William Owen (W. O.) Carver, professor of missions 1898-1943, was born in 1868 in Wilson County, Tennessee, to Alexander and Almeda Carver. Carver entered Richmond College when he was eighteen and eventually attained the M.A. at the school despite financial hardship. By the kindness of trustee T. T. Eaton and several Tennessee ministers, Carver matriculated at Southern in 1891. After graduating in 1896 with both his Th.M. and Th.D., Carver became an instructor in New Testament. A year later, he married Alice Shephard, with whom he had six children. In 1898, he joined the faculty, a position he maintained until 1943.
Carver’s contributions to Southern Baptists were manifold. In 1899, he developed the missions department at Southern, the first such department in the United States. Missions became Carver’s area of expertise. Of his nineteen published books, seven addressed the field. His major work, Missions in the Plan of the Ages, underwent numerous reprintings. In his honor, the seminary established the W. O. Carver Chair of Christian Missions in 1963. Although he cared about evangelism and was part of the second generation of Southern’s scholars, Carver was not a theological conservative. Dale Moody described him as an evolutionist and “a salty old liberal,” who “thought Barth and Brunner were just a bunch of fundamentalists.” (1)
Carver edited Southern’s Journal, the Review and Expositor, from 1920 until 1942. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Woman’s Missionary Training School and the Southern Baptist Historical Society, both of which later fostered institutions named in his honor. Carver died in Louisville in May 1954.
(1) Dale Moody, Oral History Interview of Dale Moody, 13. Sources: W.O. Carver, Out of His Treasure, Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1956.
_______, Recollections and Information From Other Sources Concerning the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Unpublished manuscript. Louisville, KY, 1954.
Dale Moody, Oral History Interview of Dale Moody.