A notable alumnus, ‘Mr. Baptist’ served Mercer throughout his life | Mercer Legends

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black and white photo of a man sitting at a desk and holding a pipe
Louie D. Newton is pictured in his study at Druid Hills Baptist Church. Mercer archives photo

Mercer University alumnus and professor Louie D. Newton was known as “Mr. Baptist” for his influence in shaping the thought and policy of the denomination. Here’s how he became a Mercer Legend.

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Louie D. Newton 

Mercer connection: Alumnus, professor and trustee 

Years at Mercer: Newton attended Mercer from 1910-1913, when he graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree. He taught from 1914-1917 and served on the Board of Trustees from 1930-1934. 

What he did: Newton first enrolled at Mercer as a sophomore. As a student, he served as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Orange and Black. Upon graduation, he was elected to the faculty and taught from 1914-1917. During the summers, he studied at Columbia University and received his Master of Arts in 1915. 

black and white headshot of a young man in a suit
Louie D. Newton is pictured in the 1912 Cauldron.

When Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, Newton resigned to join the Army. He directed educational work at Camp Wheeler in Macon and continued to serve there after the war ended until 1919. At that time, he was named publicity director for the $75 Million Campaign, a national effort to retire debts of Southern Baptist Convention institutions.

In 1920, Newton became editor of The Christian Index newspaper, growing circulation from 6,000 to 40,000 readers. In 1929, he was ordained and became pastor of Atlanta’s Druid Hills Baptist Church, where he remained until his retirement in 1968. He was a prominent figure in the Baptist denomination, serving as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention, as well as a leader in other major Baptist organizations. 

He wrote weekly columns for The Christian Index for 65 years and hosted a weekly radio show on WGST-Atlanta for over 57 years. He died in 1986. 

Why he’s a legend: Newton is one of Mercer’s most prominent alumni and participated in Baptist life locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. 

His roles at The Christian Index, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Georgia Baptist Convention gave him a platform to preach Southern Baptist beliefs to a wide audience. He was known for fighting for civic and religious righteousness and crusading against alcohol, pornography, gambling and corruption, according to his obituary in The Christian Index

The Georgia Baptist Convention was instrumental in Mercer’s founding in 1833 and maintained a formal relationship with the University until the early 2000s. During Newton’s tenure, he led fundraising drives that resulted in increased endowments for Mercer and other statewide Baptist institutions.  

In 1932, Mercer awarded Newton an honorary Doctor of Divinity. He received the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1976, and in 1978, Mercer renamed its worship center, the former Tattnall Square Baptist Church, as Newton Chapel. That same year, Mercer trustees established the annual Louie D. Newton General Excellence Award to go to outstanding students, and Newton gave a cash gift to finance the award.

Quotable: “Louie Newton embodied the spirit and substance of Mercer University. Even while serving as a perceptive interpreter of world affairs and the leading stateman of Baptist life, his heart remained close to the university, and he was a major force in keeping Mercer centered on its Baptist heritage. Mercer’s sanctuary of worship bears his name, but the entire university bears his presence, a presence which holds high the importance of learning while proclaiming clearly the gifts of faith.” — Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, then-president of Mercer University, The Christian Index, 1986

 

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