NASHVILLE, Tenn. — H. Franklin Paschall, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1966-68), died at his home April 10. He was 86.
Paschall served as pastor of First Baptist Church from 1956 until his retirement in 1983.
H. Franklin Paschall
Frank Lewis, current pastor at First Baptist, reflected on Paschall’s contributions to Southern Baptist life, both in the local church and at the state and national levels.
“He was a preacher’s preacher representing an era of pulpit ministry that was not dependent on the use of PowerPoint to hold the heart and imagination of the worshipper,” Lewis said. “As an orator, he was second to none. With a flair for the dramatic, Dr. Paschall commanded the sanctuary quoting scripture long ago hidden in his heart with effectiveness and poignancy. He was overwhelmed with the conviction that the gospel should be shared with holy urgency every time he stepped into the pulpit.”
Lewis also described Paschall as a “peacemaker.”
“He gave significant leadership to the issues of racial reconciliation during the tumultuous times associated with the Civil Rights movement. With a steady hand he guided First Baptist and the entire Southern Baptist Convention to understand that racial prejudice was incompatible with Christianity.”
Paschall led First Baptist to remain a downtown congregation while others moved to the suburbs, Lewis said.
“He sensed that to do otherwise was less than what the call of Christ demanded,” Lewis said.
Paschall was born in Hazel, Ky., but was reared in Puryear, Tenn. He graduated from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he earned his Ph.D. He also received honorary doctorates from Union and Nashville’s Belmont University.
“Franklin Paschall was a most influential Baptist leader and faithful preacher for a previous generation of Baptists,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “Those of us at Union University are certainly grateful for his love for his alma mater. His faithfulness and generosity to this university were demonstrated over and over again. We offer thanks to God for the life and ministry of Franklin Paschall.”
In addition to serving as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Paschall served as a trustee of the Baptist Sunday School Board, the SBC Executive Committee and the SBC’s Committee on Boards.
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said Paschall was a “faithful pastor, trusted denominational leader, and devoted husband and father” who “effectively served Kentucky Baptists, Tennessee Baptists and the broader Southern Baptist family for more than 65 years.”
Chapman noted that Paschall served the convention in a variety of roles and “gave specific and strategic guidance to Southern Baptists” during the 1960s.
“How fitting that a man who spent his adult life pointing men and women to the Cross was ushered into eternity on the very weekend we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord,” Chapman said. “… We join with all Southern Baptists both in expressing gratitude to God for a life well-lived in the service of our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and in offering our prayerful support for his daughters and their families.”
Paschall was active in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and was a member of its Executive Board while serving as pastor at Hazel Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., before returning to Tennessee in 1956.
He was president of the Nashville Baptist Association Pastors Conference and served on the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He was a former trustee of Baptist Hospital and Belmont University when both entities were part of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
James Porch, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, recalled how he first met Paschall following a worship service at First Baptist Church in 1962.
“As a pulpiteer he followed God’s calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Personally, through the years, I received the blessings of his friendship and encouragement in a Barnabas style and continued counsel over the years.”
Porch said the “Baptist family of Tennessee and beyond has lost a great Christian statesman. His path for Christ was well trod with a sense of direction and desire to be led of the Lord,” Porch said.
His wife, Olga, died in 1994. He is survived by two daughters: Sandra Kay Paschall of Nashville and Palma Paschall Freeman of Dallas, Texas.
Visitation was at First Baptist in Nashville Monday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and continues today at 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). The funeral will take place at 3 p.m. today at the church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilkey is editor of The Baptist & Reflector, representing the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)