George W. DeHoff was born near the village of Vanndale, Arkansas, on September 20, 1913. His parents were Orville Orson and Adah Gaskins DeHoff. George’s earliest memories were not of Vanndale, but of living in Paulding, Missouri, where they moved when he was very small. In 1918, the DeHoff’s moved to the “Kentucky Settlement,” just three miles from Black Oak, Arkansas.
The DeHoff’s attended the church in Mangrum, Arkansas. When brother DeHoff was 13 years old he obeyed the gospel at the preaching of Leonard H. Fielder. He was immersed into Christ “the same hour of the night” in Cockle Burr creek on the last Lord’s Day in August 1927. He attended the Upper Mangrum public school, grades 1-8. While in the church at Black Oak, George DeHoff participated in leading prayer, waiting on the Lord’s Table and reading Bible lessons. It was there that he preached his first sermon at the age of fifteen.
He attended Burritt College, George Peabody College for Teachers, the College of William and Mary, and the Teacher’s College of Columbia University. Also, he attended Harding College when it was located in Morrilton, Arkansas, Freed-Hardeman College, and Harding again after it had moved to Searcy, Arkansas. He served as Vice-President of Freed-Hardeman College, and President of Magic Valley Christian College in Albion, Idaho. In 1961 he received the Carnegie Award as “one of the nation’s outstanding college presidents.”
DeHoff wrote more than twenty-five books, including Why We Believe the Bible, which was the outgrowth of his studies in philosophy while at William and Mary. And it was at William and Mary that he gathered college material for his book, Alleged Bible Contradictions Explained. Aside from these two works, brother DeHoff is perhaps best remembered for his Commentary on the Whole Bible.
Brother DeHoff preached the gospel in thirty-five states, and was said to have immersed more than 10,555 souls into Christ. He preached for the Bellwood church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for twenty-three years. When I lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1976, and for years after that, brother DeHoff was a great encouragement to me in many ways. He died on January 3, 1993, at the age of seventy-nine.
DENNIS GULLEDGE: How long have you been preaching the gospel?
GEORGE W. DeHOFF: I have been trying to preach for fifty-five years. I started in September 1929 and have preached almost every Sunday since that time
DG: Can you recall the circumstances of your first sermon?
GWD: Yes. The first sermon I ever tried to preach was at Black Oak, Arkansas, and the sermon was largely from some notes I had written down about what Jesus had to say about different people. But probably the first sermon that I ever spent any extensive time in preparing was a sermon that I got out of J. W. McGarvey’s Sermons on “Sowing and Reaping.” I remember the text was from Galatians chapter six, and the main theme was Ahab and Jezebel back in the Old Testament – how they had Naboth killed and how God saw that they were punished for what they had done.
DG: How do you think the emphasis in preaching has changed since you began? Has the change been for better or worse?
GWD: Well, of course preaching has changed a great deal since I first started preaching and I am sorry to tell you I do not believe most of it is for the better either, because preachers at that time knew the difference between the church and denominations; they knew the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament; they knew the plan of salvation, and they preached all of these things. They preached the conversions in the book of Acts.
DG: Name three preachers, of the past or present and tell how they influenced you the most in your preaching?
GWD: Number one would be Foy E. Wallace, Jr., because I went to old Burritt College in 1929 and stayed there until 1933. At that same time brother Wallace was editor of the Gospel Advocate, and I read every word of every issue of the Gospel Advocate during those four years. So that influenced me a great deal. Then, I heard him in the famous debate with J. Frank Norris, which was the debate of the century. And I heard him in many meetings. Many of his sermons were two hours long, and of course that gave the brethren something to complain about, but it also gave me information that I needed.
Then, of course, there was N. B. Hardeman. I went to school at Freed-Hardeman College. I was in his classes, and I read and re-read all five volumes of the Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons. Indeed, the first three volumes of that I preached over and over again when I went out in meetings. During those days we baptized lots of people. I had a meeting in Caraway, Arkansas, where we baptized 76 people in one meeting and most of those sermons were ones I had gotten out of Hardeman’s books.
A lot of people made fun of the young preachers who were out somewhere preaching N. B. Hardeman’s sermons. Well, all I have to say about that is two things: One, they were preaching the truth, and two, they were baptizing people wherever they went.
- C. Brewer had a great influence on my life. Brother Brewer had a reputation of being rather haughty, proud, and hard to get acquainted with. I found that not true at all. We had him here for meetings in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and I spent much time with him. I always enjoyed hearing him preach. He always preached the truth and did it with dignity.
DG: You have held a number of debates over the years. Which one is your most memorable, and why?
GWD: I suppose if I had to pick out one debate which is the most memorable of all it would have to be the debate I had with W. C. Davis, a Primitive Baptist and an old fashioned Calvinist. Mr. Davis advanced all of the old Calvinistic arguments. In fact, there was a debate called the Cayce Srygley Debate which is out of print long years ago, but he probably got most of his arguments out of that debate book.
The Davis debate was under a big tent in Van Leer, Tennessee [July 23-26, 1951. DG]. Brother J. T. Marlin helped work up the debate and moderated for me. Davis was an old fashioned mean debater. He would use ugly language, calling us “Campbellites,” “Water Dogs,” and things of that sort. To get ready for that debate I spent two days in a motel with brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr. I still have, in my files, the arguments that brother Wallace wrote down. We worked out some charts. He drew most of those charts and I used them in the debate, and they are in the book.
I think that most of the errors in religion today come from two sources: Catholicism and Calvinism. This debate covered nearly all of the old Calvinistic arguments. I think it was a memorable debate because of the number of preachers who attended, the arguments that were advanced, etc.
DG: It seems that our brotherhood has seen a decline in debating over the past thirty years or so. Do you agree that this is true, and if so, to what would you attribute the decrease in the number of public discussions?
GWD: Indeed there has been a great decrease in the number of public discussion and for two reasons: First, many of our preachers would not know how to debate. Two, the members do not want them engaged in controversy.
Debating got into disfavor because denominational people just didn’t want to debate for the same reason that a muley cow doesn’t want to get into a hookin’ contest. Also, I have heard debates where our brethren did not know the truth very well, and where our brethren did not conduct themselves very well, but I doubt if I have ever heard a debate that did not do good and bring truth before the people.
We have had some great debaters. Joe S. Warlick was a great debater. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., was a great debater, and don’t forget brother Guy N. Woods. He has had more debates than any man living or dead. I have heard him with the Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, etc., and he always does a nice, quiet, good job of presenting the truth. So, if young preachers would study the debates that are in print and listen to debates when they have an opportunity to hear one they would be helped.
DG: What special word of advice would you like to pass on to young preachers who may read this interview?
GWD: I think that they ought to love the Book and they ought to resolve not to preach anything unless it is in the Bible. Stick to that regardless of what comes up. There is no substitute for loving the word of God and depending on it. There is no substitute for the Bible. In regard to any religious question every young preacher ought to ask himself, “What does God’s book say?” He ought to preach what he believes the word of God says and he ought to do what he believes Jesus would do.
by Dennis Gulledge