COMMENTARY: Paul Harvey's baptism: The rest of the story!

by Ron F. Hale |

JACKSON, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) — Paul Harvey Aurandt was born on September 4, 1918 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Twenty-five years later, the surname was dropped for professional reasons as his star rose in the world of radio.

Tragedy struck early as three-year-old Paul lost his father while he was in the line of duty as a Tulsa policeman. The burglar's bullet put the family in desperate financial straits. To keep debt collectors at bay, Paul's mother had small apartments built into their house to make money from renters.

Paul built his own radio set as a kid and the magic and medium of radio remained a lifelong passion. In high school Paul worked at KVOO, a local station in Tulsa, and eventually worked in Salina (KS), Oklahoma City, Honolulu, and St. Louis.

Paul Harvey's voice was the "golden goose" that kept on giving. It became a highly tuned instrument – powered by a crystal clear Midwestern accent. With the passion of an evangelist, Harvey's enduring voice resonated the thrill of new products in his testimonial styled commercials. As he put the "art" in articulation Harvey's listeners followed the rise and fall of every tonal inflection.

Paul, with his wife Lynne, blew into the "Windy City" in the early 1950's and eventually spoke daily to 24 million people on over 1,300 radio stations. Lynne worked diligently as Paul's producer and co-writer during their 67 years of marriage. He referred to her as Angel.

Coastal elites of the left-leaning sort still refer to Paul Harvey's on-air style as homespun, folksy, old-fashioned musings, even as right-wing. This only proves who the "out of touch" ones really are! Paul Harvey knew his audience like a momma bear knows her cubs. Listeners to the "The Rest of the Story" and Paul Harvey's News and Comment were more reliable than "Old Faithful" in Yellowstone Park.

At the zenith of Harvey's popularity and prosperity, a riling restlessness within his spirit nudged him toward the God of his upbringing. Leaving Chicago for a needed vacation in Cave Creek, Arizona, Harvey tells the story of driving up a mountain road on Sunday morning to visit a country church in a hilltop clearing. He said, "The little steeple pierced an azure sky, and white clapboard siding reflected the morning sun."

As the Chicago city slickers settled into their wooden folding chairs amid a dozen or so worshippers, the country preacher announced that he would be preaching on being baptized the Bible way. Harvey was reminded of his long-ago experience of believing in Jesus while alone in his room as a young man. He grew up going to church. He was reminded of clinging to his favorite Bible verse of John 3:16 through the years.

The simple eloquence of the country preacher made Harvey twist in his chair as he realized that he had never done what the Lord Jesus commands all new believers to do. Harvey realized that he had never taken that step of obedience in following Jesus in believer's baptism.

As the sermon drew to a close, and as the pianist plinked out a familiar hymn, the country preacher's closing invitation to the small gathering was to yield themselves totally to Christ. Paul Harvey found himself stepping into the aisle and walking forward with a desire to be fully obedient to Christ.

It was 1972 and he was around 54 years old.

After coming up out of the watery grave of baptism, Harvey said, "I cried like a baby, a kind of release I suppose. I remember looking at Angel and her eyes were shining. She knew well what this meant to me, for she had been blessed with the same experience as a girl."

A new joy invaded the daily routine of deadlines and headlines in Harvey's world. With one of the most powerful microphones in the free world before him each day, his humbling step of public baptism seemed to free him up to be more vocal about his Christian faith.

Paul Harvey was a blessed man! He found a wife with whom he could live and work with on an "around-the-clock" basis. Lynne was the behind-the-scenes brains (Phi Beta Kappa grad of Washington University) of their communications conglomerate that included radio, newspaper, commercials, and a stint in television. She was the first producer ever inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. Their son Paul Jr.– a gifted writer and sometime on-air stand-in was a vital part of the Harvey radio team.

Leukemia took his Angel away in May of 2008. Paul soon followed at the age of 90. Radio has never been the same.

And now – you know (pause) the rest of the story!

Ron Hale is senior adult/pastoral care pastor at West Jackson Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

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