Remembering Daddy (Feb 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Edward Fudge
February 6, 2012

Born in 1914, the first of eight children of impoverished Alabama sharecroppers, Daddy was deeply sensitive but could not express his emotions. I do not remember him ever saying that he loved me, but I never doubted for a moment that he did. He was a man of many apparent contradictions. For example, his name was Benjamin Lee Fudge, but because he wrote Sunday School workbooks under the nickname “Bennie Lee Fudge,” many who used the study guides assumed that he was a woman.

To his children he was always “Daddy,” never “Father” or “Dad.” Yet we rarely saw him without a white shirt and tie–and usually wearing a suit coat as well. He preached every Sunday–and wrote his first college essay on the similarities between spoiled poodles and preachers with a sense of entitlement. In his mind, “minister” was neither a title nor a passport to privilege but a daily activity if one walked with Jesus. He loved hymns but he could not sing. His unfinished projects would have occupied him to age 100, but he died at age 57 on February 5, 1972, forty years ago today.

His college degree in New Testament Greek was a hard-earned formality, but his real education was self-taught. He read books (and published and sold them for a living). We had no television when I was growing up, but we had three sets of encyclopedias and books everywhere one might look. As a child, I loved to go with Daddy on business trips both long and short. I asked questions about everything that came to mind–world history, science, nature, Greek mythology, church history and current affairs, politics, the arts, and especially the Bible–and he answered and discussed them all.

He taught much by word, but even more by example. “Anything you hear me say, you can say; anything you see me do, you can do,” he told me and my five younger siblings. I do not remember observing a single transgression in either regard, judging by the standards of the day, although I now think he helped Mother less than he should have done. I do remember him taking a carload of groceries to a poor family in the country; him and Mother regularly visiting a bedfast lady every Sunday afternoon to read Scripture and pray; and faithfully packing an overflowing plate of food every Thanksgiving and Christmas and delivering it to Sam, a severely crippled man whose state-subsidized concession trailer was located adjacent to Daddy’s bookstore on the courthouse square.

For thirty years he had a daily weekday radio program devoted to answering questions about the Bible and Christian living. Perhaps that helps to explain why most workdays found him interrupting or setting aside his own planned work to assist people seeking his counsel, then returning to the office from dinner till midnight to do the work he had postponed during the day. I also vividly remember people hurting him–either intentionally or through ignorance–and he not only forgave them, literally forgetting that the wrong ever was done, but actively did them good in return.

For years, each night after dinner he went to his study and brought back a stack of Bible translations, passed them to the rest of us, then read aloud three chapters before leading the family in prayer. He never lived outside North Alabama in which he was born, yet he promoted, supported and influenced gospel missions around the world. Firm in his own convictions, he was a peacemaker first. More than any man I have known other than the Lord Jesus himself, Daddy was pure in heart and poor in spirit, wholly without pretense or guile. Because he was those things, he knew that he was a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. But he also knew that in Jesus Christ he was thoroughly and eternally forgiven and accepted by God. Thank you, heavenly Father, for such an earthly Daddy!

Copyright 2012 by Edward Fudge. You are urged to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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