Editor’s Page
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Editor’s Page

We’ve all heard of the old gentlemen who professed himself a member of no organized political party. “I am,” he affirmed triumphantly, “a Democrat.” Baptists have long had the reputation of being, if not disorganized, then certainly disunited. Keith Harper’s essay relates the story of an unusual process of Baptist unification as the Separate Baptists and the Regular Baptists of Kentucky became the United Baptists in 1801. His essay illuminates the vital issues which had to be resolved before unification could be achieved. It is also significant that the difficult process occurred against the backdrop of the missionary impulse of the Great Revival of 1801, aptly described as “America’s Pentecost.” It seems paradoxical that this revival which divided some denominations, such as the Presbyterians, helped to unite the previously divided Baptists.

John D. Adams’s essay deals with a missionary impulse of a different kind—the educational mission of Berea College. Berea has always reflected the practical Christian idealism of the abolitionist John G. Fee. In its early decades, after the school became a college in 1869, it pursued its educational mission to both African American students and students from Appalachian Kentucky. By the 1870s, teacher training had become an integral part of this mission. John D. Adams clearly shows how innovative the school has been in pursuit of its mission—launching vigorous extension services, reforming its curriculum, establishing on-campus model schools, and constructing a state-of-the-art educational building. Although the Day Law of 1904 forced Berea to become all-white, its educational mission to Appalachia continued, and Berea became one of the first schools [End Page 1] to welcome African Americans after the Day Law was amended in 1950. Berea continues its educational mission today and remains a bastion of academic excellence in a time which needs it no less than did our forebears of the 1870s.

Heroism comes in all sizes and shapes. Hugh Ridenour’s essay deals with one unlikely hero, Garlin M. Conner, a Clinton County native. When he returned home after his remarkable World War II service in Europe, there was a welcoming ceremony in his hometown of Albany. When his future wife, then only fifteen, first laid eyes on the unprepossessing Conner, she exclaimed: “That little wharf rat? Why, he couldn’t have done all those things!” Hugh Ridenour’s essay tells the story of this unassuming, taciturn hero, who did indeed do “all those things.” He pieces the story together from limited surviving source material and also intertwines it with the larger issue of the flawed, chancy process by which medals are awarded. Over the years, many have been convinced that Conner deserves the Medal of Honor. Conner himself was not particularly interested in medals (genuine heroes seldom are), but the campaign has accelerated after his death in 1998, spurred by new evidence from eyewitnesses of his exploits. So Kentucky may have yet another Medal of Honor winner, a man who wanted nothing more than to live out his life as a Clinton County farmer. [End Page 2]

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