By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Long before I joined the staff of the Baptist and Reflector in 1988 I worked on the staff of the former Education Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, an entity that was disbanded in the mid-1990s as part of the restructuring of the convention.
While serving as director of communications for the Education Commission I had the privilege and opportunity to write for Baptist Press on occasion and work in the newsroom during the annual meeting.
It was then that I developed a love for Baptist state papers and a desire to serve on a state paper staff. During that time, I met a lot of editors, including Bob Terry, who in the mid-1980s was editor of the Word and Way newspaper in Missouri.
He was respected as a journalist not only in the convention but among secular journalists as well. Terry became editor of the Alabama paper (one of the largest Baptist state papers) in the mid-1990s,
After I transitioned to the B&R in 1988, I became better acquainted with him. I have to confess that I was in awe and a little intimidated by him at first. Bob Terry personifies the word “dignified.” I personify “country comes to town.”
When I became editor of the B&R in 1998, Bob took an interest in the “rookie” editor from Tennessee and befriended me. As the years passed, I was no longer in “awe” of him, but I never lost the profound respect I had for him, not only as an editor, but as a friend and fellow Christian.
A few years ago, when the Baptist and Reflector moved from a weekly publication to biweekly and was placed with the communications team, Chris Turner (director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board) and I visited Bob in Birmingham to seek counsel. At the time, some Baptist papers were ceasing print publications or going to a monthly magazine format.
We asked Bob for his opinion and he was honest with us. He felt a biweekly paper could still be effective but he thought we would be sacrificing too much if we became a monthly or online only publication. He was right.
Because of his expertise and experience Bob helped Chris and me understand the need for both types of publications. I admit my bias here, but I believe the B&R is more effective today than it ever has been. We have found the “right mix” of print and online stories. Though our print circulation is not what I want it to be, we are still reaching a large number of Tennessee Baptists each week with print and online stories.
Bob could have been “too busy” to meet with us, but he loves state papers too much not to help when called upon. He has devoted his life to telling God’s stories through the pages of Baptist papers and he wants to see that continue long after he is gone.
Terry is retiring at the end of December after 23 years as editor of The Alabama Baptist and 50 years of ministry with Baptist state papers. He is a true icon.
In addition to serving as editor in Alabama and Missouri, Terry served as executive director of the Fellowship of Baptist State Publications for 25 years, before stepping down from that role earlier this year. He was the “go to” guy for questions about the denomination, the post office and basically anything that pertained to Baptist state papers.
Bob Terry has been a friend to scores of Southern Baptist journalists for decades. I am blessed to be in that small fraternity of Baptist editors along with Bob Terry. I am more blessed to be able to call him “friend.”
— Terry will continue to write under his new blog, nowconsiderthis.com.