|Cristes lore, and his Apostles twelve,
He taughte, but first he folwed it himselve.
When announcement was made over the radio on Sunday morn-ing, May 26, 1946, that Dr. W. W. Holmes had passed away in his sleep in the early hours of that morning, Louisiana Methodism was profoundly shocked and saddened, and the whole Church sorrowed over the loss of one of its leaders. We pay affectionate tribute to his memory today.
William Walter Holmes .was born at Kipling, Mississippi, on June .20, 1875, the son of John Henry Holmes and Fannie Rae Holmes. Of that family, three brothers and two sisters survive him E. M. Holmes, Holly Ridge, Miss., 0. W. Holmes, Leland, Miss., Henry Holmes, De Kalb, Miss., Mrs. J. M. McWilliams, De Kalb, Miss., and Mrs. J. E. Lake, Shuqualak, Miss.
Dr. Holmes was educated at Millsaps College, where he receiv-ed the A. B. degree in 1900, and at Vanderbilt University, where he received the B. D. Degree in 1903. The honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Centenary College in 1923.
Dr. Holmes was converted in his early youth in a meeting at the New Hope Camp Ground, near De Kalb, Mississippi. The preacher in the meeting was Rev. T. L. Mellen, but it was Rev. J. W. Dawson who was directly instrumental in leading him to give his life to Christ. He joined the Pleasant Ridge church in September 1891, and was licensed to exhort by the quarterly conference of that church on August 19, 1893, Rev. T. L. Mellen being the presiding elder, and Rev. R. Breeland being pastor. The fact that be was licensed to exhort gave him a unique distinction—there are very few official exhorters nowadays. He was licensed to preach by the Meridian District Conference, meeting in Meridian, Mississippi, on August 28, 1896. .Rev. R. G. Jones was the presiding elder, and L. P. Brown, a distinguished layman of Meridian, was the secretary. He was ordained a deacon by Bishop Charles B. Galloway in 1901 He was admitted on trial in the Louisiana Conference, meeting at Minden, on December 22, 1903. He was ordained an elder by Bishop Seth Ward on December 8, 1907, at the Conference in Ruston.
During his ministry Dr. Holmes had the following appointments: Carrollton Avenue; Louisiana Avenue; Felicity; First Church, Mon-roe (assistant pastor); First Church, New Orleans (assistant pastor); Ruston; presiding elder, New Orleans District; Lake Charles; Noel Memorial; presiding elder, Shreveport District;. Alexandria; Rayne Memorial; district superintendent, New Orleans District.
Dr. Holmes was elected a delegate to the General Conference of 1922; and he was a member of every succeeding General Con-ference, including the Uniting Conference of 1939 and the Juris-dictional Conference, till his death.
He was married on December 19, 1907, to Miss May Stone, of New Orleans, whose family were prominent in the business and civic life of the city. Whether “marriages are made in Heaven” or not, this marriage certainly had the blessings of Heaven upon it. To this marriage were born three children: Mrs. James Theron Brown, Baton Rouge; Commander Samstone Holmes, U. S. N.; William Walter Holmes, Jr., Baton Rouge. There are six grandchildren, as follows: Beverly Holmes Brown, Margaret Helen Brown; David Hendrix Holmes, Margaret May Holmes; William Walter Holmes III, James Colomb Holmes.
Funeral services were held at Rayne Memorial Church on Monday, May 27, with Dr. H. L. Johns, pastor, presiding. Many of the deceased’s ministerial brethren were present, as well as many min-isters of other churches. The address was delivered by Bishop Paul E. Martin. Interment followed in Hope Mausoleum, New Orleans.
As interesting as biographical data are in themselves, they do not give us the full picture of a man’s life or a complete account of his achievements. Only by a study of the man himself can we even partially evaluate his character and his power.
Dr. Holmes was, above all else, a minister of the gospel. There were no side issues in his life, no divided interests. While he was a stranger to nothing that men generally are interested in, he concentrated his talents and his energies upon the one task of making religion a reality in the lives of those whom he was appointed to serve. He took pains to be a workman that needed not to be ashamed.
He did not claim to be a scholar—very few men are scholars; but he was a student. He had built up an unusually fine library— one of the best in the Conference. It was especially rich in books of biography, devotion, and practical theory. Some men have many books, but make very little use of them; Dr. Holmes made use of his.
One of the outstanding characteristics of Dr. Holmes was his friendliness—not assumed, but genuine. It was this characteristic that made him, both at Millsaps and at Vanderbilt, one of the most popular students of his day. This is one reason why so many people affectionately called him “Billy.”
He was especially the friend of young preachers. Many a member of this Conference recalls with deep appreciation a kindly word, a bit of encouragement, a helpful suggestion from Dr. Holmes that made the way seem brighter and that started a song in his heart.
As a preacher, Dr. Holmes was acceptable in any pulpit in the church. He served some of the great pastorates of this Conference with a remarkable degree of success. As is well known, he was at Rayne Memorial for ten years—and that record speaks for itself. His preaching was simple, direct, inspiring, thought-provoking, up-lifting.
Dr. Holmes was preeminently a pastor. In this respect he deserves to be ranked with the great pastors of Methodism—for example, with the sainted Dr. John B. Mathews, the sainted Dr. Felix R. Hill, Sr., both of whom, by the way, served in the Louisiana Conference. He quickly and completely won the hearts and entered into the lives of his parishioners. He had the happy faculty of being in the right place at the right time. The memory of his visits and the influence of them remained in the home long after they were made. He demonstrated very thoroughly that it is not the number of pastoral calls a preacher makes that count; it is the kind.
Dr. Holmes had executive ability of a high order, as is indicated by various phases of his ministry. At the time of his death he was district superintendent of the New Orleans District. He had previously served as presiding elder of the same district, as well as presiding elder of the Shreveport District. He was a member of the board of trustees of Centenary College and of Dillard University. He served on almost innumerable boards and committees of the Conference, and was for many years chairman of the Conference Board of Education. His judgment was sound, and his advice was often sought and relied upon.
No memoir of Dr. Holmes would be complete without mention of his outstanding work in the fight against gambling and other forms of vice in the city of New Orleans. As chairman of the social betterment committee of the New Orleans Ministerial Union, he led that fight valiantly and, in many respects, victoriously. The esteem in which he was held in the city in which he had spent twenty-seven years of his ministry is expressed in an editorial in the New Orleans States of May 27: “From the day he entered the pulpit in Louisiana in 1908 on down through the years, Dr. Holmes’ stature increased as he applied biblical precepts to every-day life. Not only New Or-leans but all of Louisiana is better for his having lived.” When in-formed of his death, Mayor Morrison said: “I frequently sought his counsel and advice, which I valued and respected. * * * respected Dr. Holmes’ viewpoint * * * and I am deeply regretful that the city will no longer have the benefit of his able, honest and fearless counsel.” The Times- Picayune said :“The community has lost one of its outstanding citizens and civic leaders.” The opinion is held by many that the energy he put into this fight against vice in New Or-leans hastened his death.
An interesting thing appears in connection with the ministry of Dr. Holmes. It is often said that city churches depend to a large extent for their success upon the membership, leadership, and money that flow into them from the country churches. The interesting thing about Dr. Holmes is that although born and reared in a rural community (Kipling, Kemper county, Mississippi, is no metropolitan center), he never served a country church as pastor. All his work was in cities, more than half of it in the largest city in. the South. This fact leads to the comment that nature is pretty much the same, wherever it is found. He was so much a man himself—a Christian man—that he could reach people anywhere. An appeal that has in it the elements of universality is bound to meet a universal response.
We do not enter into his home life more than to say that it was a beautiful example of what a Christian home ought to be. It is as much, a tribute to Dr. Holmes as it is to Mrs. Holmes to say that his ministry could not have been what it was without her ministry alongside of his. His children and his grandchildren were the joy of his life—and they rise up to call him blessed.
Time and space for this formal memoir have run out; but written on our hearts in lucent letters of love is the imperishable record of our departed friend—who also was a friend of God.