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Former Messenger editor McCartney dies

726bd580184fd9582dc2fccf452863d5Richard Thomas (Dick) McCartney, 81, editor of the Baptist Messenger from 1979-87, died at his home in Arkansas March 9. Funeral services were March 13 at Siloam Springs, Ark., First.

McCartney served at a time when the Messenger reached its peak with a circulation of more than 121,000. He was also editor in the state’s turbulent times of voting in liquor-by-the-drink, pari-mutuel horse racing and opposing a state lottery. He became Oklahoma Baptists’ spokesman for all of those issues.

His tenure included the years of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, and he was able to keep the Messenger on a level playing field in a time when emotions were running high and controversies and accusations were swirling.

Frosty Troy, editor of the Oklahoma Observer, said of McCartney:

“Dick McCartney is one of those marvelous writers who not only handles words beautifully, he is wholly fearless.

“You think regular newspaper editors get heat. You’d never believe the letters and other attacks on McCartney. He was the guy who went to court and got that utterly corrupt state lottery petition killed.

“It would be self-serving to say that editing a newspaper is a risky business, but it is. And when you’re trying to do an objective job on a subject as touchy as religion, imagine what the reaction is.

“I’ve been a regular reader of the Baptist Messenger for years—although I’m not a Baptist. It is the insight into the denomination that I sought. No other publication of any size in America has done a better job reporting on the Religious New Right and all those political zanies who have been using religion for political purposes, or vice versa. That brought Dick McCartney a lot of criticism, but it was his job, and he did it superbly.”

McCartney came to the Baptist Messenger from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, where he served as public relations director. He was also public relations director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma from 1958-62, and president of Arthur Davenport & Associates, Inc. in Oklahoma City.

When he came to the Messenger, the roles of editor and BGCO communications director were combined for the first time.

A graduate of John Brown University in Siloam Springs, and Southwestern Seminary, McCartney served as pastor of Muskogee, New Hope, assistant pastor at Oklahoma City, Britton and mission pastor at Muskogee, First.

McCartney, who started his career in broadcasting in 1945, came full circle when he accepted the position of vice president and chief operating officer of the Southern Baptist Radio-Television Commission in 1987. He retired from that position in 1995.

He was a member of numerous professional organizations. He served as president of Baptist Public Relations Association (now Baptist Communicators Association), was on the national board of governors for the Religious Public Relations Council, was accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, named public relations professional of the year in 1983 and received the PRSA’s national president’s citation in 1975-76. He is a member of the Texas Baptist Public Relations Hall of Fame.

McCartney is survived by his wife, Barbara, 708 Cherokee Dr., Gentry, AR 72734; two brothers, Earl, Sarasota, Fla., and Al, Oklahoma City; a sister, Betsy Hicklin, Chilicothe, Mo.; two daughters, Judy McCullough, Siloam Springs, and Kathy Hancock, Albuquerque, N.M.; a son, Michael, Edmond; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial scholarship has been established at John Brown University, where McCartney was a trustee. Gifts may be made to the “McCartney Scholarship Fund” and mailed in care of John McCullough, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.

Dana Williamson

Author: Dana Williamson

View more articles by Dana Williamson.

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