W.C. Fields, Pioneer in Southern Baptist Public Relations, Dies at 96

NASHVILLE (BP) — W.C. Fields, a forerunner in denominational journalism as vice president for public relations for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee from 1959-1987, died Monday (Dec. 3) in Nashville at age 96.

As an Executive Committee vice president, Fields was the SBC’s press representative and director of Baptist Press, the convention’s news service. He also was editor of the Executive Committee’s former Baptist Program magazine from 1959-1972.

He was first listed in Who’s Who in America in 1976. Gratis, he wrote an article on Southern Baptists for Saturday Evening Post in 1983 that sold more than 1 million reprints.

In 1979, Fields was among SBC denominational leaders who found themselves in the national media when Memphis-area pastor Adrian Rogers was elected as SBC president in Houston, marking the first of successive presidencies by Southern Baptist conservatives who held to the inerrancy of the Bible.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Fields served as president of the Religious Public Relations Council, Associated Church Press and the Baptist Public Relations Association (now Baptist Communicators Association). The BCA named its annual awards competition for Fields in 1986.

Prior to joining the Executive Committee, Fields served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Yazoo City, Miss., from 1951-1956, including a term as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, and editor of The Baptist Record newspaper of the Mississippi convention from 1956-1959.

Tim Yarbrough, editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News and president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, described Fields as “a pioneer and preeminent statesman of Southern Baptist communications, whose life and ministry touched countless news and public relations professionals.”

Mike Ebert, executive director of public relations for the North American Mission Board and president of the Baptist Communicators Association, said Fields “accumulated a list of accomplishments and honors for his contributions inside and outside of Southern Baptist life. But beyond that, he was dedicated to taking younger communications professionals under his wing and allowing them to grow, gain experience and learn from him. That is something that will live on and it’s something for which he is much admired.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press