Basil A. Overton
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Beloved and respected Church of Christ minister Basil Abney Overton, of Florence, Ala., passed away Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, at the home of his daughter and son-in-law in Richmond, Ky. He was 87.
Brother Overton is survived by his daughters, Tessa (Bill) Berryman, of Richmond, Ky. and Florence, Ala., and Gretchen (Jace) Melton, of Florence, Ala.; and son Gaius (Mary) Overton, of Smithville and Nashville, Tenn.; grandchildren, Jeremy (Amber) Barrier, Jennifer (Jeff) Wilson, Dale Berryman, Jennifer Berryman, Brandon Mayfield, Stacy Mayfield, Joseph Overton, and Cornelia Overton; great-grandchildren, Elizabeth Reeves, Easton Wilson, Will Barrier and Joshua Barrier; and sisters, Martha Priestley and Betty McDaniel, of Greenfield and Martin, Tenn., respectively. He was predeceased by his cherished wife and life partner of almost 65 years, Margie Medling Overton; their son, Timothy Medling Overton; his parents, William Raymond and Mary Abney Overton; sister, Stella Swindell; and brothers, Billy and Gene Overton.
Basil Overton grew up on the Overton family farm outside of Greenfield in West Tennessee. He knew the labor of hard work in his daddy's fields; he plowed with a team of mules from the age of nine; he swam in the cool waters of the Obion river; he was surrounded in love by his community, church, and the great gift of extended family; and he never tired of family stories and the history of the rugged Overtons who migrated to West Tennessee from Virginia to carve out a homestead in the early 1800s. Beginning in 1944, after his schooling in Weakley County, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during the final year of World War II, including at the battle of Iwo Jima. Witnessing so much death and destruction during the war sealed his determination to marry his sweetheart back home and dedicate his life to the ministry. He married Margie Medling from Greenfield on leave from the Navy in 1945 and, when discharged from the military in 1946, began his higher education, attending Freed-Hardeman College, Henderson, Tenn., Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, receiving his B.A. from Eastern Kentucky State College, Richmond, Ky., and his M.A. from the University of Kentucky, Lexington. In later years he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Morehead State University, Morehead, Ky.
Having taught the Gospel informally from a young age, and even baptizing a fellow sailor in the Pacific Ocean during the war, he preached his first official church sermon when only 19 at a Church of Christ congregation in southern California while still in the Navy. Among the churches he served over the years were the Trent Church of Christ of Trent, Texas, the Gleason Church of Christ of Gleason, Tenn., Murrell Boulevard (now Central) Church of Christ of Paducah, Ky., Baker Court (now Richmond) Church of Christ of Richmond, Ky., the Southside Church of Christ of Lexington, Ky., and the Tusculum Church of Christ of Nashville, Tenn. He was appointed associate editor of the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tenn., in 1968, before moving to Florence, Ala. where Brother Overton helped found International Bible College (IBC, now Heritage University) and served as its vice president and on its faculty beginning in 1971. At IBC he founded, wrote for and edited the church newspaper, The World Evangelist, for nearly 32 years. Each month, his popular editorial "Mule Musings," which included sage words of wisdom, practical advice and a scripture lesson, was eagerly anticipated by his many readers around the world. During his IBC years, he also authored numerous books on theology, scriptural interpretation, and church history, and, with his Margie, he traveled the U.S. preaching invited Gospel meetings, nearly 600 of them over his lifetime, for congregations across the country.
Brother Overton was a thoughtful, engaging, sought-after speaker, a much-loved teacher and professor, a world-famous Gospel writer and a nationally and internationally famous Church of Christ minister. Yet, beyond the professional esteem in which his church held him, he was a warm, gentle, sweet man whose home and table were always open to friends and friends-of-friends alike, with whom he kept in close personal contact through phone calls and beautiful handwritten letters. His mind and memory were keen up to the very end of his life-he never forgot a person's name and face, even among the thousands of people he came to know in every state, all of whom he counted as dear friends, and his knowledge of history and scripture were encyclopedic. In his years of strong health, he loved keeping chickens and gathering brown eggs, working hard outside in the dirt in his bountiful vegetable and flower gardens, chopping cabbage and canning sauerkraut in the kitchen, and grinding wheat to make his own whole wheat flour. He never forgot his roots and the values from growing up a farm boy in West Tennessee. His humble love of earth, ancestry and the Lord he passed on to his children and grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday afternoon, March 2, 2013, at Stony Point Church of Christ in Florence, Ala. The funeral service will be at 3, immediately following visitation, in the church sanctuary, with burial thereafter, next door at the Stony Point Cemetery. (stonypointchurchofchrist
The funeral service will be officiated by Church of Christ ministers and close family friends Alvin Alston, Kenneth Davis and Kippy Myers. The six pallbearers are Brother Overton's five grandsons, Jeremy Barrier, Dale Berryman, Brandon Mayfield, Joseph Overton and Jeffery Wilson, along with close friend Jim McAdams. Eight honorary pallbearers include dear family friends Lawrence Alexander, Bill Bagents, Jamie Crowe, James Farris, Wayne Kilpatrick, Delbert Knight, Richard Taylor and David Underwood.
An online guest book may be viewed and signed at greenviewmemorial.com.
Funeral arrangements are being handled through Greenview Funeral Home, Florence, Ala.
Greenview Funeral Home
3657 Old Chisholm Road Florence, AL 35633
Published in Florence Times Daily on Mar. 2, 2013