Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 15, 1960
NUMBER 19, PAGE 3-4,14b

W. Curtis Porter — A Biographical Sketch

Paul C. Keller, Paragould, Arkansas

William Curtis Porter, the second son of Benjamin and Laura Privett Porter, was born at Myrtle, Miss., on February 26, 1897. In 1898 the Porter family moved to Arkansas, moving first to the Mangrum community in eastern Craighead County. Later they moved near what was then Obear for three years. During this time, Curtis, at the age of four, attended his first term of school at Weiner.

From Obear the family returned to the Mangrum community and settled permanently. Eastern Craighead County was then largely unsettled and undeveloped. The land was fertile b u t clearing and cultivating it w a s hard work. Early in life Curtis learned to work hard, a trait which characterized him throughout life.

Religious feelings ran high in the area. Settlers coming from other states brought with them their religious convictions and prejudices. In the Mangrum community was a congregation of disciples. Here the Porters heard the pure gospel of Christ and obeyed it. At the age of fourteen, Curtis was baptized by Jesse T. Lashlee, in July of 1911.

His formal education was received in the public schools of Arkansas and one year was spent at old Monea College at Rector, Ark. Although his formal education was limited he was, by his own self-application, a well-educated man. He never quit studying, but was a diligent and systematic student as long as he lived.

Brother Porter married Miss Jessie Winstead in April of 1917, when he was twenty years of age, and for more than thirty-seven years they met the challenges of life together. She was a devoted Christian and was ever a source of help and encouragement to her beloved husband. No children were born of this union. A motherless niece, Melba Taylor, was reared and educated by the Porters. Death came for Jessie in January of 1955.

His Preaching

Brother Porter began his preaching career in 1914 at Mangrum, at the age of seventeen. For the next few years he was kept busy preaching at his home congregation and other places near his home. In 1923 he moved to Springfield, Mo., to work full time with the Johnson and Dale congregation. In the years that followed he worked with congregations in Wichita, Kan., Weatherford, Texas, Sacramento, Calif., and Tulsa, Okla., until 1942. From 1917 until his death he held several meetings per year, preaching in most of the states.

He was an able preacher. His lessons were always well prepared, logical and scriptural, and were forcefully delivered.

His Writing

Through the years brother Porter wrote for various religious papers. He contributed frequent articles to the Christian Worker, Firm Foundation, Bible Banner, Gospel Advocate and others. He was one of the original Associate Editors of the Gospel Guardian, serving in this capacity until his death. He wrote many poems which were published in various magazines and papers. He was the author of various tracts and booklets, including: "Divine Healing," "Dissolving A Few Baptist Aspirins," and "Ask Your Preacher."

His Debating

Perhaps the name of W. Curtis Porter is best known for his work on the polemic platform. Through the years he was recognized as one of the ablest defenders of the faith to be found anywhere. He engaged in his first debate when he was eighteen years old, meeting D. N. Jackson, Baptist, at the old Kentucky settlement (now Hancock), a few miles from his boyhood home. He acquitted himself well, and any uneasiness brethren felt because of his age and inexperience was quickly allayed. He proved to be master of the situation from first to last, and the brethren were elated with his able defense of the truth. In years to follow he met Jackson in six other debates, more times than he met any other man.

He participated in seventy-seven debates, meeting representative men of many different religious bodies on a great variety of subjects. He was truly outstanding as a debater. He was fair and courteous in his treatment of every opponent, but was methodical and unrelenting in exposing his errors. In a masterful way he unmasked sophistry and made an opponent's quibbles "backfire." He had the ability of mind to immediately detect the fallacy of an argument and the ability to expose the fallacy to the discomfort of its advocate and the chagrin of his supporters.

From various parts of the nation brethren called him to defend the truth against many false doctrines. They felt confident that W. Curtis Porter would do the job well. They were never disappointed. As a debater we have never heard his superior. His equal would be hard to find.

These oral debates are in book form: Porter-Tingley, Porter-Bogard, Porter-Waters, and Porter-Woods. Two written debates are in book form: Porter-Dugger and Porter-Myers.

Blood Malady

For the last eighteen years of his life brother Porter's work was greatly hampered by ill-health. In 1942 he was stricken with Polycythemia vera, a rare blood disease, usually fatal within two years. Being advised that his life expectancy would be from two to four years, he resigned his work with the Tenth and Rockford church, Tulsa, Okla., and moved back to his home area, Monette, Ark. He continued a busy schedule of preaching, writing and debating. The church at Monette was then small and owned no meeting house. He preached at Monette two Sundays per month. Through his efforts a good-sized congregation was built up and a building erected and paid for.

In the meantime his blood malady was gradually taking its toll. In 1944, when death seemed imminent, he learned of experimental treatments being given by a California doctor. While the nature of the treatment was then a secret, one of the men who helped develop atomic energy was using atomic isotopes to treat Polycythemia. Brother Porter was accepted for treatments and while these did not prove fully successful they did result in his life being prolonged for another sixteen years of service.

During these years he engaged in many significant debates, more than half his debates occurring during this period. He continued to preach at various places near his home and conducted several meetings each year. During the last few years of his life he preached for the Ninth and Hafford church, Rector, Ark., the Harrison Street church, Kennett, Mo., and the church at Caraway, Ark., near his boyhood home.

Brother Porter married Mrs. Mary McGowan, December 26, 1955. Mary, a devoted Christian and faithful wife, was a source of help and encouragement. Her devoted attention to him and her constant solicitude for his welfare contributed much to his happiness and usefulness to the very close of his life. Remembrance of these years of love, labor, sacrifice and accomplishment must be a source of satisfaction and comfort to sister Porter in these hours of bereavement and loneliness.

From 1942 to the close of his life brother Porter was hindered by a continuing series of physical difficulties. His blood malady weakened his resistance and made him a prey to many other physical disorders. He preached, debated and worked under great handicaps — worked when he was physically unable to do so, preached and debated under the stress of physical pain. Nevertheless, he always did his job well, and few knew of the handicaps under which he labored. Through it all he continued to be patient, uncomplaining and optimistic.

His Death

A short time before his death his blood malady reversed itself and he became a victim of acute leukemia. Frequent blood transfusions became necessary. He continued to work to the very end. His last meeting was with the Spring and Blaine church in St. Louis, May 8-15. Unable to complete the meeting, he was admitted to a hospital for blood transfusions. Somewhat strengthened, he returned home. During the latter part of June he entered the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, suffering with cellulitis and a sinus infection. Hemorrhaging of the sinus area and other parts of the body signaled that the end was near. He knew that a cerebral hemorrhage might occur at any time, and was unperturbed. On Monday night, July 4, he observed that such was occurring. He talked calmly with sister Porter about the approaching end, made known his wishes concerning those who were to conduct his funeral, the place for the funeral, etc. He was conscious through the night and slept early the next morning, after having been given a sedative. On the afternoon of July 5, at 2:15, the end came.

His Funeral

Funeral services were conducted July 7, at Monette, by Eugene Britnell, Edgar J. Dye, and Paul C. Keller. The church building at Monette was not large enough to accommodate the throng of neighbors and brethren from many places who gathered to pay a tribute of respect. Brethren from Caraway, where he had preached for many years and where he was appreciated and tenderly loved by all, served as active pall bearers. These were: Gordon Graddy, Oscar Williams, Ferrel Tucker, Lexa Johnson, James Frayser and Thurmond Miller. Honorary pall bearers were: W. K. Wallace, Joe Mclnturff, Franklin T. Puckett, H. S. Owens, James L. Gay, H. F. Sharp, Cleo Blue, Jesse Kelley and James L. Yopp. His body was laid to rest in the Monette Cemetery.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three brothers, Kyle of Black Oak, Ark., E. Lacy of Benton, III., and Reuben of Wilmington, Calif., and by several nieces and nephews.

His Influence

It. is not the purpose of this article to appraise the work and influence of W. Curtis Porter. Much could be said. We are not equal to the task. His memory is deserving of honor. His life of service merits the gratitude of brethren everywhere. Knowing that his life of purity, consecration and faithfulness has said more in its deeds than we can ever say in words, we close by calling to mind two utterances of David: "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?" "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph."