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Celebrated Lebanon preacher dies

Sara McManamy-Johnson • Updated Aug 5, 2013 at 2:57 PM

A celebrated Lebanon preacher died Saturday, after more than 80 years in the ministry.

The Rev. W.L. Baker, former associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, died on his 105th birthday.

“I don’t know too many folks that had a closer walk with the lord for the longevity of their life, that dotted every “I” and crossed every “T” for the long haul,” said the Rev. Russ Stephens, pastor at Silver Springs Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet and longtime friend of Baker.

On his 100th birthday, Baker preached to a crowd of nearly 500 people at Silver Springs Baptist Church, where he also received citations from President George W. Bush and Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Baker, a native of Smith County, Tenn., was born Aug. 3, 1908 to a devout Christian family.

When he was 12, he and his family moved to Lebanon.

A graduate of Lebanon High School, Baker continued his studies, ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree from Cumberland University in 1930.

In 1932, he earned a bachelor’s of theology degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Baker began preaching in 1932 at Hopewell Baptist in Mt. Pleasant and Springfield Chapel.

He then moved to First Baptist Church in Jonesborough for six-and-a-half years before moving on to First Baptist Church in Donelson.

From 1964 through 1971, Baker served the Southern Baptist Convention in varying capacities, including on the executive board and the historical commission. He also served as a trustee for Belmont College and on the Board of Managers for the Tennessee Children’s Home.

Although he retired in 1973, Baker continued his ministry, serving as interim pastor for 27 churches. He continued his ministry past the age of 100.

“Through all of last year, he was active and doing basically what he wanted to do at his stage of life, and not too many folks can say that,” said Stephens.

In 2008, Baker told Baptist Press that the secret to his longevity both in general and in the ministry was simply diet, exercise and memorizing the Scriptures.

According to Stephens, Baker’s most lasting contribution is translating those Scriptures to daily life.

“I think he set the standard for folks on how to live out practical Christianity,” said Stephens.

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