Some people become an icon of their home state. Their names go down in history together. Such were Adron Doran and the state of Kentucky. If I were to give you here the long list of Adron Doran’s service experiences on the national, state and local level there would be no space left for an interview. Brother Doran has certainly made his mark as a great man in his country, in his home state of Kentucky, and in the Lord’s church.
Adron Doran was born near Boydsville, Kentucky on September 1, 1909. He was one of six sons born to Edward Conway Doran and Mary Elizabeth Clemons Doran. He graduated from Cuba High School in Graves County, Kentucky in 1928. He attended Freed-Hardeman College (now, University, 1928-1930). From there he went on to earn his B.S. and M.A. degrees from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky (1932 and 1948). He also earned the Ed.D degree from the University of Kentucky in 1950. He was President Emeritus of Morehead State University from 1954 to 1977. He was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives for four consecutive terms, serving one term as speaker of the house in 1950. Brother Doran was the recipient of numerous awards including Kentuckian of the Year, the Horatio Alger Award, and Outstanding Alumnus of the Year from the joint Alumni Council of Kentucky.
He married the former Mignon Louise McClain on August 23, 1931. Sister Doran was a past president of the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs, and was the founder and director of the Personal Development Institute at Morehead State University. Sister Doran passed away on July 10, 2007 at the age of 96.
Adron Doran was the co-author along with J. E. Choate, of The Christian Scholar: A Biography of Hall Laurie Calhoun. Brother Doran died on November 22, 2001 at the age of 92.
DENNIS GULLEDGE: How long have you been preaching the gospel?
ADRON DORAN: Sixty-three years.
DG: Can you recall the circumstances of your first sermon?
AD: I entered Cuba High School, Graves County, Kentucky as a freshman during the 1924-1925 school year. My principal was John B. Hardeman, a half brother of N. B. Hardeman. He served during my freshman and sophomore years. He resigned to become superintendent of the Graves County Schools. Brother Alonzo Williams came to Cuba as my principal during my junior year. He was an outstanding schoolman. He is still living in Fulton, Kentucky at the age of 92. Williams was my basketball and baseball coach, sang with me and two other students in a quartet, organized a school paper and showed us how to assemble the first radio I ever heard. He resigned at the end of my junior year (1927) and went to Martin, Tennessee where he became the full-time minister of the Church of Christ. Williams returned to the Cuba Church of Christ during August of 1927 to conduct a gospel meeting.
I made the confession one night and was baptized the next afternoon in Hub Stroup’s horse pond along with my father, one of my teachers, and a number of my classmates. We went on to the meeting after the baptism and Karl Shockley, who was leading the singing, persuaded me to stand with him before the audience and help him lead the singing. He later called on me to lead the closing prayer, which was my first effort at public performance.
I graduated from high school in December 1927 after three and one-half years. Williams persuaded me to catch a milk truck and ride from Mayfield, Kentucky to Martin, Tennessee where he lived. On January 1, 1928 he put me in his Whippet automobile and took me to Freed-Hardeman College, Henderson, Tennessee where I enrolled under President N. B. Hardeman. During my freshman year at F-HC brother Williams announced in the Gospel Advocate that I would be available to lead singing for revivals that summer. That summer of 1928 I led singing for meetings in which the preaching was done by Alonzo Williams, Ira A. Douthitt, Hall Laurie Calhoun, A. B. Barrett, W. O. Davis, George D. Knepper, Coleman Overby, D. D.Woody, R. E. Black, Stanford Chambers, and W. E. Morgan (Great gospel preachers were they), and also G. C. Brewer.
I was singing for a meeting at Webb’s Chapel, Arlington, Carlisle County, Kentucky in which W. O. Davis from Texas was doing the preaching. The meeting was scheduled to run two weeks. The weather was dry and hot, the roads were dusty, the lights were dim, the bugs were bad and the crowds were large. On Saturday night of the second week Davis grew weary and tired. He announced that he was closing his part of the meeting, catching a train and going back to Texas. The brethren came to me and asked me to preach on Sunday and close the meeting. That was my first effort at preaching, though I had studied Bible for two quarters at F-HC. I had also accumulated a number of sermon outlines, which I had copied from sermons that I had heard the preachers give for whom I had sung in meetings. I selected a sermon on the subject “What Holdest Thou In Thy Hand?” (Ex. 4:2), from an outline of Knepper’s. I spoke for about fifteen minutes and extend the invitation. A young man and a young woman came forward and I baptized them in Frank Webb’s pond. I continued to preach at Webb’s Chapel while I was a student at Freed-Hardeman (1928-1930). I went back there on the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries of my first sermon and preached (1978 and 1988). Hope to return in 1998!!
During the spring of 1929 brother A. F. Ogden, an elder of the Bald Hill Church in Nicholas County, near Carlisle, Kentucky wrote me a letter inviting me to come there for a meeting. I was afraid to accept because I simply did not know enough to preach for two weeks. Brother Hardeman and brother Williams encouraged me to go. I went in August of 1929 and returned in 1930. One of the elders (Anderson McVey) died during my first meeting and I preached his funeral (my first). I guess from these experiences of my first sermon in 1928 and my first meeting in 1929 I was “off and running.” I have missed very few Sundays preaching since that time. I have a record of everywhere I have preached, the date, the sermon, and the amount received as well as the number of responses.
DG: How do you think the emphasis in preaching has changed since you began? Has the change been for better or worse?
AD: The change in preaching, which I have observed, is one from Biblical preaching to a social gospel. The liberalism of a new method of interpreting the Bible is taking over the pulpits of the congregations with little opposition from elders of the churches. Many of the preachers today are interpreting the Bible according to the principles of the behavioral sciences. We ought to interpret the social sciences in the light of Biblical principles.
DG: Name three preachers of the past or present and tell how they influenced you the most in your preaching?
AD: The early preachers who influenced me most were Alonzo Williams, Ira A. Douthitt, and N. B. Hardeman. Alonzo Williams was one of my earliest mentors of the highest degree. He helped finance my work at Freed-Hardeman College by sending me $50.00 per month. Ira Douthitt was one of the outstanding preachers in Kentucky in the early 1900’s. He also assisted me while at Freed-Hardeman College. N. B. Hardeman was a great influence on anybody who ever sat in his classes. I remember when I first saw him. He stood before the class in his coat, vest and tie, and a watch in his vest pock with a large chain. He was articulate, a great student, dignified and sympathetic to the students in his class. In my latter days Basil Overton has been my closest associate.
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?
AD: For a long time the sectarian preachers refused to debate but in recent years our brethren have become opposed to debates. The practice should be restored. We are becoming too weak to defend the distinctive plea of the Restoration Movement!!
DG: What special word of advice would you like to pass on to young preachers who may read this interview?
AD: No better advice can be given by me or anyone else today than that given by the aged apostle Paul to the young evangelists Timothy and Titus: “Preach the word.” Nothing else has a place in the pulpit or the Bible Class. I have and still do make many speeches on various subjects. However, when I mount the pulpit or teach a Bible Class I resolve to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Young men, ask for the old paths and walk in them!
by Dennis Gulledge