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Grady C. Cothen

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Grady C. Cothen Obituary
Grady C. Cothen


Grady C. Cothen passed away on May 19, at The Orchard retirement home in Ridgeland, MS. He was 96 years old.

Dr. Grady Cothen was an important leader within the Southern Baptist Convention for much of the 20th Century. Following service as a Navy chaplain in the Pacific during the last year of World War II, Dr. Cothen served as pastor of the White Oak Baptist Church in Chattanooga (1946-1948), Olivet Baptist Church, Oklahoma City (1948-1959), and First Baptist, Birmingham (1959-1961). From 1961-1966, he was Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern Baptist General Convention of California. Dr. Cothen became President of Oklahoma Baptist University and served from 1966-1970. He was selected as President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1970. In May of 1974, he came to the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now Lifeway) as President-elect. In February of 1975, he was inaugurated as the sixth executive of the Board, considered the largest religious publishing house in the world, where he served until his retirement in 1984.

Dr. Cothen built his reputation by growing churches and strengthening Baptist institutions, often under challenging circumstances. He was considered an outstanding preacher, from his days in Oklahoma addressing thousands at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly during the 1950's to his final sermon in December of 2012 at the retirement home where he lived. But his major contributions to Baptist life involved building consensus and solving practical problems involving administration, finance, personnel, and denominational polity. He often commented that he was most satisfied with his time as president of Oklahoma Baptist University during the turmoil of the late 1960s, where he cemented relationships with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma while building faculty cohesiveness and successfully defending academic freedom, including the right of students to speak and write as their consciences might dictate.

Born in Poplarville, Mississippi, into the family of "country preacher" Joseph Cothen, and Mamie Coulter Cothen, Grady shared an upbringing soon darkened by the Depression with three brothers, Aubrey, Harold, and Joe Jr. His mother Mamie was particularly insistent that Cothen boys receive a higher education, and he graduated from Mississippi College in 1941. He received the M.C.T. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1944. During the later years of his active service, he received honorary doctorates from California Baptist College, Mississippi College, William Jewel College, Oklahoma Baptist University and the University of Richmond.

Dr. Cothen's wife of 63 years, the former Martha E. (Bettye) Major, passed away in 2005. He is survived by his wife Mary Colmer Cothen, his brother Dr. Joe H. Cothen of Jackson, Mississippi, his children Carole Shields Westbrook of Miami and her husband Hugh Westbrook, Grady Jr. of Cheverly, Maryland and his wife Lelia Routh Cothen, and Mary Thompson and her husband Dr. Kenneth Thompson of Schertz, Texas, together with grandchildren,great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild.

Dr. Cothen's family wishes to express its appreciation for the loving care provided by the staff of The Orchard during his last years, especially including Ms. Phyllis McCaskill and Ms. Francis Andrews.

A memorial service will be held at The Orchard, 600 S. Pear Orchard Road, Ridgeland, Mississippi, at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 20. He will be interred at the Roseberry Cemetery in Mascot, Tennessee.
Published in Clarion Ledger on May 20, 2017
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