The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Malcolm R. and Melba L. McDow Chair of Evangelism during its Oct. 17-18 meeting. The new, fully endowed academic chair is in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions and honors the McDows for his role as professor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary from 1982-2005. Carl J. Bradford, assistant professor of evangelism in the Fish School, was named the inaugural occupant.
“We are deeply grateful to the generous friends of the seminary who made this academic chair possible,” said David S. Dockery, interim president. “Malcolm McDow’s scholarship and passion for ministry has influenced innumerable students through his faithful service at Southwestern—an influence that continues to this day through the lives and ministries of his former students. It is fitting that an academic chair for evangelism is named in honor of Dr. McDow and his wife.”
The chair is made possible by a gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
“An academic chair provides academic status to a school and to have a chair of this nature named in our honor is the highest recognition at a school,” McDow said. “Melba and I are deeply, deeply humbled and moved that this event is occurring.”
A native of Waco, Texas, McDow earned a Bachelor of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary in 1962. He also earned a Bachelor of Arts in history at Baylor University in 1958, the same year he was ordained to ministry after the Lord called him to preach in 1954. A high school track star at Waco High School, he was awarded both athletic and academic scholarships at Baylor but opted to accept the academic scholarship.
Melba McDow, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, earned a Bachelor of Science at Baylor University in 1961 majoring in what is now known as family and consumer sciences. Following graduation, she moved to Houston, where her parents had relocated, and began teaching kindergarten and high school science. As a member of the college and career Sunday School department at First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, she met McDow, who had started serving as the youth director at the church in 1962 following his graduation from Southwestern Seminary. The couple was married in December 1962 at the Houston church. McDow said his wife has been “very involved” in his ministry.
McDow earned a Doctor of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1968 and began pastoring Cherry Road Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. While serving the west Tennessee church, McDow was also a fellow in the Department of Preaching and Doctor of Ministry supervisor for the Memphis area for NOBTS. Additionally, he was an adjunct professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, before he served as the director of evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1977-1982.
McDow began serving at Southwestern Seminary as a professor of evangelism, eventually holding the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“Chair of Fire”) when he served as the chairman of the evangelism department in the early 1990s. McDow played a significant role in shaping Southwestern Seminary’s evangelism program and, alongside his colleagues, the late Roy J. Fish and James Eaves, helped establish Southwestern’s Doctor of Philosophy in evangelism. He was also instrumental in establishing the School of Evangelism and Missions, which was approved by the institution’s trustees in 2005.
At one time during his tenure at Southwestern, McDow also occupied the George W. Truett Chair of Ministry.
McDow and his wife were the 2003 recipients of the L.R. Scarborough Award, the seminary’s highest honor that is given annually to ministry partners and donors to the institution. The McDows have also established three academic awards that honor the educational accomplishments of Southwestern Seminary students who excel in the areas of evangelism and missions. He is also a 2019 Southwestern Seminary Distinguished Alumni recipient.
McDow is the co-editor of Revival and is the author of When the Fires of Heaven Fell, a comprehensive history of revivals that is scheduled for release in early 2023 by Seminary Hill Press, the publishing arm of Southwestern Seminary.
In addition to his pastoral experience in Texas and Tennessee, McDow has served on church staffs in California, Washington, and Louisiana. His interim pastor roles include churches in Texas and Arkansas.
Bradford was named the inaugural occupant of the McDow Chair by action of the board, effective Jan. 1, 2023. Bradford, who has taught at Southwestern Seminary since 2018, earned both Master of Divinity (2011) and Doctor of Philosophy (2018) degrees from the Fort Worth institution. The New Orleans, Louisiana, native has led Southwestern Seminary’s Crossover team at the Southern Baptist Convention for the last four years in addition to leading Everyday Evangelism teams that allow students real-time opportunities to share the Gospel in the Fort Worth area.
“Carl Bradford continues to carry on the longstanding commitment to evangelism that has characterized Southwestern Seminary since its founding, including B. H. Carroll, L. R. Scarborough, Roy Fish, and Malcolm McDow, among others,” said Dockery. “His commitment to the Gospel and his love for people are evident to his students and to all with whom he comes in contact. We congratulate Carl Bradford on his appointment to the McDow Chair of Evangelism.”
Bradford said being named to the McDow Chair is met with three “emotions,” including “gratitude, honor, and responsibility.”
“Gratitude because the Lord has seen fit to have SWBTS support my evangelism efforts toward the present and future students,” Bradford remarked. “Honor because I have the undeserving privilege to occupy a seat among a passionate group of professors and evangelists of SWBTS’s past and present, namely Dr. McDow, who consistently encourages me to be a scholar and practitioner of evangelism. And responsibility for leading the charge and stoking the flames of evangelism among and outside the SWBTS community.”