Duke K. McCall
Executive Secretary, 1946-1951
The 1952 report of the Executive Committee had a section entitled, “A Sense of Loss.” It stated, “The Executive Committee felt a sense of loss in the going of Dr. McCall to the presidency of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He made a distinct contribution to the life of Southern Baptists through his leadership in the Executive Committee.” This eloquent testimony reveals the magnitude of the impact McCall made on Executive Committee members personally and the impact he made corporately on their work in his five years of leadership.
McCall’s obvious talents propelled him into key leadership roles in the Convention early in life. Born in Meridian, Mississippi, and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, in a judge’s home, McCall enrolled in Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. There he met Marguerite Mullinnix. The couple married shortly after McCall graduated as valedictorian in 1935. Together they raised four sons.
The McCalls moved to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he earned his master of theology degree in 1938 and doctor of philosophy degree in 1942. During his seminary years, McCall served as pastor of several churches, including Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville.
The year following his graduation from Southern Seminary, trustees at the Baptist Bible Institute of New Orleans (now New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) elected McCall as president. McCall had already earned a reputation for his effective preaching, evangelistic zeal, and capable leadership. His three years leading the Institute merely reinforced that reputation.
In 1946, the Executive Committee reached out to the thirty-two-year-old to assume the leadership of the Convention’s fiduciary and executive entity. His visionary leadership, coupled with the post-World War II vibrant optimism that gripped Southern Baptists, provided the fertile soil for unprecedented gains in church membership, financial support for Convention causes, and expansion of Convention ministries. Following a quarter century of financial hardship, the Convention’s accomplishments during McCall’s short tenure at the helm almost staggger the imagination.
McCall left the EC to lead his alma mater for thirty years. He also represented Southern Baptists on the Baptist World Alliance and served a five-year term as president of the organization.
- Recognizing the need for a news service to tell the stories of the burgeoning set of SBC ministries, Baptist Press was created as a service of the Executive Committee in late 1946.
- Responding to calls for additional seminary locations, McCall helped “bend” the CP to accommodate two new seminaries, Golden Gate (now Gateway) and Southeastern.
- McCall helped formalize creation of the Southern Baptist Foundation, transferring all the trust funds of the Executive Committee to its new subsidiary corporation.
- McCall worked with the Public Affairs Committee and the Social Service Commission (now the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) to become full-time SBC entities.