Ellis A. Fuller: 1942-1950

Ellis A. Fuller

Ellis A. Fuller

Ellis Adams Fuller, Southern’s sixth president, was born on April 1, 1891 on a farm near Cross Hill, South Carolina. Attending a local revival when eleven, Fuller professed faith in Christ. Following a high school career of academic and athletic success, Fuller attended Presbyterian College in South Carolina, where he played baseball. Friend Norman Shands recounted Fuller’s athletic ability at the plate, noting that “in a memorable game he responded to heavy ribbing by the opposing team’s catcher by knocking the ball out of the park. The next time he came up, the catcher renewed his ribbing. Ellis caught the next pitch dead center and sent it beyond the left field fence.” (1)

Active in Presbyterian College’s literary society, Fuller met Elizabeth Bates at a societal meeting. The two courted for a season, married, and together raised several children. Following his wedding, Fuller sought a chaplaincy post in World War I but was denied entry. Fuller entered Southern because of its strong academic program. At the seminary, Fuller worked as a fellow for Dr. A. T. Robertson and pastored the Campbellsburg Baptist Church until he received his Master of Theology degree in 1921.

Fuller worked on a doctoral thesis for several years before taking a pastorate in Atlanta at the First Baptist Church. Hundreds of members flocked to the church during Fuller’s tenure there, responding to the pastor’s “energetic, earnest, and passionate” pulpit delivery. A friend from the church remarked that Fuller “was an exceptionally able businessman. He guided his deacons with an affectionate leadership that kept happiness abreast with success in building and paying for a great church institution and facilities.” (2)

Fuller devoted these traits to his work as Southern’s president when he entered the office after Sampey’s retirement in 1942. As in Atlanta, Fuller distinguished himself as a forward-thinking leader. The faculty heretofore had managed seminary affairs jointly and the president was merely the first among equals. Fuller sought to establish a new pattern with the president as chief executive officer. In this role, he spurred the construction or acquisition of numerous buildings. Southern’s sixth president passed away on October 28, 1950 from a heart attack.

(1) O. Norman Shands, “Ellis Adams Fuller, Man of God,” 8. (2) Ibid, 15-16.
Sources: O. Norman Shands, “Ellis Adams Fuller, Man of God.” Founders’ Day Address, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, September 16, 1965.

Previous || Next