By John Pierce

Sometimes what we hear or read takes us back to a specific time and place. Learning that Reaves McCall had died last Friday (Jan. 21) took me back a few years to Mr. B’s Seafood on the outskirts of Hartsville, S.C.

My colleague Keithen Tucker and I had driven to this lovely little town — that is home to Coker College and some fine, friendly people — to meet Reaves for lunch. From the moment we sat down I could tell that Reaves was the kind of person everyone enjoys encountering in life.

His gifts and interests were many — a faithful Christian, respected architect, model citizen, curious historian and collector of art.

And he was unconfused about what it meant to be a Baptist. As a result, he generously supported the mission of Baptists Today as an independent news journal rooted in freedom of the press and historic Baptist principles.

Though I had sent many expressions of appreciation, it was good to see him in person and to say “thank you” face-to-face. We talked about small town life, the changing Baptist landscape and whatever else surfaced between bites.

He was a kindred spirit. Afterward, we visited with Reaves’ twin brother, Roy, who exhibits the same attributes and is a generous supporter as well. 

So this week I returned to Hartsville to pay my respects and to offer words of sympathy and appreciation to Roy and his wife, Margaret. It didn’t take long to see that my high opinion of the McCalls was widely shared.

Turning onto West Home Avenue, I encountered an unusual traffic jam in Hartsville. A police officer was directing cars and pedestrians toward the funeral home.

Joining the many others who had come to offer condolences and to honor the memory of one who had made a positive impact on a community and beyond, I was welcomed warmly. Person after person made an introduction and shook my hand. Then they offered words of affirmation about Reaves.

“He was a true Southern gentleman,” one said. Another added: “No one is appreciated around here more than Reaves.”

The places where Reaves made his mark are too many to list. At West Hartsville Baptist Church he served as a Sunday school teacher, deacon and organist. Civic engagements were significant as well.

Last October, when the McCall brothers celebrated their 80th birthday, the Hartsville Museum revealed its W. Reaves McCall Gallery. At the dedication, the town’s mayor was reported as saying: “Reaves has done more for this city probably than any person who wasn’t paid to do it.”

Reaves McCall made the most out of his fourscore years and left an influence that will long linger. That is a good way to go about it.




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