June 1900 - April 11, 1978
|The word came early Tuesday morning April 11, 1978 of the peaceful death of Bishop Aubrey G. Walton. He had retired in 1972 and was living in Little Rock, Arkansas where he had served as pastor of First United Methodist Church for 16 years before being elected and consecrated to the office of Bishop on June 26, 1960. He was the first minister ever to be elected to the Episcopacy from Arkansas while serving a local church.
Bishop Walton was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in June of 1900. He was raised in Eastern Arkansas. He became a cotton buyer but when the call to be a minister came he gave up his business to enter college. He graduated from Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas, and then went on to receive the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, in 1931. Both Hendrix and Duke gave him the honorary Doctor of Di-vinity degree. He was the first graduate of the Duke Divinity School to become a Bishop of the United Methodist Church. Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas awarded him the honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
As a minister, Bishop Walton served pastoral charges in Calico Rock, Eureka Springs, Texarkana, Siloam Springs, Searcy, and First United Methodist Church of Little Rock—all in Arkansas.
He was a member of the World Methodist Council for more than a decade. He was a delegate to many conferences of the church. From 1960-68 he represented the Council of Bishops as official visitor to Latin America and was the presiding bishop of Costa Rica and Panama Provisional Annual Conference during 1960-61. He traveled extensively in Latin America, Africa, India and the Far East while serving as a member of the Board of Missions of the church. In 1964 he became the president of the television, radio and film commission of the church and served well until his retirement.
Bishop Walton served as a member of the General Board of Education, the Interboard Committee on Town and Country Work, and the Program Council of the Church. He was presi-dent of the College of Bishops of the south Central Jurisdiction for the year 1968-69. He was the first bishop to serve the Louisiana area. The Louisiana Conference had always been part of another area until 1960. He served the area for twelve years. During his tenure as leader of Louisiana Methodism, the Methodist Hospital in New Orleans was constructed and the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, the state’s only Protestant-Catholic body, was established.
One of the last outstanding accomplishments of his strong leadership was the merger of former Conference A (white) and Conference B (black) into today’s present single conference. Bishop Walton stood for the right with firm discipline during the most stressful period our church has known in the twentieth century. He was a tower of strength for a troubled church. Buffeted by pressures from every side, he kept steadfast to his goal, even at the cost of his health. As a result of his work, a merger was achieved which, even today, is called the most effective in all of Methodism. His sincerity, his integrity and his influence helped the conference over many difficult situations.
Bishop Walton was also a pastor. He knew the ministers and laity by name. Some who traveled with him over the conference for World Service and Evangelism workshops tell that as they would ride through community after community, Bishop Walton would tell them who the local minister was, what the church paid on World Service, and how many new members had been received into the church during the year. In the making of appointments, he was a long-range planner. He did his homework in relation to ministers and churches, and when he spoke, he knew the facts. He was also the first to make a change of appointments if he saw unhappiness on the part of a minister or a church. One of his highest goals was to be fair. His genuineness was recognized by everyone. He was a careful sermonizer and an excellent interpreter of God’s word. He was first, last and always a churchman.
Bishop Walton was also a lover of sports. The night before his death, he watched and listened to two baseball games. He enjoyed football. But most of all he was a fisherman at heart. There was no better way to relax, as far as he was concerned, than to be on a lake or in the Gulf on a fishing trip. Perhaps his fishing was symbolic of his ministry. He enjoyed it to the full. He was the first to start and the last to quit.
Bishop Walton’s life can perhaps be summed up in the verse of scripture: I Samuel 3:38. One of the great battles had taken place in Israel. Abner had been killed in the battle and David was upset and he said to his people: “Do you not know that a great man has fallen this day in Israel?” In the death of Bishop Aubrey G. Walton a great man has fallen in our conference and each of our lives.
The funeral service for Bishop Walton was held at First United Methodist Church in Lit-tle Rock, Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon, April 12, 1978. Dr. Alvin Murray, the host pastor, was assisted in a very meaningful service by Bishop Paul Galloway, Bishop Eugene Slater, Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks, and Dr. Fletcher Nelson. Interment was in Little Rock. Bishop Walton is survived by his wife Mildred; a daughter, Mrs. Robert Ziegler of Springdale, Arkansas; a son, James M. Walton of Evanston, Illinois, and three grandchildren.
|Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, 1978; p. 174 By Jack Cooke|