Feb. 23, 1871-Dec. 24, 1931
|Robert Henry Wynn was born at Waterproof. La., February 23, 1871. Eis father, Rev. John F. Wynn, who was for more than fifty years a member of the Louisiana Conference, was a man of unusual saintliness and consecration; and his mother, Mrs. Pauline Gorton Wynn, was a fit companion of her husband’s labors, being characterized by a aimilar spirit of whole-hearted devotion. The home life was centered in a simple faith that made the presence of’ God a reality, and loyalty to Him the controlling Ideal in all things.
Under the Christian nurture of such a home, it was natural that at a very early age Robert learned to think of himself as a child of God. So normal was the development of bis religious life, that although he could never point to any particular moment when he was converted, the simple piety of his early childhood was evident, and at five years of age, he united with the church upon his own initiative and with a simple definiteness of purpose that could not be doubted.
At thirteen years of age, he entered the preparatory department of Centenary College, then located at Jackson, La. Here, during five years of his student life, the influence of a Christian college developed and strengthened the convictions and qualities that had been inspired in the home.
He graduated in 1889, not only with credit in his, scholastic work. but generally beloved and honored by faculty and students, and prominent in the religious activities of the college. For the succeeding two years, he was employed to teach in the preparatory department of the college, and during this period was licensed to preach, The following session, 1891-92, he spent as a student in the theological department at Vanderbilt University, where, under the leadership of Dean Tillett, Dr. Gross Alexander and their co-workers, he was inducted intQ the study of theology with a zeal that made him for the remainder of his life a thoughtful student and preacher.
In December, 1892, at Lake Charles, La., he was admitted on trial into the Louisiana Conference, and stationed at Parker Chapel, since renamed Parker Memorial Church, in the city of New Orleans. Here began his active ministry of nearly forty years, characterized from the very beginning by careful pastoral fidelity and sympathetic ministry, which everywhere won for him the love and confidence of all classes. At the end of three years, he was moved to Algiers, the section of New Orleans across the Mississippi river, where he served with great acceptability for four years. During this period, on October 27, 1897, he was happily married to Miss Alma Sawtelle, of New Orleans, whose cheerful faith and untiring service in ‘ co-operation with every phase of his work greatly strengthened and enlarged his ministry. From Algiers, he was moved in 1899 to Louisiana Avenue Church, where he served three years. At the end of this period of ten years of continuous service as pastor in New Orleans, with the increasing calls and exacting demands of the city pastorate, he was considerably depleted in health, and was sent to what was thought to be a more salubrious location in the hills of North Louisiana. He began auspiciously his pastorate at Homer. but before the end of his first year, in September, 1903, he was moved to Ruston. La., to fill a vacancy due to the transfer of Rev. H. R. Singleton to St. Louis. He served out, in this college town, the full pastoral limit of nearly four years, succeeding while there in paying off a heavy debt upon the newly-erected church, and leaving behind the love of a devoted people. The following two years, he was pastor at Minden, and, in 1909-10-11, he served Monroe.
At the close of this period he was appointed presiding elder of the Lafayette District, which he served for a year and a half, being called in the summer of 1913, in a critical emergency, to assume the presidency of Centenary College. This old and honored Institution had been moved some years before to Shreveport, La., and was in the midst of a struggle to establish itself In its new home. He occupied this position for sIx years, during which period came the World War with Its derange ment of social and financial conditions. The circumstances made it practically impossible to establish completely the struggling college under these Conditions. But in these trying years Dr. Wynn did succeed in establishing the institution in the confidence of the community, maintaining its financial credit and its educational standards. it is safe to say that whatever larger success may have come to the college under later administrations would have been impossible but for the untirlng labor and prodigious sacrifices of Dr. Wynn’s administration, for which the Louisiana Conference owes to him a debt of everlasting gratitude.
On his resignation from the Centenary presidency, he served a second pastorate of two years at Ruston. For the four years, 1921-24, he served the Shreveport District.
Perhaps the crowning work of his life was his five-year pastorate In Lake Charles, 1925-29, where, in addition to the faithful and acceptable discharge of ordinary pastoral duties, he led a movement that resulted in the erection of a beautiful and complete church building at a cost of approximately ~150,000, thus leaving a monument of his constructive ministry.
At the close of 1929 he was sent for a second time to Minden, where his second year had scarcely begun when painful and ominous symptoms developed which finally culminated In a brain tumor of unusual size. The tumor was successfully removed, but after several months of apparent Improvement the trouble returned, and, at 1:15 p. m. on Christmas day, 1931, from the Methodist Hospital In Houston, Texas, his weary spirit passed into the Father’s House above in time to join in the heavenly chorus, “Glory to God in the Highest.”
In these last months of intense suffering his Christian faith was manifest in a beautiful patience that was a new revelation even to his friends. Everything that could be accomplished by the untiring devotion of his family and a multitude of friends, as well as by the finest medical skill to be found, was unavailing and his pain and suffering were exchanged for eternal rest.
His mortal remains were laid away at Minden, La., on December 26, 1931, in the presence of a great throng of his congregation and a multitude of sorrowing friends from every section of the State. The services were impressively conducted by his presiding elder, Rev. W. R. Rarvell, assisted by Rev. W. W. Holmes, D.D., who gave a beautiful tribute of love and appreciation, and by Drs. George S. Sexton, A. S. Lutz, R. E. Smith, and Revs. H. L. Johns and R. W. Vaughan; while a great company of his other ministerial brethren participated silently in the service.
Perhaps the most characteristic note of Dr. Wynn’s life was the transparent simplicity and purity of his character. Like Barnabus, “he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost.” Everywhere he won the complete confidence of all who knew him. A gentleman In one of his latest pastorates said with evident conviction, “Dr. Wynn came nearer being a saint than any man 1 ever knew.” This simplicity of character expressed itself in a consciousness that permeated every phase of his life; not only in matters of personal conduct, hut in the discharge of every detail of duty. He might have said with St. Paul, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men.” This conscientious carefulness is illustrated in the systematic way in which he did his work. Every sermon he preached was duly recorded, and the last sermon found in these records reveals the quality of his thinking—number 4,224—is entered under the title, “God’s View of Foreigners,” based on the story of Jonah.
Equally evident was the gentle, loving heart that was interested in everybody and that quickly won for him the hearts of children, and made him a valued friend of all sorts of people. Even in the last months of suffering his mind and heart were reaching out In prayer and personal counsel for the spiritual help of his people.
This conscientious devotion to Christ and his service was the inspiration of an all-round pastoral efficiency that is all too rare. In the pulpit he was a careful expositor, bringing messages of comfort and spiritual Inspiration. As a pastor, he carried out with unusual care the daily duties of his high office, ministering to the sick and sorrowing with a sympathy that left cheer and Inspiration behind it; and on some occasions spending long hours in the cell of the condemned criminal, trying to give comfort and hope.
Strangely commingled with his kindliness of heart was a quiet.. up-blustering courage, which was not quenched by any difficulty or danger In the path of duty. The accomplishment of the crowning visible achievement of his ministry—the building of the great church in Lake Charles— was not due to any unusual gift for brilliant campaigns of money-raising, but rather to the steadfast, unassuming readiness to undertake and carry through any duty laid upon him. His unfaltering fidelity in leading what often seemed a forlorn hope at Centenary College was an expression of the same humble courage inspired by a vital faith and under-girded by prayer.
In difficult and delicate administrative problems, which called for combined sympathy and courage in dealing with personal relations, his transparent kindliness of heart, mingled with quiet, unfaltering courage, in the path of duty, carried him successfully through difficult and complicated situations.
Equally notable was his freedom from selfishness or any taint of self-seeking; never did he seek preferment for himself. Among the things remembered by the congregation at Lake Charles in the midst of their financial struggle in building their new church, is his request for a decrease in salary to relieve the strain upon the congregation. And when his request was disregarded, he proved his sincerity by giving the amount of the requested decrease to the building fund.
His ability and character were generally recognized by the Church in the various honors conferred upon him— the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1913. Four times he was elected to the General Conference. once leading the delegation. He served for years on the General Conference Board of Education, and his leadership was sought in the different Conference boards for many years.
As an all-round pastor, efficient In every phase of pastoral duty, he was an example and Inspiration to the younger men who must carry on the work which has fallen from his hands; whether as a spiritually helpful preacher, a pastor beloved in the home, a leader o~ childhood and youth, emphasizing an educational ministry, or as a great soul, drawing men and holding them as with hooks of steel; we shall sorely miss him and his place will be hard to fill.
Besides his devoted wife, he leaves behind two daughters, Mrs. W. N. Blanton, of Houston, Texas; Mrs. W. F. Allen, of Dallas, Texas; and one son, Professor R. S. Wynn, of Ruston, Louisiana, to whom the high heritage of his stainless character and unselfish service is an Inspiration to the highest alms. His four sisters and one brother share the bereavement of his loss with the spirit of Christian resignation and unite in the sacred inheritance of his precious memory.
Perhaps no man among us was more widely beloved by his brethren In the ministry, and by the people of all stations, and of all religious faiths.
The church at Lake Charles, where he. labored so successfully, has prepared a permanent memorial tablet to commemorate his faithful service. The scriptural inscription upon this tablet, taken from the triumphant lips of the great apostle, might appropriately be put into his mouth ~as an expression of his parting confidence, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of rejoicing, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day”
W W. DRAKE, D.D.
|Source: Annual of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Pages 77-81, 1932|