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Burton Barber Memories

By Ed McSpadden May 2003

Ed McSpadden
The late
Ed McSpadden

My first acquaintance with Brother Burton Barber was at Norfolk, Nebraska, while I was attending Nebraska Christian College. They often brought speakers in on Wednesday nights. I will never forget this little man getting up and preaching so fast and furious on the subject of "Where Is The Lord God of Elijah?" He had another fellow by the name of Ben Mills with him. Ben had lived down in Kansas, and had a strong connection with Burton, as Burton had held several meetings in Hutchinson, Kansas. My first impression of Burtonís rapid-fire preaching made me begin to wonder where this guy had come from. I do remember that he had to get back to Ottumwa for school the next day, and so he delivered the sermon and then went back to school.

Burton conducted several revival meeting for me through the years, always with good results. He held a meeting at Cozad, Nebraska, where he become ill with an attack of boils. One evening, he was supposed to preach on Communism, and the boils prevented him from coming to Church. In fact, I thought he might, indeed, die from his illness. We had a full house that came out to hear him, but he could not come. We called in the Doctor, and with his help, learned how to care for Burton. After this meeting, he was well enough, he thought, to travel, and so he and I went to Camp Keoma. On the way, we came down into the little town of Knoxville, Iowa and a Policeman jumped out of his rocking chair and came out to the road and stopped us. He had the advantage of radar. We were taken to the Justice of Peace. Anyone who knew Burton, knew of his great ability to debate -- on any issue. Burton asked to speak before the Justice of Peace, and he told him he had done a lengthy study on radar. Burtonís argument was that it was wrong from him to charge us, because the radar was not an exact science. The Justice said, "Mr. Barber, you have some good ideas, but youíre getting fined anyway.".

Burton successfully debated many groups, including those of the brethren of the a cappella movement. His arguments were different than the usual Psalms argument from the New Testament, and he successfully played on a tuning fork "The Old Rugged Cross" Ė and he said, "You can make music out of anything."

Opal Barber, his wife of many years, would let us know how Burton was feeling about any issue that came up. She was a very capable woman, and had followed Burton through many years of hardship in the ministry.

Burton was also known for his carpentry skills. It was not unusual to find him with a group, at some local church that needed help, hunkered over blueprints that he had drawn, and then to give as much of his own time in building that was necessary to make the project work.

He was an excellent chart maker. Often, before the 1970's, I can remember that almost any preacher used charts, but his were excellent. They were detailed, and each point on them led, in his mind, to an entire set of specific knowledge of the topic under discussion. In 1958, I was in a revival meeting in Centerville, Iowa. Burton sat on the front row, drawing charts. If I said something unusual, his head would come up from his chart drawing and, often, heíd also quote a Scripture. In one meeting he conducted at a church where I was preaching, he quoted without pause or mistake, the first twelve chapters of the book of Romans. My memories include him doing this more than once. Sometimes, he would pick out a Scripture as his text, and have it be an entire chapter, and he would quote the entire chapter. It was said by others that I have visited with about him, that he knew the entire New Testament by heart. I never did hear him even try to attempt to quote it all in my presence, but Iíve been told that he could.

Burton was a very active song leader. In a December meeting in Gering, Nebraska, Burton preached for a week before he was joined by Brother Hunt and Brother McMorrow in a mid-winter rally. I had not yet learned to wave my hand, as the custom was at the time. So, Burton took me into the study one morning and said "You are going to be a song leader when you come out of here." What little I know about it today, Burton was gracious enough to teach me.

Burton was very adept at settling problems, and I remember two or three times he helped me out greatly. He was also very helpful in many ways on doctrinal issues. He unfolded, for me personally, the book of Daniel, and the important fact that Christ is sitting on the throne of David.

I was fortunate to have been acquainted with Burton Barber. At Burtonís funeral, Brother Donald G Hunt and Brother Don Pinon gave a message that was challenging, based on Burtonís life. He left behind several books and pamphlets that, long after his home-going, are remembered and used. His charts, such as the Church History Chart, are still used today. Not long after Burton passed away, his wife, Opal, went to be with the Lord.

Sincerely Submitted by Ed McSpadden

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