spirit of God that was there and changed lives. There was no question of that. And out from that group of Wheaton.... You know, when you went there first...my first contact ever with Wheaton College was early in 1937 when I was a senior at Columbia Bible College, and we had organized what was then known as Student Foreign Missions Fellowship. We organized it at Columbia Bible College, and then a group of us felt that it was right that we should go and visit other schools [child talking in the background] and just tell them what had happened relative to this step of faith in furthering the movement for missions, and Wheaton was one of the places where we came to. That year there was a group, I think, five of us, and we were singing in a quartet. [pauses] And there was...I think that we would have to say that impressed us was the relative coolness at that time to our presentation (our group spoke in the chapel at Wheaton), but there was no great [pauses]...
BARNETT: ...enthusiasm over it, and we were really wondering a little bit about Wheaton at the time.
BARNETT: I can remember that. And then we started at Wheaton and I was put in as the first leader of the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship at Wheaton. They did accept it and started the organization growing, and we were...were seeking to get it going at that time. Bob Evans [Robert P. Evans, class of 1939, later founder of Greater Europe Mission] was one of the main ones that was a supporter of it, behind it and so on. But after this revival, the group that began to come out to the Foreign Missions Fellowship meetings, we saw, was...increased, many more that came, and the enthusiasm for service for the Lord and getting out into the...the various functions, into Chicago missions, and so on that went on was greatly increased. And I...I know that in those...out from that group of students came some of the big leaders that went out into the Lord's service in mission fields around the world.
SHUSTER: Such as?
BARNETT: Well, Will Norton, for instance, but he had, of course, had been at Wheaton and was down there, but Will Norton was one of the ones who came in our group back to Wheaton to introduce Foreign Missions Fellowship to...to Wheaton again. Ken Hood [Kenneth G. Hood, class of 1936, later a leader in Latin America Mission] was another one of them, and.... Many of them I can't remember their names now, but there were very definite names that were there and many are of your big names in...in...Christian work. Of course, Billy Graham was there at the time when I was there, he didn't come in in '37, but I...Billy started, I guess in '40...
BARNETT: ...'41, I think that he was there, but there was.... The Lord had just worked after there had been a second revival in Wheaton while I was still there...
SHUSTER: In '43?
BARNETT: Yeah, later on there. I had been in and out from Wheaton, and I had been aware of that too. But I can remember the...the church of the Tabernacle, what they called the Tabernacle in those days, in which, I believe, Dr. Edman was the first organizer and speaker in the Tabernacle, which was...was an informal get together in one of.... Was it the...? I'm trying to remember the club...building that...one of the civic clubs in the town.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. The....I think the Masonic Lodge.
BARNETT: Yes, I think it was. Still there.
SHUSTER: It's still standing. It's still...
BARNETT: And that's where the first meetings of the...the Tabernacle met, and Dr. Edman was the...was the one who spoke in it and that was our first contact with him, and...and we used to attend the Tabernacle services there.
SHUSTER: What part did Dr. Buswell play in the revival?
BARNETT: He was very...very close to it, I can remember. I mean, he was on the platform when it started in. He didn't interfere with it. He recognized it for what it was. I mean, he could have easily put a stop to it right then, but he didn't, and he was the one that...that sensed what was the work of the Lord going on and he allowed it to keep on going spontaneously the hours that it did. He was the one that...that called for shorter class periods, so on during the daytime. And as I recollect the...the faculty itself under Buswell's leadership was getting together for special prayer times during this period of revival too and he was definitely playing a part in it.
SHUSTER: Did you have much contact with Dr. Buswell while you were a student on campus?
BARNETT: No, not personally, no. I don't recall...recall ever having a personal conversation with Dr. Buswell, which was very different from Dr. Edman. I had frequent contact with Dr. Edman and times when I would go to speak to him, and [child talking in the background], of course, he was...came from a missionary background and...and understood us missionary kids very well too, and I used to cut Dr. Edman's hair every now and then. I was doing student barbering. Anyway, that...that's...that's recollections of Wheaton, our time there, and....
SHUSTER: How would the campus...you mentioned before how Dr. Buswell had been replaced with Dr. Edman. What was the response of campus, or how did that change...affect campus?
BARNETT: Well, as...as I recall there was a very calming effect on the campus. [Tape recorder turned off and on again to flip audio cassette.]
SHUSTER: You were talking about the calming effect that the change from Dr. Buswell to Dr. Edman had on campus?
BARNETT: Yes, and that's the impression that I had was that you just didn't hear as many of these conflicting debates going on as were. I mean, [chuckles] you...these debates were going on all the time. Within the dormitories, within the...the homes where students were housed, and so on and I was, by then, quite close to the Lane family where I...I found my wife in the Lane home, but I think you're aware that the Lane home was an open home for many Wheaton students, and there were always a bunch of Wheaton students in that home, and I was very much aware of the...of the arguments and debates and so on that were going on between the students.
SHUSTER: What exactly were the arguments about, what would they...?
BARNETT: Well, a lot of them were on doctrinal issues, you know, and....
SHUSTER: Such as?
BARNETT: Arminians versus Calvinism, and so on. My goodness, could they get hot on that subject. [laughs] To...[child crying in the background] [unclear] Of course, that was one of the main things that was on campus at that whole time. Calvinism was the big thing with the Presbyterian church, and so it...it came out, [child crying in background] and these were...were all hot issues that were going on. It was...they were deep into doctrinal statements...one of my main roommate...or in the suite in which I stayed was Ed Dalglish [Class of 1941], who was a very strong Baptist, and he was a theologian, and we were getting into all sorts of...of discussions with him [laughs] all the time. Our main problem with him was...was trying to keep him calm enough to that [laughs] he.... But, it was...it was very interesting. It...it got to the place, I know, at the Lanes' table, on [?] these things that come out so often that finally Mrs. Lane put her foot down and wouldn't...wouldn't allow any of this [laughs] discussions that go on during the meal at all. [unclear]
SHUSTER: How...how did Dr. Edman bring a calming influence? How did he manage to stifle some of this discussion or tone down the discussion?
BARNETT: You know, I never heard Dr. Edman get into any of the argumentative side of the Scriptures, the Bible in these various discussions that were so on.... All I can remember of Dr. Edman was the quiet way in which he came to chapel and stood up quietly and brought his messages, and his messages always pointed to the Lord. They always pointed to the Lord Jesus. It wasn't involved in arguments. It was simply to the person of the Lord and what the Lord said, and when Dr. Edman got up there to speak, that's what you saw. And you couldn't help but be drawn closer to the Lord when he got up there and spoke. And it was a quietness. You went out of those chapels feeling that you had met the Lord during that chapel time.
SHUSTER: You mention that you had frequent contact with him. How would you describe him as a man? What kind of words come to mind when you think of him?
BARNETT: No question of what he believed. You never had any doubts that his faith was sound, was a reality to him, and I never heard him raise his voice. He was a...he was a...a person's person. He loved the students. He was at most of the competitive games. He was there. He not only was there but he was cheering for Wheaton.
SHUSTER: Did he attend your wrestling matches?
BARNETT: Yes, you'd see him at the wrestling matches, the basketball games, football games, he was there, and he knew the students by name, and he would always take time out to stop and greet the students, and frequently he knew about the students. He...many of them, he knew their...their backgrounds and their...frequently their own personal interests and...and problems, and he was there with them, and these are things that I remember about Dr. Edman and his deep love for the Lord that was there and his...he...he was a real leader.
SHUSTER: How did he show that leadership?
BARNETT: Well, much by what I've just said, his interest in individuals and his capability of bringing people together and holding them together. And [pauses] sensed any vacillation with him in what he believed...what he was going for. No back and forth. You knew where he stood, and he was fair in his dealings with people. Students would go to him with their individual problems, their needs. He never put them down no matter how small those problems were or how great. He was there with them and became part of the problem with that student, and many of them would normally be disciplinary problems that he would have, but he used it as an opportunity to just build the student up and to bring them closer to the Lord instead of disciplining. And I saw that numbers of times. Well, he was...he was a man who loved the Lord [child talking in the background]. It was great.
SHUSTER: What...were there other members of the faculty who had a significant influence on you in your time at Wheaton?
BARNETT: As teachers, yes. Yes. I remember Dr. Mack [Clinton O. Mack]. He was.... And Dr. Higley [Louis A. Higley].
SHUSTER: What did they teach?
BARNETT: Mack was in Zoology, and this was perhaps...my first touch with science was taking the course in Zoology with him. Dr. Higley was head of...of.... He.... [sighs] I can't think of the science even.
BARNETT: Not Biology, but the...the stone formations....
BARNETT: Geology. He was the Geology Department, and this was my first real touch with evolution. I mean, all my previous mentions of evolution in Bible college and so on was simply that...a false doctrine, false teachings, but he was my first touch with evolution in which the arguments of the evolutionists were being brought out, and I have to say that I went through real questions in my mind at that time as to whether evolution was really a true thing or not, and I.... But here again was a man who...who wasn't afraid to present all the evolutionist's side of it, but then knew the Word of God well enough that he was able to present what the Word of God said too on the thing.
SHUSTER: And this was Dr. Higley?
BARNETT: Dr. Higley, and he was an old man, but men like that meant a great deal to me. Paul Wright in the Chemistry Department was a great influence too. Just the way they conducted their classes.
SHUSTER: How did they conduct their classes?
BARNETT: Well, number one, here's a pure science class, but they always started with prayer, and you...you learned right at the beginning that science had a beginning, that it had a...a.... Somebody who was responsible for having started that science. It wasn't just a developmental thing, evolutionary sort of a thing, but a....
SHUSTER: You mean that God had created it?
BARNETT: God had created it, and that was important to us, all of the students, and it kept our eye on Him, and these professors had a great deal to do in...in strengthening our...our resolve and our attitudes, feelings on it, so yeah, he was a.... There were several others that I could mention, with [unclear] among them that meant a lot to me.
SHUSTER: You mentioned too that you belonged to the...the Natermans, the Nattermans....
BARNETT: The Naitermians. The Knights. We call them that.
SHUSTER: The Naitermians, the Knights. The literary club. What was a typical meeting of...of that club like?
BARNETT: Well, you know these various literary clubs differed in their approaches and how they conducted their.... Some of them were far more social than others. The Knights were touted to be the debating group, and [chuckles] I don't know why I ever joined the Knights as the...as the first one except that I guess I....I felt that I needed to learn [laughs] in some of those lines because I sure didn't know anything about debating
SHUSTER: Did they live up to their reputation?
BARNETT: They did indeed. They did indeed, and I...I learned a great deal about...about debating and the pros and cons in of a subject. I just...sitting in their meetings and listening to them....
SHUSTER: What kind of things did they debate?
BARNETT: Oh, all the current political issues, the land, and the...they even got involved in some of the doctrinal issues. I can remember that. That was current, of course, as I said, on the campus at the time, but even some of the social issues, they would be debated. The.... I'm trying to remember who was the preacher at that time that talked about women preachers and bobbed hair and things of that sort, you know. You don't think about them today at all.
SHUSTER: People like William...?
BARNETT: But back in those days that was a major subject, whether a woman should be preaching, and how they looked, and how they kept themselves with their hair and...and the use of make-up and all this sort of thing. Those were major issues in the...your Christian society, and those things were...were debated. I can remember them and so on.
SHUSTER: I know that Carl Henry was also a member of the Knights about this time.
SHUSTER: Did you have much contact with him?
BARNETT: No. My contact with Carl Henry and people like that was sitting in awe. [Shuster laughs] And to me Carl Henry...it was amazing that he was a student. I mean, he [laughs] to me was a professor [unclear] and there were people like that that were on the campus, and I had a great deal of respect for him, listening to him.
SHUSTER: Why...what was it that made you stand in so much awe of him?
BARNETT: Well, I mean, he...his field of knowledge was already so great that you wondered whether he was taking it in or whether he was giving it out most of the time. You'd sit in this Ethics class...I can remember Carl Henry in the Ethics class. Buswell was...was the professor of the Ethics class. Carl Henry would be sitting up there in the...on the front row, and this was the biggest class in the college at the time. There were several hundred students that would be filling the...the big classroom up there in...in Blanchard Hall, and I had never sat in a class like that. I...the word "ethics" was a new word to me practically in that time, but Carl would...would be up there on the front row and he would engage Buswell in discussions [laughs] on something, you know, to the point that you wondered who was the professor. [Shuster and Barnett laugh] [unclear] No, he was a good man.
SHUSTER: You mentioned earlier a little about the Foreign Missions Fellowship and it getting started at Wheaton. I know that you were...(were you the first president or one of the first presidents?)
BARNETT: I can't...I think that I was actually the first one that.... I'm...I'm trying to remember whether...whether I was the one or whether it was Bob Evans that was in first. It was either he or I that ran it first, but we were standing together in it, I know.
SHUSTER: How did the Fellowship get started at Wheaton?
BARNETT: Well, as I said it started largely because...our group having come up from...from Columbia, and we'd spoken at the chapel that was before the school year was over in...in 1937, [clears throat] and that's why I think maybe it was Bob Evans who was the first one because I think they did go ahead after I...and before the school year was over...had actually instituted the...the Foreign Missions Fellowship officially into the...the...into the curriculum of the school, and Bob at that time, I guess, was a...was a junior or so at the time, and so, as I recall, when we got there the Foreign Missions Fellowship was actually having started having meetings, and....Friday evenings I believe it was that we had our SFMF meetings.
SHUSTER: What was the purpose of the Fellowship?
BARNETT: It was to stimulate missions and to keep people, the students, informed in missions, and we would bring in (as much as possible) missionary speakers for the meetings, and then the group would break up into prayer groups for the various mission fields of the world, and we met in those various little rooms, the practice rooms, in the basement of Pierce Chapel. That's where we met.
SHUSTER: Music practice rooms?
BARNETT: Uh-huh. That's right, for the various prayer groups, and it was... The Lord used it [unclear] ....
SHUSTER: Did...how many people came out to the meetings?
BARNETT: Well, I think that to begin with we had maybe forty, fifty, sixty students that were coming out. To begin with that was pretty good, and on special evenings when you'd have a special speaker coming in it that was..., you'd...you'd get good groups, maybe a couple of hundred more coming out for the...for the meetings.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that after revival membership...people coming out increased much more...
SHUSTER: So that was...so how many people would be coming out after the revival?
BARNETT: Well, the...the numbers, I think that there were up around in...in the neighborhood of a hundred or so that would come out to the meetings, but a lot of it too was not just in numbers. It was the...the deeper commitment that you were sensing in people, and people really were giving their lives to the Lord and...and it was said later you...you saw many who became missionaries, went out into the Lord's service after that revival time.
SHUSTER: How did you become president of the club?
BARNETT: By election, I think. As I recall, by election. Yeah.
SHUSTER: What kind of things did you have to do as president?
BARNETT: Mainly looking for your speakers, and organizing student leaders for the various prayer groups and so on that met. You had student leaders that were primarily interested in one particular mission field or another, one country. A number of them were missionaries' kids and so on who had come from different countries.
SHUSTER: Had you had leadership positions like this before this, or was this...?
BARNETT: Well, you know, I was probably the shyest kid that you'd ever seen coming out of...out of Africa. I was so shy that it hurt, literally, it would hurt to come before people and into a...into a school where strangers and so on were around. It was very, very difficult for me, but I knew that it was an area that had to be dealt with, taken care of, and it was at Columbia when finally I was there in my last two years. I was in their dormitory at Columbia and I was having a terrible time just even going to the meals and so on at the school and sitting at a table with people. I didn't know how to carry on a conversation, talk, or anything, but I finally asked the Lord, I said, "You'll have to just deal with this with me. I'm not sure what to do," and it was almost like a voice just said, "Well, when you go out in the morning at least smile at people and say 'good morning' to them." And I started doing that and suddenly my life just changed with that. I...I was amazed to see how people responded back to you when you just smiled at them and said a simple "good morning", and how it managed to start conversations going, and I suddenly discovered that there were a lot of other lonely people too that didn't quite know how to talk, and I was amazed because at the end of that school year (that was in my junior year) they were having the meeting of the...the student body, and (I didn't know what happened) suddenly they had elected me as president of the student body.
SHUSTER: Of the student body?
BARNETT: Of the student body at Columbia, Columbia Bible College. That was my final year in...in Columbia. So I never asked for it. In fact, I would have run as far as I could go. If I'd know that my name was ever going to come out of it I'd never have turned up at the meeting, but suddenly I was the...I was the president of the student body, and I had to [laughs] take charge of the...of the student meetings of the student body. I learned a little bit about how to carry on meetings and the rules of order and so on that had to be done. That was all important lessons to learn and so on. So in that sense I had begun to have some leadership and the background for it. That was the first time I'd ever had it, and then I got involved more and more in the singing groups, in quartet work, and I used to play trumpet at that time, [laughs] and that was always a...a big help to me. I enjoyed that.
SHUSTER: I know at Wheaton, too, you participated in the Gospel teams. What were they?
BARNETT: They were largely a singing group, and then we had going out in Gospel teams to the missions in street m...the rescue missions in Chicago, and speaking in various churches around Wheaton and the community there. So I had opportunities in that line too, but I found I couldn't get involved too much in extra curricular work if I was going to try to keep up with my studies, because I really had to spend time with studies.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that you were going to the Lane home and that's where you met Laura Lane...
SHUSTER: ...your future wife. How did you get to know each other?
BARNETT: [laughs] That's a story in itself. I...Howard Van Buren [Howard G. Van Buren, Class of 1941] was a young man I had met at Ben Litton, the conference grounds for the Bible college up in Asheville, North Carolina, and I had met him the summer before going to Wheaton. When I came to Wheaton, lo and behold, Howard was starting Wheaton the same time.
SHUSTER: As a freshman?
BARNETT: He was starting as a freshman. I was [laughs] a transfer at the exalted level of being a senior at Wheaton. I believe it w.... Anyway, he was the first one I really knew on Wheaton campus. So we spent a bit of time with each other, you know, and helping him, and fairly early on while we were there.... Let me say before this, during the...the...those revival meetings sitting up there in the balcony I could see everybody coming in through the door of the...Pierce Chapel there, and here this chapel was filled up with students, when in came this family. And they were very noticeable because there were seven kids that came trooping in, and they were from little kids on up to the oldest, who turned out to be a college freshman at Wheaton, and then the father and mother came in with them, and what was so distinguished about them was that all these kids (including the mother) were wearing these fancy colored vests with a dink [a small skull cap] on their head, that were all these colored, flowered vests and caps that were from Switzerland. They were Swiss clothes that they had on. So they stood out just like that right now. And four...four or five of these seven kids were all girls, very pretty girls, but that's what I saw, they came following in and sat down like...wondered who they were, you know. Then one day on a Saturday, Howard and I were together, and he...he said, "Where are you going for church tomorrow?" "Well, I'll probably go to the Tabernacle or something," you know and he said, "Well, would you like to go to...to this chapel meeting with me?" I said, "What's that?" I never heard of the chapel before, and he said, "Well, it's a meeting in a home. They get together for the breaking of bread," and I said, "Well, I never heard of it, but glad to go with you." So he was telling me about this big home it was in, and described it was nearby. In my walking around Wheaton, the only place I'd seen seem to fit the description was this home that was down near town on the side of this park down there., which I think today is still there but is being used as a museum or something down there near the park downtown. Well, I met Howard the next day and it turned out that wasn't the place at all but it was up on Scott Street. And here was this lovely home that covered half the block. I mean, it's yards were almost half that block. That home has since been torn down, but the distinctive in front of it was this copper beech tree. You may know about the copper beech that was there 'cause people come from all over the states to see that copper beech tree that was there, and the...the block now is occupied by that junior high school or so that's right across the street from [Wheaton] Bible Church.
SHUSTER: That's the junior high and there's also the Wheaton Public Library.
BARNETT: Uh-huh. That's on...there just across from Bible Church, and this turned out to be the home of the Lanes, who had just moved from Switzerland...from there...and.... So, Howard turned out to be a Brethren and I didn't know he was Brethren, Plymouth Brethren, and it turned out that the...the Lanes were Brethren also. They had become Brethren while in Wheaton...I mean, in Switzerland. The family were from...well, Washington, D.C., I guess you'd say, though they had originally been from Long Island, and then they had moved to Washington during the First World War, and Mr. Lane had been a...a statistician, one of the dollar-a-year men [men who left business to assist the government during the war at nominal salaries] during the war, [clears throat] and so they had lived in Wheaton...or in Washington. And interestingly they had...they had been Episcopalians (high, high church Episcopalian), and as such the parents didn't know very much of the Christian faith, but they had attended Montrose [Montrose Bible Conference in Pennsylvania] somehow or other (I can't remember how they got to Montrose), but they...they had a summer home near Montrose.
SHUSTER: And Montrose, Pennsylvania...
SHUSTER: ...was the site for a Bible Conference...
SHUSTER: ...started by R. A. Torrey.
BARNETT: And through that contact Mr. and Mrs. Lane were converted and came to know the Lord as their savior. And they were totally changed, and they had by then, I think, most of their family, kids. Laura was actually born in...in Washington, D.C. [unclear], and then there was illness and Mrs. Lane became quite ill, and the doctor advised that they get away from there...the environment, and so they went to Europe as a family, intending to stay for a year but they went to Switzerland and the result of their time in Switzerland was that they stayed on for seven years instead in Switzerland, and it was....