Southeastern remembers Dr. William L. Palmer

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Former instructor and alum, William L. Palmer, went home to be with the Lord on November 25, 2020. Palmer received both his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern in 1957 and 1975, respectively. New Testament Koine Greek scholar, Palmer taught New Testament and Greek at Southeastern. He was also elected president of the National Alumni of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Palmer’s generosity has been an immense blessing to the institution. From his investment in the lives of students to his financial gifts to Southeastern, Palmer’s legacy lives on through the lives of those who come to the institution. The William Leroy Palmer Room in Southeastern’s Manor House was dedicated in his honor in 1995. This dedication was part of a larger dedication of rooms called the “House of Prophets,” honoring pastors, evangelists and laypeople within the Southern Baptist Convention. Palmer’s generosity extends to the library, where he graciously donated 2,500 from his personal collection on a range of topics, including Greek, preaching and Old and New Testament surveys.

The family of William Palmer has provided a full obituary below.


Obituary for William LeRoy Palmer

William LeRoy “Bill” Palmer, DMin, passed away peacefully in the early hours of Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in his home at Asbury Place Kingsport, TN at 99 years of age. He was a World War II veteran and member of First Baptist Church, Kingsport. Born on August 17, 1921 in Prowers County, Colorado, Bill was the eldest child of the late William Ellis and Mary Agnes (Wells) Palmer. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Ellen Bourne Palmer, their three children: Joy (Mrs. Lee) McConnell of Kingsport; David William (Betty) Palmer of Charleston, SC; and, Mary Ellen (Mrs. David) Andrews of Westerville, OH; four granddaughters: Laura McConnell; Ashley McConnell (Mrs. Alan) Hobbs; Katie Bourne Palmer; and, Sarah Palmer Andrews; and two great-grandchildren: Mac and Emeline Hobbs. He is survived by his sister, Irene DePalma of Plainfield, NH and was predeceased by his brother Lt. Col. Lyle F. Palmer.

He received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord when he was eight years old. He was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in 1948. In his ministry, he served as pastor of Cross Roads Baptist Church, Greenville County, SC; Dorchester-Waylyn Baptist Church, Charleston, SC; Edwards Road Baptist Church, Greenville, SC; First Baptist Church, Morristown, TN; First Baptist Church, Galax, VA; and Witt Baptist Church, Morristown. He was President of Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy (now the Kings Academy) in Seymour, TN. He served as an interim pastor at over 20 Baptist churches across East Tennessee. His love for people and Jesus Christ kept him active in ministry until he was 85 years old. His ministry continued through many different activities until his death.

Dr. Palmer was a lifetime learner and educator. He graduated from La Junta Senior High School and Browns Business College in La Junta, CO. He attended George Washington University in Washington, DC, while working for the Department of State, and Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, OK during World War II. Following military service, he graduated from Bob Jones University (Magna Cum Laude and Salutatorian) with a Bachelor of Arts and then a Master of Arts. He graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, with a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. He completed the Clinical Pastoral Certification from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, NC. He taught New Testament Koine Greek at Bob Jones University and Southeastern Seminary. As president of Harrison-Chilhowee he studied school administration at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, IN and pursued doctoral study in school administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Across his ministerial career, Dr. Palmer served in many leadership positions. He was First Vice President of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and President of the South Carolina Baptist Pastors Conference. He was First Vice President and President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He was elected Moderator of the Charleston (SC) Baptist Association, the Greenville (SC) Baptist Association, the Nolachucky (TN) Baptist Association, and the New River (VA) Baptist Association. He served as a board of trustees member for the following institutions:  founding board of The Baptist College in Lower South Carolina (now Charleston Southern University); Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, TN; Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, VA; and, East Tennessee Baptist Hospital in Knoxville, TN. He was a Commissioner of the Education Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. In Tennessee he served on the State Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Non-Public School Education and was appointed to the Governor’s Job Opportunity Committee. Palmer was elected as President of the National Alumni of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Southeastern Alumni Associations of South Carolina and Tennessee. While serving as Pastor of Witt Baptist Church in Morristown, he was recognized by the Tennessee Baptist Convention as “Small Church Pastor of the Year”.

A veteran of World War II, he was assigned to the 381st Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 8th Air Force Group in the European Theater of Operations. He served as a Staff Sergeant in Group Headquarters (S-3) at Ridgewell Air Force Base in Essex County, England.

A long time Rotarian, he was President of the Morristown, TN Rotary Club and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow.

The family will have a private military graveside service at Mountain Home National Cemetery. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Dr. Palmer’s memory to the Capital Needs Fund of First Baptist Church, Kingsport.

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