Jennings Randolph: Servant, Statesman, Seventh Day Baptist: Many Advantages Come along with Being Part of the Baptist Family, Especially as Those Advantages Are Expressed through the Relationships We Have with Our Baptist Brothers and Sisters. Inside the Baptist Family, We Have Our Own Clans, and Kinship Inside Those Clans Is Meaningful

By Kersten, Nicholas | Baptist History and Heritage, Summer-Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Jennings Randolph: Servant, Statesman, Seventh Day Baptist: Many Advantages Come along with Being Part of the Baptist Family, Especially as Those Advantages Are Expressed through the Relationships We Have with Our Baptist Brothers and Sisters. Inside the Baptist Family, We Have Our Own Clans, and Kinship Inside Those Clans Is Meaningful


Kersten, Nicholas, Baptist History and Heritage


Seventh Day Baptists are a particularly clannish people, demonstrating long historical lines tied closely to family names that extend back to the days of our inception. That clannishness comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages. I discovered one particular advantage of being a Seventh Day Baptist as I undertook this article to capsulate the life and contributions of Jennings Randolph, a United States representative and senator from West Virginia for over fifty years and a prominent Seventh Day Baptist. (1) That advantage was expressed through the personal connectedness many Seventh Day Baptists feel towards the longtime senator whom they refer to simply as "Jennings."

I am a younger man, and I was not a regular participant in the activities of our General Conference until 1998, the year of Jennings's death, so I do not have any personal memories of the senator. Many times in my discussions with more senior Seventh Day Baptists, I felt as if I was the only one who did not have such personal memories, but I gained an appreciation for the contributions he made not only to this country but also to the people and churches of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference.

The week after I began work on this article, my grandparents were sorting through some items in their basement and asked me to come help. In the midst of some of my great-grandfather's papers was an autographed photo of Randolph, with a dedication to my great-grandfather. Such is life among Seventh Day Baptists.

When I first undertook this article, I wanted to try to frame my own understanding of the importance of Randolph's contributions. As a relative late-comer to the writing of history, I feared for overestimating his importance; and so I did what any self-respecting modern twenty-six-year-old would do--I went to Google. In a search for contemporaries with whom I might compare Randolph, I first entered the name of Ronald Reagan, simply because of the similarity of their life spans (not their political convictions). My search yielded more than 31 million results. To balance that number against another standard, I entered a name of less significance (my own) and conducted the same type of search, which yielded twenty-seven results. Not shockingly, the results for the query, "Jennings Randolph," yielded a number neatly between those two numbers, about 98,800. Admittedly, my Google search was not a scientific way of determining the contributions of the people whom the searches represented. The reliability of data from the Internet and the explanation of what the results of my search mean are open to interpretation. However, based on the data and the positions which Randolph held, he certainly is worthy of another, more detailed look.

The Early Years

Jennings Randolph was born March 8, 1902, to Ernest and Idell (Bingman) Randolph, in Salem, West Virginia. His family seems to have predisposed him to politics, as one of his forbearers, Edmond Randolph, was the first attorney general of the United States and served under George Washington; and Randolph's father, Ernest, ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1916. (2) In 1914, Jennings Randolph gave a testimony of faith and was baptized by A. J. C. Bond, a foremost Seventh Day Baptist leader.

Life in Salem during that time implied education at the Seventh Day Baptist schools in town. Salem was founded by Seventh Day Baptists moving to the frontier in the dosing part of the eighteenth century. (3) One of the first things Seventh Day Baptists often did as their settlements developed was to set up institutions of learning. (4) Randolph received his secondary and undergraduate education at Salem Academy and Salem College, two of the schools founded by Seventh Day Baptists. He graduated from Salem Academy in 1918 and from Salem College in 1924. (5) Randolph's experience at Salem College was punctuated by his own involvement on campus, both in athletics and in the affairs of the college. …

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Jennings Randolph: Servant, Statesman, Seventh Day Baptist: Many Advantages Come along with Being Part of the Baptist Family, Especially as Those Advantages Are Expressed through the Relationships We Have with Our Baptist Brothers and Sisters. Inside the Baptist Family, We Have Our Own Clans, and Kinship Inside Those Clans Is Meaningful
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