Above: Ron Fannin makes comments after he received the 2023 Distinguished Service Award at the Oklahoma Baptist Historical Commission luncheon during the Annual Meeting at Del City, First Southern, last November.
Oklahoma Baptists were shocked to learn the morning of Jan. 21 of the death of longtime Oklahoma Baptist servant and statesman Ron Fannin, who passed away the evening before.
“This is a sad day for Oklahoma Baptists,” said Todd Fisher, executive director-treasurer of Oklahoma Baptists. “Ron worked for many years on the leadership team for Oklahoma Baptists before retiring in 2014 and continued to serve part-time to the present day.
“Ron was a kind, wise man who loved Jesus,” Fisher continued. “He was a friend to so many and one of my greatest encouragers these last two years. A great servant of the Kingdom and Oklahoma Baptists who is now in the presence of his Lord. Please join me in praying for his family.”
Born July 4, 1948, to Hobart and Catherine Fannin in Chandler, Ron grew up in Wynnewood, and resided in Chico, Texas before moving to Marietta, where he graduated from high school in 1966. Fannin graduated from Murray State College in Tishomingo in 1968 and from Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) with a degree in church music in 1971. He accepted the call to Gospel ministry at age 16 and was ordained in 1970 at Drumright, First.
In addition to his ministry in music, education, youth and administration at churches, Fannin served the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma (BFO, currently WatersEdge) as vice president for church building loans and student services and senior vice president from 1988-2000. In the latter role, he oversaw a $30 million church building loan portfolio, traveling more than 40,000 miles a year assisting Oklahoma churches in evaluating building projects and creating a safe debt service to allow them to maintain their current ministry and keep their missions giving strong.
He also served Oklahoma Baptists as senior associate executive director from September 2000-July 2014.
“I am still dealing with the shock of Ron’s passing,” said Anthony Jordan, who was executive director-treasurer for Oklahoma Baptists when Fannin served the state convention. “For 23 years we have walked side by side in life and ministry. I loved him like a brother. He was one of the finest Christians I have ever known. His life was marked by integrity, loving care for others, wisdom and a passion for Christ. He was the greatest encourager I have ever known. He was the epitome of servanthood.
“Our last time together, as was often the case, we praised Jesus for His goodness and wept together as we were overwhelmed by His grace to our families,” Jordan continued. “Ron said on many occasions that he found his calling as the man in the 2nd chair. I told him the man in the first chair could not have done it without him. He served Oklahoma Baptist churches and the convention in an outstanding way. His contribution to us will only be revealed in full in heaven.”
Over the Labor Day weekend in September 2005, Fannin helped to coordinate the Oklahoma Baptists’ massive statewide response to begin housing up to 3,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center. The Baptist Building staff spent the weekend on the phone contacting cabin owners, getting their permission to use their cabins for housing. They also mailed hundreds of letters to Falls Creek donors explaining what was happening. Although the misplaced Katrina victims never eventually occupied the campground, state Baptists showed their mettle in preparing a huge undertaking.
After “retirement,” he served with the BFO as trust/probate property manager and fleet manager for vehicle purchases, and with Oklahoma Baptists, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and Baptist Village Communities as fleet manager for vehicle purchases, repairs and insurance claims.
Fannin served in more than 25 interim music positions during his 26 years in the Baptist Building. Nationally, he also served on the Stewardship Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 2013 he was a recipient of the OBU Alumni Association’s Profile In Excellence Award.
Ron was a member of the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma beginning in 1971 and served as president of the group in 1982. He was the recipient of the Churchmen’s Royce Brown Award for Lifetime Achievement in Music Ministry in 2014. He traveled with the Churchmen on mission trips to Russia twice, China, Australia and Armenia. He also traveled to the Holy Land on three occasions.
Married to the former Jamie Pace of Tishomingo in 1968, the couple have three married children: Melanie Nippert, Todd Fannin, and Greg Fannin; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
“I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ at age 13 at, Chico, Texas, First and surrendered my life to Christian ministry in music at age 16,” Fannin once said. “I love and appreciate my association with Oklahoma Baptist churches through church loans, opportunities to share my faith, lead in worship services and connect with each of them through the Cooperative Program of mission giving.
“I am most grateful for the mentorship of Bob Ross, my pastor and president of the Baptist Foundation, and Anthony Jordan, who allowed me to minister alongside him (with Oklahoma Baptists).”
Fannin was honored during a dinner on May 20, 2014, at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, as a large crowd attended the event honoring the senior associate executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO, also known as Oklahoma Baptists), who was retiring at the end of July.
BGCO board members, former and current BGCO co-workers; representatives of affiliated ministries; former co-workers of The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, where Fannin served for 12 years; former pastors of churches where Fannin served, as well as family and friends met to honor Fannin as he neared retirement.
Robert Haskins, retired BGCO senior associate executive director, served as the emcee of the evening’s program, introducing the speakers and presenters, including Ron’s brother, Alton Fannin, pastor of Ardmore, First.
“Ron has been a leader who has lifted hundreds if not thousands of other people to greater assignments of accomplishments in life, never expecting any reward for himself. I’m actually a recipient of that influence,” Alton said.
Fannin served on staff at three state churches including Drumright, First; Oklahoma City, Knob Hill; and Lawton, Central. Brad Allen, who was the pastor at Lawton, Central when Fannin served there, said the church baptized 1,011 people during the nine years Allen and Fannin were on staff.
“I was a pastor for 40 years,” Allen said. “Ron Fannin is the best staff member I ever worked with.”
Bob Ross pastored at Drumright, First and Oklahoma City, Knob Hill during the time of Fannin’s service at both churches. He also was president of the BFO and later hired Fannin as senior vice president in charge of the Foundation’s loan services. At the dinner, Ross spoke highly of Fannin’s work with the Foundation, saying not one loan was lost during Fannin’s service.
“It was more than a job to him; it was a ministry,” Ross said. “Ron Fannin, indeed, is my very dear friend. Next to my wife and family he is probably the best friend I have in all this world. I have never known a person (who) more personifies the spirit of Christ in humility and service to others than you, Ron. My life is richer today because your life touched mine.”
Fannin was honored by the Oklahoma Baptist Historical Commission during the 2023 Oklahoma Baptists’ Annual Meeting with the annual Distinguished Service Award.
“It is hard to give him up,” Jordan said. “I will miss him so much. But I rejoice and am somewhat jealous that he has seen Jesus in all His glory. My longing for heaven just took another step higher now that Ron is there.”