BR editor emeritus died Friday (updated Oct. 20)
    October 17 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

    Marse Grant, editor emeritus of the Biblical Recorder, died Oct. 17 at his home in Raleigh. He was 88.

    Grant edited the Recorder from 1960-82, longer than any other editor in the paper's history. He previously was editor of Charity and Children, a N.C. Baptist Children's Homes publication, from 1949-59.

    Grant became one of the best-known N.C. Baptists, attending more than 50 Baptist State Convention (BSC) annual meetings. Under his leadership, the Recorder's circulation peaked at more than 120,000 in 1978.

    He had previously served as editor of the Lincoln County News and the Morgan News-Herald. After his retirement, he wrote columns for the Charlotte Observer and the High Point Enterprise.

    Grant was profiled in The North Carolina Century — Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000. The article by former Fayetteville Observer editor Charles A. Clay details how Grant took an unpopular stand on race relations in just his second month at the Recorder.

    "God loves all people," Grant wrote. "To think that He prefers one over the other because of the color of skin is inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible."

    Grant also fought against liquor-by-the drink sales and wrote a book in 1970 titled, Whiskey at the Wheel: The Scandal of Driving and Drinking, that enjoyed four printings.

    Grant warned about turmoil ahead following what is now called the "conservative resurgence" in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In July 1982, he wrote an editorial saying political groups should not use the SBC.

    "Marse was among the Baptist editors who had to try to make sense of the sea of change in Baptist life that occurred near the end of his tenure," said current BR editor Norman Jameson. "That he interpreted the changes through a lifetime lens of what he felt was being lost should be no surprise.

    "I trailed Marse's career both as editor of Charity & Children and as BR editor. Marse and the Recorder ran stories I wrote as feature editor of Baptist Press. Additionally, we are members of the same church, so our lives have intertwined my entire career.

    "Marse and his doting wife Marian have always been encouragers, strengthening my resolve and lifting high both the responsibilities and the possibilities of Baptist journalism. I am continually amazed at how many times an acquaintance from another era or another part of the country would call Marse's name and inquire about him. Until recent years when strokes disabled him, I could say he was doing well. Now I can say, 'well done.'"

    R.G. Puckett, also a Recorder editor-emeritus, said Grant was "Mr. North Carolina Baptist" during his tenure as editor.

    "As a layman, he understood the view from the pew and traveled and worked incessantly for those causes that would enhance Baptist work and the well-being of the people of North Carolina," Puckett said. "He was a leader in spiritual and civic matters. He was deeply committed to what he would define as 'we the people.'"

    Wilmer C. Fields, who was public relations director for the Southern Baptist Convention during much of Grant's tenure, said Grant dedicated himself "24/7" for 33 years to journalism in the Baptist cause.

    "His vocational commitment set high marks for his contemporaries and all who would follow," Fields said. "Somewhere, somehow, there is newly written beside his name in The Lamb's Book of Life, 'Well Done!'"

    Retired BSC executive director-treasurer Roy J. Smith said Grant was a moderate before the term became popularized.

    "He was a cutting edge individual, very progressive," Smith said.

    Grant was a strong supporter of N.C. Baptist institutions and "one of the best historians of contemporary Baptist life," Smith said. During a visit to research the BSC's 175th anniversary several years ago, Grant could quickly identify those in multiple photographs from as far back as the 1950s, he said.

    "He was really a living legend about knowing what transpired," Smith said.

    Smith said he knew Grant since Grant was at Charity and Children and Smith was a pastor in Lexington.

    "He was a great friend as well as a great leader of N.C. Baptists," Smith said.

    When Grant announced his retirement in 1982, Tommy J. Payne, then chairman of the Recorder's Board of Directors, wrote an editorial calling Grant a fighter.

    "Agree with him or not, you have to admire the effort that he puts into issues he believes in," Payne wrote.

    Grant fought hard whenever he saw discrimination, Payne said.

    "In the early 50's when it was costly to say segregation was wrong, Marse Grant did just that," Payne said. "He was one of the few early voices in our state to speak strongly about the needs of our black citizens, and the need to change laws as well as attitudes."

    In an editorial just after Grant announced his retirement, the Raleigh News and Observer called him "a prod to the conscience of readers."

    "Never one to fudge the issues or to apologize for his deeply held views, Grant turned what could have been a mere Baptist housekeeping chore into a lively and stimulating publication," the editorial said.

    In an editorial announcing his retirement, Grant said many N.C. Baptists had told him over the years that they didn't always agree with him, but were glad the Recorder could express itself when differences came up in Baptist life.

    "I like to hear that, and the Recorder will remain free," he wrote. "N.C. Baptists like it that way. They don't want their state paper to become a house organ."

    Grant, whose first name was James, was born Sept. 13, 1920 in High Point. In addition to Marian, his wife of 66 yearsm Grant is survived by three daughters, Susan G. Rawls of Statesville; Marcia G. Morton of Raleigh; and Carol Potter of Raleigh; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; a brother, Truett A. Grant of Greensboro; and a sister, Carolyn G. DeLapp of Greensboro.

    In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Debt Retirement Fund at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, 1800 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, 27608, or Hospice of Wake County, 1300 St. Mary's Street, Raleigh, NC  27605 or to the charity of your choice.

    The Biblical Recorder is establishing a memorial fund within its Secure the Foundation Campaign to honor Grant: PO Box 18808, Raleigh 27619.
    10/17/2008 8:29:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Marse Grant, obituary

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