By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
In 1981 I had been out of college for one year and was employed in the development office of Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) in South Carolina. I mostly edited their alumni publication but assisted with pamphlets and brochures and the dreaded “other duties as assigned.”
One of those duties included being asked to assist the former Southern Baptist Education Commission (which was disbanded in the late 1990s) with their annual meeting that was being held in Charleston.
I was assigned to assist Juanita Wilkinson who was the administrative assistant to the late Arthur L. Walker Jr., executive director of the Education Commission. I just helped her with some of the logistics since the meeting was held on the Baptist College campus. Little did I know that we would form a lifelong friendship.
When the Education Commission met in Charleston, they had a director of communications who was in the process of leaving for another position.
When I learned of the opening I applied for the position he vacated at the Education Commission. No one was more shocked than me when Dr. Walker offered me the position in the summer of 1982. Though it was never confirmed, I am convinced Juanita lobbied on my behalf for the position.
Juanita Wilkinson died on Dec. 31, 2015 at the age of 88. Though I have been gone from the Education Commission for nearly 28 years we remained good friends and kept in touch over the years. We were able to have lunch together last summer and caught up on “ole times.”
Juanita was a special lady. She was an “administrative assistant” long before it became the norm to have administrative or ministry assistants instead of secretaries. I consider Juanita as the prototype of administrative assistants. She was a true Southern lady who took her job seriously. Juanita was extremely talented and had a heart for missions and ministry. She also was the wife of Louie Wilkinson, longtime editor of Open Windows, a longtime publication of LifeWay Christian Resources. She was a loving helpmate to Louie for 60 years before his death a few years ago. They were a wonderful Christian couple.
Her death reminds me of how God uses people to help accomplish His plans. If Juanita had not been my advocate for the Education Commission position, most readers would never have heard of me. My position at the Education Commission enabled me to write for Baptist Press and that placed me in a position to join a Baptist state paper staff, which eventually led to the editorship of the Baptist and Reflector.
Though He could do it on His own, I believe God uses people to help accomplish His will and purpose for others. Juanita Wilkinson was one of God’s special tools in my life.