Saturday, January 8, 2011

William Oates Ragsdale (1915-2005)

William Oates Ragsdale

William Oates Ragsdale was born on September 29, 1915 in Pottsville, Pope County, Arkansas.  He was the second son and fifth child born to Excelsior and Emma Ragsdale.  In 1930, James was attending school and living with his parents on Washington Street in Illinois, Pope County, Arkansas. 

William Oates Ragsdale died on July 8, 2005 at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, Russellville, Pope, Arkansas.  He was 89 years old at his death.

The following are two obituaries for William Oates Ragsdale:

The Courier – Tuesday, July 12, 2005
William Oates Ragsdale, 89, of Russellville, died Friday, July 8, 2005, at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.
   The son of Excelsior Hannah and Emma Susan Oates Ragsdale, he was born Sept. 29, 1915, in Russellville. His early education was in the public schools of Russellville. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Erskine College in 1937 and a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Erskine Seminary in 1939. He received a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Seminary in 1949 and did additional study at Columbia University.
   Following his ordination to the Christian ministry on Oct. 8, 1940, he became pastor of the Lancaster A.R.P. Church, which he served until he entered the United States Army as a chaplain in 1942. For three years, he served his country in Europe.  In 1947 he became pastor of the Edgemont A.R.P. Church in Covington, Va.  His concern for unchurched rural people in the country near Covington led him to establish a new congregation, the Johnson Creek A.R.P. Church.  He returned to the pastorate of the First Lancaster Church in 1962 and served there until 1970, when he accepted a call to the Avon Park Church in Avon Park, Florida.  In 1979 he became Minister of Visitation at the Lake Wales Church.  After a productive ministry as a scholarly preacher, he retired in 1980 and moved back to his hometown of Russellville to live with his brother, the Reverend James H. Ragsdale.
   During his 40-year career as a minister, he was active in the work of the denomination, serving on Synod’s Boards of Erskine College, Home Missions, and Foreign Missions and on many of its committees, including the Committees on Ecumenical Relations and the New Life Movement. He was a faithful presbyter, working on many of the committees of the presbyteries, including Church Extension. His community involvement engaged him in service to the Alston Wilkes Society, the Lancaster County Children’s Home, and Alcoholics Anonymous. His long and fruitful ministry led Erskine College to bestow upon him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1970.
   One of his major contributions occurred in his retirement years. He had always been interested in his native Arkansas and, in particular, the early development of the area in which he grew up. He wrote a book, “They Sought A Land: A Settlement in the Arkansas River Valley 1840-1870,” which documents the settlement of the first Associate Reformed Presbyterians in Arkansas. That book gained national attention when it won the Francis Makemie Award from the Presbyterian Historical Foundation for the best book on Presbyterian history in 1998.
   He was preceded in death by two brothers, William Glen Ragsdale of Newelton, La., and James Hanna Ragsdale of Russellville; three sisters, Louis Pauline Griffin and Evelyn Williams of Russellville, and Margaret Ragon of Fort Smith.  Survivors include four nieces; three nephews; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.
   Memorial Service will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Cremation arrangements are under the direction of Humphrey Funeral Service. Visitation will be 4-5:30 p.m. today at the funeral home. Internet obituary may be found at
   In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 156, Pottsville, Ark. 72858.

The Virginian Review 
The Rev. William O. Ragsdale
The Rev. William Oates Ragsdale, D.D., age 89, the beloved former pastor of Edgemont Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church from 1947 to 1962, died Friday, July 8, 2005, in Russellville, Ark. 
   Dr. Ragsdale was born September 29, 1915 in Russellville, Ark., the son of the late Excelsior H. and Emma Oates Ragsdale. 
   He was a graduate of Erskine College and Erskine Seminary, Due West, SC.  Dr. Ragsdale received a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Seminary and studied at Columbia University.  In 1970, Erskine College bestowed upon him the honor of a Doctor of Divinity degree and inducted him into the Academic Hall of Fame in 2003.
   Dr. Ragsdale was ordained to the Christian ministry on October 8, 1940 and in 1942, he entered the U.S. Army as a chaplain where he served in Europe during World War II.  He had pastorates in Covington, Lancaster, S.C., Avon Park, Fla. and Lake Wales, Fla. before retiring in 1980 and returning to his hometown of Russellville, Ark.
   During the time Dr. Ragsdale pastored the Edgemont congregation, an educational/fellowship addition was built in 1954 to accommodate the growing Sunday school enrollment.  After he moved to South Carolina, the addition was named the Ragsdale Fellowship Hall in his honor.  Also, while he was pastor at Edgemont Church and on the suggestion of the late Mr. R.M. Loving, Sr., he saw a need for a church in a rural area near Covington where he established the Johnson Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
   During his 40 year career as a minister, Dr. Ragsdale was active in the work of the denomination serving on numerous Synod’s, Boards and Committees.  In his retirement years, he wrote a book titled, “They Sought a Land: A Settlement in the Arkansas River Valley 1840-1870”, which documents the settlement of the first Associate Reformed Presbyterians in Arkansas.  This book won the Francis MaKemie Award from the Presbyterian Historical Society in 1998.
   Dr. Ragsdale is survived by four nieces including Mrs. Betty Blackwell; three nephews; and a number of great nieces and great nephews, including Gordon Blackwell. 
   Dr. Ragsdale was preceded in death by two brothers, the Rev. James H. Ragsdale and William Glenn Ragsdale; three sisters, Louie R. Griffin, Evelyn R. Williams, and Margaret R. Ragon
   A memorial service was conducted on Monday, July 8, 2005 in the Pottsville, Ark. A.R.P. Church. 
   A memorial service will be conducted at 3 p.m. Sunday, at Johnson Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church with Dr. William M. Harris, Jr. officiating.  Interment will follow in Johnson Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
   In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial tributes take the form of contributions to Edgemont Presbyterian Church Building Fund, 2306 S. Church St., Covington, Va., 24426 or Johnson Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 4804 Johnson Creek Road, Covington, Va. 24426.
   Arrangements by Loving Funeral Home.

Notes for William Oates Ragsdale
Birth, Death, and Obituary: United States Obituary Collection [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006. Original data: Newspaper: Courier, The; Publication Date: 12 Jul 2005; Publication Place: Russellville , AR , US. AND Newspaper: Virginian Review; Publication Date: 27 Aug 2005; Publication Place: Covington , VA , US..
Residence in 1930:  Year: 1930; Census Place: Illinois, Pope, Arkansas; Roll: 89; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 19; Image: 884.0.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you this is very helpful. Do you have any more genealogy traces in the Pottsville area?