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Vernon W. Patterson Papers

Identifier: CN 005

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, clippings, reports, financial records, press releases, promotional material, forms, newsletters, and oral history interviews relating to Vernon W. Patterson's (1892-1991) active participation and leadership in evangelistic activities in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area. The papers focus particularly on his involvement in various evangelical lay organizations and other institutions and the early career of Billy Graham. The interviews were recorded on 3/4/85 and 3/5/85 and include, in addition to these subjects, discussion of Patterson's family and youth, Civil War era stories, conversion, employment at Moody Bible Institute, the activities of the Christian Business Men's Committee and other lay organizations, the formation of the Gospel Fellowship (an independent mission agency), as well as recollections of A. C. Dixon, R. A. Torrey Sr., and James M. Gray.


  • Created: 1900-1985

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

Vernon William Patterson was born in Clarksville, Virginia, on July 20, 1892 to Virgilius and Jeffie Catherine Williams Patterson. His family moved to nearby Spartanburg in 1902. Patterson was converted at age fifteen during an evangelistic service held in a local Baptist church. His education included studying for one school year at Wofford College (1909-10), and special studies at the University of Louisville (1919-20).

Patterson was employed for most of his business career by the American Sales Book Company, (renamed Moore Business Forms, Inc. in 1945). He was first based as a salesman in Asheville, North Carolina (1916-1918). After working as the assistant director of YMCA schools in Louisville (1918-1921), a life insurance agent (1921-1922), a field secretary for Moody Bible Institute in Chicago (1922-1925), a real estate agent in St. Petersburg, Florida (1925-1926), and as secretary for the Longwood Bible Conference in Longwood, Florida (1926-1927), he returned to American Sales in 1927, where he worked until his retirement in 1957. During that period, he served as the company's general agent for Charlotte, North Carolina (1927-1945), city office manager (1946), special account salesman (1945-1957), and sales counsellor (?-1957). His professional affiliations included being a member of the National Office Managers Association.

Patterson's life was marked by participation in evangelistic efforts coordinated by laymen. He was one of the group of Charlotte citizens which invited Mordecai Ham to the Charlotte area to hold an evangelistic campaign in 1934. It was during these controversial meetings that Billy Graham was converted. He was also active in the follow-up to those meetings, provided by the newly formed Evangelical Bible League; it was through the Bible League that Patterson coordinated an evangelistic meeting at which Arno C. Gaebelein was the speaker. Patterson later participated in Billy Graham's crusades in Charlotte, serving as chairman for the 1947 Revival and as a member of Board of Directors for the 1958 Crusade.

Patterson was especially active in the Christian Men's Evangelistic Club. Sometimes called the Billy Sunday Club, it grew out of a 1924 revival campaign Sunday held in Charlotte. There were many such clubs which grew out of Sunday's meetings and they eventually joined to form the Businessmen's Evangelistic Association (later renamed the National Christian Laymen's Evangelistic Association, followed by Fishers of Men). Patterson was active in the national as well as the state activities of the group, and served as president of the state and the national associations and was a frequent writer in the association's newsletter, Christian Worker (later, Fishers of Men). The organization merged with the Christian Businessmen's Committee, International around 1958. Patterson continued to play an active role in the new movement as well. His official roles within the movement included: president, North Carolina Businessmen's Evangelistic Association (1935-1941); president, National Laymen's Evangelistic Association (1946-1948); director, Christian Businessmen's Committee International (1948-1955), and honorary director (1962- ). While working at various levels of CBMC, Patterson coordinated evangelistic meetings with William K. Harrison, Jimmie Johnson, and Oswald Smith, among others. Patterson's involvement in evangelism was not limited to administration, as he also preached himself.

He was also was the co-founder with Sally James of a small independent mission, Gospel Fellowship, Inc., and served as its president between 1958 to 1974, after which it merged with the Christian Nationals Evangelism Commission.

Other church or evangelistic activities in which Patterson was involved included:

Ben Lippen School (1940-1955), trustee and treasurer

Charlotte Rescue Mission (later renamed Christian Rehabilitation Center), director

Children's Bible Mission, council member

Christian Laymen's Crusade (1940-1946), executive committee member

Columbia Bible College (1944-1955), member and vice-president of trustees

Gideon Society, S.C.V., member

National Association of Evangelicals, Board of Administration (1951-1955), member

North Carolina Child Evangelism Fellowship, treasurer and later president

Presbyterian Church, U.S., 86th General Assembly (1946), Commissioner

Presbyterian Church, U.S., 101st General Assembly (1961), Commissioner

Presbyterian Church congregations, church elder

Patterson was an active writer, particularly of articles related to developments in the Presbyterian Church and the role of laypeople in ministry.

Patterson married Vida Welfley on June 21, 1921. The Pattersons had three children: Catherine Welfley (Mrs. John Quinn Marshall), Vernon William and Virgil Martin (twins). He died in 1991.


3.25 Cubic Feet

9 Boxes (DC), Audio Tapes, Negatives, Oversize Material, Photographs

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Materials

Audio Tapes

Patterson was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on March 4 and 5, 1985, at Patterson's home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Patterson's wife, Vida Patterson, was present during parts of the interviews, as evidenced by her interjected comments and questions. The portion of the interviews recorded on T6 and T7 were recorded while driving to and from JAARS headquarters in Waxhaw, North Carolina. The events described in the interviews cover the time period 1860-1960.

NOTE: Researchers should also note that several additional interviews with Patterson are located in Collection 118 and 141.


Oversize Materials


Paper Records (Box List)

The papers in this collection include correspondence, reports, minutes, handbooks, published articles, sermon outlines, newspaper and magazine clippings, financial records, press releases, promotional material, oral history interviews, etc., related to Patterson's evangelistic activities in Charlotte (especially his involvement in the early career of Billy Graham), and his leadership in organizations for laymen, particularly the Christian Business Men's Committee (CBMC), and his energetic activity as a layman in establishing, promoting and participating in evangelistic outreach, and his usefulness to evangelical agencies in enlisting support among other Christian businessmen. Not surprisingly, the documents indirectly record the businesslike ways in which the lay organizations were operated, and also reveal the widespread volunteer involvement of laypeople. The paper records in this collection is arranged in four sub-series:

I. Evangelistic meetings and work. These include materials related to the specific evangelistic meetings in which Patterson was involved: the Ham-Ramsey Revival of 1934, the Chicago Youth for Christ rally of 1945, the Billy Graham Charlotte Revival of 1947, the Billy Graham 1958 Charlotte Crusade, and the 1971 Billy Graham Day. The series also includes several files for individuals with whom Patterson worked in evangelistic ventures.

II. Organizations. Included in this series are files on the agencies in which Patterson played an active role or those with which he had contact. Predominant in this series are those papers dealing with Patterson's involvement in local and national levels of laymen's evangelistic organizations, particularly the Christian Business Men's Committee International. Some accounts of evangelistic meetings also appear in this series.

III. Articles and messages. This series documents Patterson's writing and speaking. Published articles may be accompanied by correspondence with the publisher. The series also includes a few files which he appeared to use as resources for these, such as the National Council of Churches file (Folder 8-12), which includes NCC resolutions marked with Patterson's underlining for emphasis.

IV. Family and personal. Within this series are clippings on the Patterson family, correspondence to and from his parents, a few documents related to his father's hardware business, and items on his own business and civic involvements.

Folder titles in most cases were left as they were received from Patterson, although some were modified by the archivist. Unfoldered material was titled by the archivist. Since the materials were received unarranged, the archivist provided the overall arrangement. Duplicate materials were removed from the collection and discarded at the request of the donor.

The CBMC files extend over the period from 1941 through 1974. The contents of the files consist mostly of correspondence, ranging from preparations for crusades and local, regional and national organizational meetings to speaking invitations and minutes to form letters from the CBMC International office and program materials for national conventions. The researcher is thus able to get both "grass roots" and "top down" impressions of the organization. An international perspective is provided in the annual report entitled, "Review of British CBMC," in Folder 3-11. Folder 6-7 includes materials related to outreach targeted for young people by the CBMC, including descriptions of events, responses and outlines for follow-up.

The papers also document Patterson's relationships with several Evangelical and Fundamentalist figures, including T. Mc Cully, Sr. (CBMC executive secretary), R.G. Le Tourneau (Christian businessman and philanthropist), evangelist Jimmie Johnson (Folder 9-5), Chauncey Nordland (leader in Christian Laymen's Crusade), Arno C. Gaebelein (president of American-European Fellowship, vice president of Stony Brook Assembly & School), and William Harrison (former military officer). Correspondence with some of these is sprinkled throughout Patterson's papers, rather than confined to a particular folder. Nordland, for example, was at one time on the staff at Moody Bible Institute, as was Patterson. Patterson utilized this contact to coordinate a series of meetings in Charlotte on the Bible's prophetic teaching, including Wilbur Smith and Ralph Gade as speakers (Folder 6-6).

Documents in the collection reflect an opposition among Evangelicals to theological liberalism, particularly within the Presbyterian Church. Among these are a 12/8/45 letter from Robert C. Mc Quilkin, president of Columbia Bible College (Folder 6-11); a letter from Arno C. Gaebelein (Folder 9-7); and documents on the Federal Council of Churches and its successor, the National Council of Churches (Folders 8-2,12). Patterson's concern encompassed both theological and political elements, particularly in the areas of teaching on the Bible, millennialism and the influence of socialism and communism on American Christianity. Folder 8-15 includes several other items expressing great concern over the spread of communism, including a reprinted article, "The Communist Menace: Red Goals and Christian Ideals" by J. Edgar Hoover.

Also included is material related to his participation as a board member of several evangelical agencies, such as Columbia Bible College, Word of Life Fellowship, and Wycliffe Bible Translators. Of particular interest among the Columbia Bible College files are documents on the amillennial eschatology held by a CBC professor (Folder 6-12), "Memorandum For Faculty Concerning CBC Relationship to Churches" (Folder 6-12), and from 1953, "Report of Survey of Columbia Bible College," prepared for the Accrediting Association of Bible Institutes and Bible Colleges (Folder 6-13). Interfiled within the CBC materials are those related to the Ben Lippen Boys School and Camp. The Word of Life file (Folder 7-10) includes a description of the events surrounding the accidental drowning of Navigators founder, Dawson Trotman, at the camp.

Folder 7-6 documents the history and operation of the Longwood Bible Conference and Missionary Home, of which Patterson was the secretary-manager. Included is the record of discussion anticipating the Conference's merger into the Interdenominational Foreign and Home Missions Association. A letter from J. Elwin Wright, at that time the Assistant Secretary for the Association, is included.

As a writer, Patterson wrote mostly articles and letters to the editors of publications. His writings touch on a variety of subjects, including the role of laymen in evangelism, salvation, theology, the Bible, liberal trends in American Protestantism, the social gospel, the Presbyterian Church and the union between its northern and southern branches, biblical separation, socialism and communism. One article focuses on Billy Graham: "When Was Billy Graham Called to Preach?" (Folder 8-7). Many of his writings are for The Presbyterian, The Southern Presbyterian Journal, and The Presbyterian Journal, and their editors, G. Aiken Taylor and Henry B. Dendy.

Patterson's speaking activity is widely documented in his sermon and message outlines for church services, prayer meetings, evangelistic rallies and Sunday schools. Many of these include the dates and locations at which they were presented. The topics they cover range from theology to the Christian life to contemporary topics. Among these are the Sabbath, justification, salvation, the Holy Spirit, books of the Bible, eschatology, hell, worldliness, the resurrection, "the layman's responsibility," Christian service, marriage, sin and racial integration.

Several other items in the collection shed some light on Southern attitudes. Among Patterson's speeches are two related to Civil War issues (Folder 8-1): "Right of Secession" and "Jefferson Davis." Other items focus on attitudes toward African American. Folder 8-15 includes a postcard to Patterson ridiculing traditional African American Christianity and dialect. Several promotional items describe Christian educational programs for African Americans in the South: the pamphlet, "An Answer to the Negro's Problem" on The Southern Bible Training School, and another about a Bible camp established for African American children where "...they might have a place of their own..." And Folder OS 25 includes a one-page newspaper advertisement from September 23, 1967 promoting "Charlotte's First Interracial Christian Crusade." One intriguing pamphlet entitled, "Holy Week and the Civil Rights Demonstrations at the Churches," recounts the events leading up to a church's refusal to admit civil rights demonstrators to its services and formulating a policy to address similar events in the future (Folder 8-15).

The following miscellaneous highlights are also worthy of mention:

Folder 1-3 Correspondence which deals with the difficulties of getting the book, Fifty Years on the Battle Front with Christ, a biography of Mordecai Ham by his nephew, published.

Folder 3-13 Information on Little Bible Ministries, which distributed miniature portions of Scripture.

Folder 7-6 Correspondence with illustrator, E.J. Pace. Also see Location Record: Artifacts.

Folder 7-7,8 Documents on the Charlotte component of a national series of evangelistic meetings featuring Oswald Smith and Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Smith, speaking under the heading, "Christ, the Only Answer to Communism."

Folder 7-11 Pamphlet, "Wall of Prayer," by James Wright, formerly Youth For Christ worker in western India.

Folder 9-5 Background of evangelist John M. Fain, who worked with Youth for Christ and was involved in ministry among military personnel.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Center by Vernon Patterson in August 1978, October 1982, March and September 1985. Accession 82-145 was given by Patterson to George Beverly Shea in 1969, who sent it to Mel Lorentzen in 1982, who passed it on to the Archives. Accession 75-11 included the Patterson materials and was received from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Montreat office. Fifty Years on the Battle Front with Christ, received in Accession 75-11, was deaccessioned in September 1990 and given to the Center Library.

Accession : 75-11, 82-145, 85-11, 85-32

85-33, 85-34, 85-35

September 6, 1978, revised

October 29, 1975

Robert Shuster

M. Schimmels

October 27, 1982, revised

Robert Shuster

J. Nasgowitz

November 29, 1989, revised

Paul A. Ericksen

L. Beloz

K. Elwell

September 28, 1990, Revised & updated

Paul A. Ericksen

June 14, 1993, revised

M.L. Larson

Separated Materials

The following items are located in the BGC MUSEUM:

Accession: 85-35

Johnston, Wendell G. What Is A Non-denominational Church? Fort Worth: McKinney Memorial Church, c. 1961.

Austin-Sparks, T. The Supreme Vocation. London: Witness and Testimony Press, n.d.

The Work of God At the End-Time: End-Time Principles Set Forth in Simeon. London: Witness and Testimony Publishers, n.d.

Estep, Howard C. The Catching Away. Colton, CA: World Prophetic Ministry, Inc., 1967.

63 tracts and pamphlets. These range from the Little Bible to evangelistic tracts to those on subjects like Roman Catholicism, eschatology and neoorthodoxy. Among the more well-known authors of the pamphlets are David Fuller, Billy Graham, A.C. Dixon, R.G. LeTourneau, R.A. Torrey and Harry Ironside. Some are privately published, while most are produced by more widely known publishing organizations, such as Word of Life Fellowship, the American Tract Society, and Good News Publishers. 1922-1971, n.d.

Collection 005 Papers of Vernon W. Patterson
Bob Shuster
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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