FORT WORTH, Texas — William J. Reynolds, church musician, composer, arranger, editor, hymnologist and distinguished professor emeritus of church music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died March 28. He was 88.
Born April 2, 1920, in Atlantic, Iowa, Reynolds was the nephew of I.E. Reynolds, a pioneer in gospel music at Southwestern Seminary for 30 years. I.E. Reynolds established systematic training of church musicians at the seminary in 1915 and William J. Reynolds followed in his uncle's footsteps.
Among Reynolds’ hundreds of compositions and arrangements, most Southern Baptists would be familiar with “Share His Love” and “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”
“Dr. Reynolds has the wonderful reputation of being a complete and multifaceted church musician,” said Stephen P. Johnson, dean of the School of Church Music at Southwestern. “As composer, conductor, hymnologist, author, director of the church music department at the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) and teacher, he encouraged generations of church musicians in their creation and performance of quality church music. Because of his love for all aspects of church music in many styles, he was a beloved colleague of church musicians ranging from smaller rural churches to large congregations in the United States and beyond. His contribution to church music throughout the Southern Baptist Convention was scholarly, practical, inspiring and enduring.”
Reynolds composed more than 700 choral anthems, hymn tunes, children’s songs and other types of songs.
From 1946 to 1955, Reynolds was minister of music and youth at First Baptist Church of Ardmore, Okla., and later was minister of music at First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. For 25 years he served with the church music department of the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources). In 1980, he was appointed to the faculty of Southwestern Seminary as professor of church music, serving there until his retirement in 1998.
After retirement, Reynolds donated to Southwestern’s Bowld Music Library an extensive music collection containing more than 1,500 volumes of hymnody, including hymnals, biographies of hymn writers and histories of congregational hymn singing, focusing mostly on Southern Baptist life in the 19th and 20th centuries.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)