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Evangelist Junior Hill at the North Alabama Bible Conference at Decatur Baptist Church on Wednesday. He was recognized for his 40 years of service as a full-time evangelist.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Evangelist Junior Hill at the North Alabama Bible Conference at Decatur Baptist Church on Wednesday. He was recognized for his 40 years of service as a full-time evangelist.

Evangelist still in demand after 40 years of ministry

By Melanie B. Smith 340-2468

The Rev. Junior Hill, standing on the platform at Decatur Baptist Church, apologized to the crowd for having to watch a video about his life.

"He sure is an ugly guy, I'll tell you that much," he said of himself.

Hill was the preacher for the evening Wednesday at the North Alabama Bible Conference, but planners took the occasion to recognize him for 40 years as a full-time Southern Baptist evangelist.

Hill, who grew up in Hartselle and still lives there, has preached in many of the largest churches in the United States. He served as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hill was at one of the "flagship" churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bellevue Baptist near Memphis, in October. This month he's scheduled in seven states, including three statewide evangelism conferences.

The organizer of the North Alabama Bible Conference, the Rev. Phil Waldrep of Decatur, called Hill a great man of God. A fellow evangelist, Waldrep said Hill usually jokes when speaking at Waldrep's meetings about being toted on his mother's hip as a child to hear Waldrep preach.

"It's no joke for me," Waldrep said. "I did go with my parents to hear Brother Junior preach."

Waldrep said that Hill and Billy Graham were the only evangelists he knew of when he went into evangelism as a teen.

Waldrep said Hill is a great friend and encourager to many other preachers.

"His life proves that where God calls, he provides," Waldrep said on the video.

Hill's farming family was honest and hardworking but did not go to church, according to the video. Hill said that for years a Sunday school teacher picked him up and took him to church with her. At age 17, he decided to become a Christian and in 1954 "surrendered to preach," he said.

In 1967, after finishing seminary and serving as a pastor, he felt that God wanted him to be an evangelist. He said he resigned his church in Birmingham although he had only one revival lined up. Within a month, his schedule was full.

He said that a friend in seminary, Jim Henry, went on to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando.

"Never did I dream what God would do in our lives. He went on to big things. I just went on and got much bigger," he joked.

Hill used his recent experience at the big Bellevue Baptist Church as an illustration in his sermon. He said that all people are prone to pride. Hill said that two young men greeted him when he drove up to the huge facility, and they unloaded his car and set up his book table. After preaching to thousands, he felt a little smug, he said.

"I thought, 'They sure know how to treat people there,' " Hill said.

A few days later, he drove to a rural Cullman County church to preach. It had a gravel parking lot and a shotgun block building with a 50-watt bulb hanging on the porch. He watched as a mangy dog took up residence on the porch.

"I thought, 'Lord, that's a long way from Bellevue.' ... I felt God whisper to me, I love these people at this little church as much as I love the people at Bellevue."

Hill's latest book, the autobiographical "They Call Him Junior," was published last year and is in a second printing, he said.

Hill, 70, has events scheduled all over the country for 2007.

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