FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Harry Leon McBeth, distinguished professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for 45 years, passed away April 29. He was 81.

McBeth earned his bachelor’s degree at Wayland Baptist University in 1954, followed by studies at Southwestern Seminary, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) in 1957 and a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) in 1961. While he began teaching at the seminary as a doctoral student in 1958, he was elected to full-time faculty in 1960.

During his time at Southwestern, he served as the chair of the church history department and published numerous books, which include The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage, and Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History.

McBeth also served as pastor of churches in western and central Texas, and he served as an interim pastor in more than 30 churches. He received Distinguished Alumnus awards from Wayland Baptist University in 1992 and Southwestern Seminary in 2001, and the George W. Truett Award from the Baptist General Convention in Texas in 2001.

In denominational life, McBeth served on numerous boards and committees. He served as a member of the board of trustees at Wayland Baptist University, chairman of the Texas Baptist Historical Committee, president of the Southern Baptist Historical Society, and chairman of the Historical Commission of the SBC.

McBeth was preceded in death by his wife, Ada Miller McBeth; and a son, Mark McBeth. He is survived by his wife, Thelma Grace McBeth; children, Ruth Ann Rugg and her husband, Jerry and David McBeth and his wife, Sharon; stepchildren, Becky Kerkvliet and her husband, Mike, and Rhonda Edwards and her husband, Dwayne; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 3, at Greenwood Funeral Home in Fort Worth. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, at University Baptist Church, followed by interment at Greenwood Memorial Park.