William Hull, scholar, author, dies at 83

A professor and administrator at two Baptist institutions of higher learning, Hull continued to write despite being debilitated by Lou Gehrig’s Disease since 2007.

By Bob Allen

William Hull, a renowned Baptist preacher, author and provost at both Samford University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Dec. 10 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

bill hullHull, 83, taught New Testament 17 years at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and held administrative positions including dean and provost before accepting the pastorate at First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., in 1975.

He returned to the classroom in 1987 as provost and university professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. After retiring as provost in 1996, Hull served as theologian in residence at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Diagnosed with ALS in 2007, Hull chronicled his journey with the progressive neurodegenerative condition often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" in a final sermon at his church in 2008 and in an essay in 2011.

Despite struggling against the debilitating effects of his illness, Hull worked to complete the Hull Legacy Project, a joint project of Samford University Press and Mountain Brook Baptist Church, completing seven books in seven years, including one on a Christian approach to dying that will be published posthumously.

A native of Birmingham, Hull graduated from Samford, then known as Howard College, in 1951. He went on to earn the bachelor of divinity and doctor of theology degrees at Southern Seminary. He also completed post-doctoral studies in New Testament at the University of Goettingen, Germany.

Hull wrote 21 books on theological subjects and Christian themes and contributed to 24 others. His works include the commentary on the Book of John in the Broadman Bible Commentary in 1970 and Seminary in Crisis, an inside analysis comparing leadership of two presidents at Southern Seminary during SBC controversies between 1968 and 1993, published by the Baptist History & Heritage Society.

Active in denominational life, Hull served in numerous leadership roles in both the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptist World Alliance. He was a member of the SBC Peace Committee, appointed in 1985 as a last-ditch effort to avoid a schism between moderates and conservatives in the nation’s largest non-Catholic faith group.

In 1987, he participated in a conference on biblical inerrancy at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina sponsored by the six SBC seminaries. The conference was an attempt to shed more light than heat on a topic that had threatened fellowship in the convention since the 1960s and building in intensity beginning in 1979.

A popular speaker both at home and abroad, Hull delivered some 7,500 sermons in a preaching ministry that spanned from 1949 to 2008. One of the Hull Legacy Series books, Harbingers of Hope, is a compilation of 27 of his messages published in 2007.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Wylodine, in 2012. Survivors include a son, David Hull, who is pastor at First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., and chaired the 2012 Task Force charged with repositioning the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for the 21st century, and Susan Hull Walker, a textile artist and blogger in Charleston, S.C.

A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m., Monday, Dec. 16 at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Family visitation will follow the service in Hudson Hall at the church.