October 15, 2018 : By Tobi Walsh-Laukaitis
After more than 46 years of service to Liberty University, Dr. Harold Willmington, 86, died on Monday, Oct. 15, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. The Liberty community offers its prayers to the Willmington family as it mourns alongside them.
Willmington, Liberty’s longest-serving faculty member to date, will forever be a pillar of the university, particularly for his role in shaping and preserving its theological foundation. On campus, he earned the fond nickname of “Mr. Bible,” as he devoted his life to the study and instruction of the Bible and was a best-selling author, prolific researcher, and globally recognized scholar. Over his career, Willmington also served as a pastor, teacher, and dean. But Willmingon’s legacy was his love of Scripture that he passed on to countless students and peers. His book, “Willmington’s Guide to the Bible,” has been in print for more than three decades with more than 350,000 copies distributed. Through the book, hundreds of thousands of people from every walk of life have learned to navigate the Bible.
Willmington played an important role in Liberty’s history. He joined the faculty in 1972, a year after Liberty’s founding, and started the Liberty Bible Institute as a residential program. In 1976, he helped launch the home correspondence course, Liberty Home Bible Institute, which became the world’s largest correspondence diploma program on the Bible and positioned Liberty to be a pioneer in distance education. Today, the university’s Willmington School of the Bible offers an online certificate program, which can lead to an undergraduate degree at the Rawlings School of Divinity.
“The passing of Dr. Harold Willmington marks the end of an era at Liberty University,” said Liberty President Jerry Falwell. “His single-minded devotion to teaching the Bible to as many students as possible while never worrying about who got the credit allowed him to impact this university as only a handful of people have done. Dr. Willmington was a good friend, and I was always impressed with his humility and meekness. He truly lived the Christian life that he labored so hard to teach others. He will be greatly missed by the entire university community.”
Vice Provost Dr. Ronald Hawkins echoed that sentiment: “I sincerely doubt that any person now living or in heaven ever enjoyed teaching the Bible more or did it better than my friend and colleague of over 40 years, Dr. Harold Willmington. He will be missed.”
In January, Liberty honored Willmington by making his life’s work available to the public for free through a worldwide online resource, the Liberty University Bible Resource Center. The center includes Willmington’s S.W.O.R.D. project (Scripture Wisdom Organized and Rightly Divided) and approximately 1,000 of Willmington’s articles with information gleaned from some of his most popular works. The center will equip and inspire future generations with Willmington’s passion for the Word.
When President Falwell announced the center at Convocation on Jan. 24, Willmington received a standing ovation from the student body.
“He’s always been one of those humble people who never wanted credit for anything; he really is an unsung hero here and was a key component of making Liberty University what it is today,” Falwell told the students.
Visitation is on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m. at Thomas Road Baptist Chuch in the Main Sanctuary. The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, at Thomas Road Baptist Church in the Main Sanctuary.