February 15, 1871 - January 25, 1959
|Three score and four years ago, I, a green Kentucky boy, and my greenish country trunk barged into Vanderbilt University. But, as I entered the campus the scene was too much for me.
All those imposing buildings! Which one should I approach? It was mid-year; classes had already had one semester. I didn’t know a soul, teacher or student, in that whole posse comitatus!
Hadn’t I better go back home and return in the Fall, and get an even start at the beginning of the session? I was in the rigors of an acute attack of nostalgia—and didn’t know it!
Two God-sent events saved me: (1) Just as my taxi drove inside the grounds, behold! that venerable sage, Dean Tlllett, who knew everything, came driving out. Sighting that blazing trunk, the Dean read my open book! Stopping his machine (Wesley) he came over, introduced himself, gave me directions how to proceed, and made me feel that I, at least, could stay all night. (2) But, mirabile dictu, that second episode, how tremendously significant! I was assigned a room just across the hail from the princely ‘Henry Beach Carre’ and the lovable Nicolas E. Joyner. How much I owe to these two royal souls! How patient they were with me! Now they are both singing with the angels and I am still treading the lower pathway that slopes upward to God and them.
After all these years why do I remember Carre and Joyner more than some of those great professors? These two lifted my spirit; they inspired—even dared me! Many a time I have wrestled with the thought that it was not a quirk of Fate, nor a turn of the wheel of circumstance, but God who so ordered it that, although those two Louisiana men finished at V. U. before I did and our paths diverged, yet most of my mature life has been spent in their lovely Louisiana and In the Centenary College that nurtured them.
The early Joyner ancestors were in South Carolina of the “Game-cock” type. A branch of the family later migrated to Louisiana. It might be well to note that South Carolina furnished more men to gain our independence than all the other Colonies combined!
Brother Joyner’s immediate parents were ‘both Louisianans. Here, on February 15, 1871, near Pearl River, Nicolas E. Joyner, son of Calvin G. and Martha Tally Joyner, was born.
Those were tempestuous days. It was the Reconstruction Era. The very air seemed tainted with a spirit of resentment. Nothing seemed secure, the South was prostrate. Her schools• were almost paralyzed. Could a sensitive youth like Joyner have escaped that penetrative and persuasive atmosphere?
Since the city offered better opportunities for jobs and educational advantage for youth, the Joyners removed to New Orleans. Unfortunately, the father soon suffered an accident, which invalided him for years. Hence, it was necessary that the son seek employment to help support the family.
Fortunately, the great D. H. Holmes Company gave him a job and he made good with this famous store—remaining with them for six years, from 12 to 18. Meanwhile finishing high school with unusual honors.
Young Joyner had early sensed the call to preach. Hence, when only 18, but rather mature, he was licensed at Old Carondelet Street Methodist Church.
The Carre’ family, very prominent in Carondelet Church, had noted young Joyner’s potentialities and urged him to go to college—offering him financial aid in Centenary College. By their help he applied for admission into Centenary at Jackson, Louisiana.
In his entrance examination his high grades in math catapulted him into Centenary with honors! In college he was a natural, taking part in all extracurricular activities. Still living are some of his classmates, such as Dr. Jno. L. Scales, Sr., and Rev. S. L. Riggs, both of Shreveport, who testify to Joyner’s high principles and moral integrity.
While at Centenary he took great interest in athletics and was the quarterback on her first football team. Woe to any player who attempted a foul, or an official rendering any unfair decision! He knew no such thing as modifying truth or altering facts; and compromise was not In his nature, or vocabulary! This love of sports followed him throughout life, and to his last illness he read the sport page—but didn’t neglect his Greek Testament!
In 1893 he was graduated from Centenary with highest honors of his class. Until Conference he was sent to Lake Arthur as interim pastor. Then at Conference he was appointed to Natchitoches. At the following conference with the financial aid of the faithful Carre’s and the consent of his Presiding Elder he entered Vanderbile University. There he made a brilliant record excelling in both Greek and Hebrew. His Greek Testament was his other self, his vade mecum, and so remained to the end of his life!
In due course he was graduated from V. U. with the B. D. Degree in 1896.
Upon graduation the two devoted friends Carre’ and Joyner, like David and Jonathan had to separate. Carre’ was going to Europe for further graduate study. Again the faithful Carre’ f amily offered to finance Joyner’s going on to Europe with their son. It was a hard decision to make but Joyner felt that he should now be on his own. Thus the two loving comrades bade a cordial a,diew, one to go East and one West as Joyner decided to go as a Missionary to Mexico and Carre’ to study in Europe.
In Mexico Joyner was assigned to the American Congregation in Monterrey. After a hard year there, the heart-pull brought him back home to marry Miss Sarah Baker Austin, granddaughter of Prof. A. R. Holcombe of Centenary and grandniece of Bishop Keener.
Reinforced now with his charming bride, Bro. Joyner again invaded Mexico. Occasionally he ventured out into rural sections by horseback and stage. Bandits roaming wildly were so fierce that travelers by stage in buying tickets had to sign a statement relieving the company of any responsibility on the trip! On good authority I am told that on one of these daredevil trips he ran into a marauding band who evidently mistook him and planned to arrest and carry him off. Opening his baggage to identify himself, he saw and seized his American flag. Wrapping the flag around his breast, he dared them to molest him further!
Back in Louisiana again in 1903 the Joyners served first in Lake Charles and later in several other appointments. It was at this period that as a delegate to the General Conference of the former Methodist Episcopal Church South he introduced the Resolution giving women full equal laity rights in all Conferences and Boards of the Church. He led the debate on the floor of the Conference (and how he could debate! Witness the old literary societies in Centenary at Jackson!) The women won, the law was passed and exists today in the united Methodist Church.
In 1910 as he was preparing to go to Edinburgh as a delegate to the Ecumenical Missionary Conference, he was asked by our Women’s Board of Missions to establish an Institutional Church in New Orleans. En route to Scotland he visited several similar organizations here in our Eastern cities and later studied others In Edinburgh and London. Returned in 1911. he opened St. Marks Hall in New Orleans. And there he organized the first Boy Scout Troop in Louisiana.
After this Brother Joyner was appointed Executive Secretary of the Conference Board of Education. During these active days of his ministry he was offered, and declined, the presidency of our Church Colleges, Mansfield Female College, and Centenary College. Scholar, churchman and education-minded, still he felt his work lay in other fields.
(In 1926 it was my great joy to have a part in honoring him with the degree of D. D. at Centenary College!)
In 1913 at the request of the Board of Missions, Brother Joyner returned to Monterrey to preside over Laurens Institute. He found Mexico in the throes of a mighty revolution. Many times his life was endangered.
In 1916 he returned to his beloved Louisiana where he served as Presiding Elder, and as Conference Secretary of the Missionary Centennial, and as Pastor of various churches until his retirement in Minden where he has served as Pastor Emeritus of the First Methodist Church. Greatly beloved by the entire town, he has been a most welcome church visitor and personal counselor to many old and young.
Dr. R. Leonard Cooke, Vice President of Centenary College, and perhaps a native of ‘Minden, calls Dr. Joyner “The Patron Saint of Minden!” While Rev. Merlin W. Merrill, pastor of First Methodist Church of Minden, who kindly furnished me many of the dates and details here recorded, says of Dr. Joyner: “He was the elder statesman of his church, a friend of every pastor, and an advisor and friend to the many people who looked to him for spiritual counsel and help.”
Thus honored and beloved Dr. N. E. Joyner, who for almost seventy years had nobly served God and his church, in various capacities, “fell on sleep” in Minden, January 25th, 1959. Funeral was held in First Methodist Church there. Officiating were Dr. Geo. W. Pomeroy, Rev. Ira W. Flowers, and Rev. Merlin W. Merrill. Interment was in the Garden of Memory Cemetery.
He is survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters: Calvin Joyner, Washington, D. C., Dr. Austin Joyner, of New York, Miss Anna K. Joyner of Mlnden, Mrs. L. P. Dixon of Belcher, Mrs. C. B. Harp, of Marshall, Texas, and Miss Elvina Carre’ Joyner of Minden. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Servant of God, well done!
Rest from thy loved employ,
The battle’s fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Master’s joy!
|Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Church, Pages 210-213, 1959 by Dean R. E. Smith.|