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Updated Monday, Nov 07, 2005

Sitting in Josiah's chair

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

The value of some gifts is not measured by the price they would fetch, but by the heritage that goes with them. I was honored to receive just such a gift on Oct. 23. John Bunn, who has given much of his life to North Carolina Baptists, invited me to preach for the morning service at First Baptist Church, Sylva, where he is interim pastor. Following the service, he and the church together gave to me a rocking chair that was hand made for Josiah Bailey when he was editor of the Biblical Recorder.

Bunn, an antique buff, came by the chair through his wife Lois' first cousin, who married Josiah Bailey, Jr. Bunn had the beautiful walnut chair restored, refinished, and reupholstered to match its original color. The arms are flat, wide, and a little higher than usual - reportedly so Bailey could sit in the rocker and use the arms as a support for writing notes.

Josiah Bailey was a significant figure in N.C. history. He was the son of a pastor, C.T. Bailey, who edited the Recorder in the late 1800s. Josiah was born in 1873, entered Wake Forest College at the age of 15, and graduated in 1893. He considered an academic career, but came home to assist his father, who was in failing health. In 1895, C.T. Bailey died, and Josiah Bailey - at the age of 22 - became editor of the Recorder.

As editor, Bailey used his considerable influence to promote the development of public education. His promotion of state aid for primary and secondary education was a switch, because some previous editors had advocated parochial schools over public schools.

Bailey was also a champion of the temperance movement, and in 1903 he was elected chair of the executive committee of the "Anti-Saloon League."

Later, Bailey resigned as editor to enter law school, and became one of North Carolina's most successful attorneys before being elected to the U. S. Senate in 1930, where he served until his death in 1946.

Bailey was so deeply religious that his Senate colleagues gave him the nickname "Holy Joe," a moniker that has been applied to notably pious people ever since.

Bailey was sometimes hard to figure out. In North Carolina, he was considered to be a progressive Democrat, but in Washington, he opposed Roosevelt's New Deal and helped compose what became known as the "Conservative Manifesto."

As I sit in Bailey's chair, I sense the same desire to think for myself, as true Baptists are prone to do.

My favorite line from Josiah's pen is from1904, when he pledged that the Biblical Recorder would stand for "treating all men justly and making record of events without prejudice and without fear and without favor."

More than a century later, that goal remains unchanged.

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