NASHVILLE, TN—Reverend Ralph Hampton, former chairman of the Biblical and Ministry Studies Department at Welch College and a member of the college faculty for 50 years, died September 7, 2012, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 77. The Oklahoma native was converted at age 12 during a youth camp and ordained to preach in 1960.
President Matt Pinson said, “Ralph Hampton was a rock of stability on campus for five decades—a man of prayer, a scholar with a warm heart, and a teacher who challenged students to give their best. He demonstrated spiritual and intellectual leadership as a faculty member, and faithfulness in his local church. We thank God for the influence of this great man.”
Hampton’s ministry to the broader denomination included six pastorates in Tennessee and Missouri, articles for Contact and ONE Magazine, and curriculum writing for Randall House Publications. His signature leadership role came during a 15-year span when the National Association of Free Will Baptists elected him moderator nine times (1987-1996) and assistant moderator six times (1981-1987). He moderated during several controversial and pivotal sessions, including the emotionally-charged 1995 national convention.
“That was a crisis moment in our history,” Reverend Hampton said during a 2008 interview. “Men had reached a point where they felt they couldn’t be brethren and friends with those who disagreed with them. The 1995 convention and Leadership Conference called us back to our roots as Christian brothers and Free Will Baptists.”
Ralph began his 50-year tenure at Welch College in 1958 at age 23. Like most young educators, he wore several hats, which meant that he taught 15 hours per semester, served as Christian Service director, and was the dormitory supervisor. The son of a Free Will Baptist preacher and oldest of four brothers, he spent half a century changing the landscape of denominational education, preparing students for ministry in a world-wide community, and raising a family of three children with his wife Margaret—all three children graduated from Welch College.
He pushed himself hard as an educator, earning five degrees—A.A. degree from East Contra Costa Junior College (1955), B.A. degree from Welch College (1958), M.A. degree from Winona Lake School of Theology (1961), M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary (1970), and the D.Min. (ABD) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Dr. Robert Picirilli, Professor Emeritus and retired academic dean at Welch College, said, “Ralph graced the campus with a lifetime of quiet, dependable service. We could always count on him to be there, to do what was needed, and to do it without making a fuss. He was dedicated to keeping the school true to its founding mission, and he never swerved in his thinking from that ideal.”
Two of Ralph’s brothers (Charles and Larry) eventually joined him on the faculty at Welch College. His younger brother Larry said, “Ralph had a profound influence on my life. I came to the college as a student because of him. He was my teacher—one of the best I ever had. I am convinced there has been no better man who has taught here. I once told a young lady I dated that I wished I was more like Ralph. She asked why and I replied, ‘Because he’s more like Jesus than I am.’ ’’
Old Testament Professor Dr. Garnett Reid served alongside Reverend Hampton. He said, “Ralph left an indelible imprint on this school and on all of us he taught, and that imprint bears a striking resemblance to the Savior whom he loved and whom he taught us to love.”
Ralph Hampton is survived by his wife of 54 years, Mrs. Margaret Evans Hampton, who served 37 years at Welch College as manager of Welch Library; daughter Mrs. Laura Fleming; sons Reverend Clayton Hampton and Mr. Kenny Hampton; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and one brother, Reverend Larry D. Hampton.