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Poteat Family Papers, 1891-2006; bulk 1930-1960

Biographical Sketch

Edwin McNeill Poteat was born on February 6, 1861 in Caswell County, North Carolina, to James and Julia A. McNeill Poteat. He earned degrees from Wake Forest University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1884, and held several pastorates over the next two decades. Poteat received the LL.D. degree from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, in 1906 and from Baylor University, Waco, Tex., in 1907. Poteat became President of Furman University in 1903, and he remained in that post until 1918.

In 1918, Poteat left to become platform representative of the Laymen's Missionary Movement and the Interchurch World Movement. He had become widely known as a speaker. In 1921, while visiting his two eldest sons who were missionaries in China, the University of Shanghai invited him to become professor of philosophy and ethics. Poteat held the post for six years. After his return to the United States in 1927, he was interim pastor of the First Baptist Church, Richmond, Va. Two years later, he became pastor of Second Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. From 1931 to 1934, he taught ethics and comparative religion at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. In 1934, he returned to Furman as professor of ethics and remained on the faculty until his death. Edwin M. Poteat died on June 25, 1937 in Durham and was buried in the Furman University plot in Springwood Cemetery, Greenville, S.C.

Poteat married Harriet Hale Gordon on October 24, 1889, and they had eight children: Gordon, Edwin McNeill, Jr., John Robinson, Priscilla, Isabella Graves, James Douglass, Clarissa Hale, and Arthur Barron. Poteat's first wife died in 1919. In 1925, while in China he married Harriet Helen Brittingham, a missionary of the Northern Baptist Convention from Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Gordon Poteat was born on April 11, 1891 in New Haven, Connecticut, but grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. He graduated from Furman University in 1910, received his Master’s degree from Wake Forest College, and completed his theological training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1914. Poteat left for Kaifeng, China in 1915 to be a missionary of the Foreign Missionary Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he remained there for four years. He left Kaifeng in 1921 to become a professor of New Testament and Ethics at the University of Shanghai.

Poteat returned to the United States in 1927 and worked for a year as educational secretary for the Student Volunteer Movement and editor of its monthly magazine. He left for Denver to become pastor of City Park Baptist Church for two years before returning to the University of Shanghai as a representative of the Northern Baptist Convention. Poteat received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Furman in 1935. In 1937, he left Shanghai for the States, and became a Professor of Social Ethics and Homiletics at Crozier Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa. Beginning in August 1944 until February 1950, Poteat served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Lewisburg, Pa. as well as religion lecturer and student Baptist pastor at Bucknell University. From 1950 to 1961, Poteat was minister of the interdenominational Tourist Church at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Dr. Poteat wrote numerous books (several in Chinese) and for eight years a weekly column on “Everyday Religion” for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. He stayed active in retirement by writing, preaching and serving on the board of trustees of Bethune-Cookman College (a historically black college). In 1985, at his 75th Furman reunion, Dr. Poteat delivered two lectures and the sermon at the university’s homecoming worship service.

Poteat married Helen Anne Carruthers in 1915 and they had five children: Anne (1917), Priscilla (1920), Wallace (1923), Eleanor (1925), and Nida (1926). Poteat died in November 1986 at the age of 95 in Florida.