Word is trickling out — slowly, because he wanted no fanfare — that B. Elmo Scoggin died in his sleep sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

Scoggin, who would have turned 96 this month, was Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for many years. His deep love of Hebrew and his joyful but occasionally irascible spirit endeared him to generations of Hebrew students, including me.

Scoggin also harbored a deep love for Israel: he and his wife Hannah, who is Jewish, spent four years there in the early 1950s and devoted themselves to being goodwill ambassadors to the Jewish community. Scoggin worked on 30 archaeological digs in Israel, and hosted hundreds of students and friends on tours of the Holy Land. 

After retiring from Southeastern in the early 1980s, Scoggin gave himself to another passion: classical music. He volunteered for 25 years or more at WCPE, initially doing mundane chores and ultimately hosting a late night program he called “Music in the Night.” In 2000, during a snowstorm that shut down the roads, he and one other announcer stayed put, ate stale bread, and kept the radio station on the air for three days. In 2008, he was recognized with the Wake County Larry B. Zieverink Volunteer of the Year award.

Scoggin was a native of Rutherford County, N.C., where he grew up during the depression. He sold shoes to work his way through Fuman University and went on to earn theological degrees at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He and Hannah celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this past January.

Scoggin lived a quiet life, enjoyed fishing and flying, worked out regularly at the YMCA, devoted himself to Hannah, and served the community as best he could — but never sought recognition. In a 2005 interview with the News & Observer, he said “To aggrandize myself or try to be a star has never appealed to me.” 

He wanted his death to be quiet, too, with no funeral service. There was no obituary in the local paper. He’d probably be ticked with me for posting this notice, but I have admired Elmo Scoggin for more than 30 years, and I am confident that many others would like to join me in offering a prayer of thanks for a man who truly made the world a better place. Whether he wanted the attention or not, he deserves to be remembered.

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