Leonard Wymore—Yesterday’s Hero

By Mark A. Taylor

It’s fair to say the passing of Leonard Wymore represents another marker in the end of an era.

Leonard, who served as director of the North American Christian Convention from 1963 to 1986, died last Thursday, January 19. He was 95 years old.

Known by many as Mr. North American, Leonard had his finger on the pulse of Christian churches and churches of Christ as perhaps no one else. He traveled widely. He heard and encouraged preachers in churches small and large across the heartland. He passionately promoted unity and church growth in a fellowship of churches characterized by fracture and stagnation during many of the years he served.

Leonard Wymore

Everyone knew Leonard. And all of them loved him for his listening ear, ready smile, and unfailing energy. His influence among us was without equal.

I first met Leonard as he managed preparations for the 1976 NACC that would meet in Denver, Colorado. I was education minister at First Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado, and our senior minister, Dale McCann, was the convention’s local arrangements chairman.

I was young, without many accomplishments or connections across our fellowship, unknown and unimportant. But, from Day One, Leonard treated me like an equal. When he learned I would move to Cincinnati to be editor of The Lookout, a position he himself had held (October 1956—December 1957), our bond grew closer.

Those were different days, to be sure. Institutional loyalty in every aspect of American life was only beginning to erode, and institutions among Christian churches and churches of Christ were strong. These congregations found their preachers solely among graduates of “loyal” Bible colleges. They went to “their publisher,” Standard Publishing, for every kind of “true to the Bible” resources. Those colleges and Standard and the NACC were the glue that held together our nondenominational fellowship. Thousands flocked to the annual gathering where they experienced worship like none of them could back home in congregations attracting a couple hundred more or less.

Leonard served these churches with a passion for equipping leaders. He had traveled the country organizing National Christian Education Conventions for Standard Publishing, beginning in 1956. Practical help for everyday volunteers was available throughout his years at NACC.

Times are different now. A changing culture, a revolution in communications technology, and—perhaps most significant—the demise of denominationalism have combined to challenge leaders of institutions serving our group to rethink their methods if not their mission. All of that is fodder for discussion in another place.

But this week we remember a hero of our fellowship, a friend and leader who helped keep us strong at a time different from today’s. Many of his generation are already gone. But those who knew him, especially the Christian leaders fortunate to work beside him, will never forget Leonard Wymore.

Read Leonard Wymore’s obituary.

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3 Comments

  1. Meredith Williams
    January 25, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Mark, thanks for your fine article on Leonard Wymore. He was truly a mighty fine gentleman and he certainly did a highly commendable job leading the NACC. The Ozark Christian College Impact Brass and Singers shared many times on the program of the NACC and he was always cordial, kind and very helpful. I enjoyed being around him. His spirit always lifted me. At the NACC you mention in Denver 1976, Impact performed our message program, “Family of God” for NACC at Red Rocks Amphitheater and it was one of the most memorable performances we ever gave. We were always appreciative of Gary Coleman and Leonard for inviting us to share that special session on the program. I was so fortunate to know him. Yes, we will never forget Leonard Wymore. Meredith Williams

  2. Jim Cord
    January 27, 2017 at 1:14 am

    I would like to add my tribute to Leonard Wymore. I first met this fine Christian gentleman when I was a student at Milligan College. I was in the Concert Choir and met a fellow Choir member, Leonard’s daughter, Kathy. We shared a special relationship and as a result, I was introduced to Kathy’s parents. The Wymores came to our campus several times and I enjoyed several dinners, etc. with them. I also had opportunity to engage in private conversations with Kathy’s father. We discussed many subjects, but most had to do with theology and church polity. I was anxious to learn from this man who had such wonderful experiences. Growing up in a Disciples of Christ church, I quickly discovered that we had some differences in our expressions of faith. But no matter the subject or how different our understandings were, always … ALWAYS Leonard was kind and gracious with me and I learned a great deal from this gentleman. I want to also add that my parents met Kathy’s parents, and though my dad was a Disciple’s pastor, they became good friends and subsequently even traveled together. Yes, Leonard Wymore was a dedicated Christian servant and he was also a wonderful friend and mentor. May God bless Kathy and her entire family and rest assured in the goodness of God and the promise of life eternal through our Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you for the opportunity to share some appreciative thoughts. Jim Cord

  3. Gordon Clymer
    January 29, 2017 at 1:11 am

    I owe a great deal to this man. He believed in me when he had no real reason to. He chose me to head the National Bible Bowl in 1964 and encouraged me to leadership. When they were in Joplin, he and Thelma stayed with my mom. At a North American several years ago, Leonard and Calvin Phillips (who ordained me to ministry) and I had a great fellowship. Thanks for telling me about his death.

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