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ACU Remembers: Dr. Bill Humble

Church historian Dr. Bill J. Humble (’48), a former longtime Bible professor and administrator at Abilene Christian University, died March 19, 2024, in Amarillo, Texas, at age 97.

A Celebration of Life will take place at 10:30 a.m. March 25, 2024, at the Central Church of Christ Chapel.

He was born Sept. 18, 1926, in Springfield, Missouri, and attended Freed-Hardeman University before earning a bachelor’s degree in history from ACU, a master’s degree in history from the University of Colorado (1949) and a Ph.D. in religion from the University of Iowa (1964). He wed ACU classmate Geraldine “Jerry” Carrington (’48) on Aug. 24, 1948. 

Humble was a preaching minister for congregations in St. Petersburg, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Abilene. Before joining the faculty at ACU, he taught Bible and church history at Florida Christian College and served as a visiting professor of history at the University of Tampa.


Dr. Bill Humble preached and lectured around the world about church history.

He taught at Abilene Christian from 1964-95, retiring as professor emeritus of Bible. He was founding director of ACU’s Center for Restoration Studies and also was a veteran administrator who served as academic dean/vice president for academic affairs (1969-76), chair of the Bible department (1979-84) and chair of the Department of Graduate Bible and Ministry (1988-90). He was highly involved in beginning the university’s first doctoral degree program, the Doctor of Ministry.

Humble is best known as an energetic historian of the American Restoration Movement. His writings and research, combined with documentary and travelog films he produced, gave fresh insights on church history to generations of Christians. 

Videos he narrated and produced with former ACU faculty member and videographer Dr. Dutch Hoggatt (’77) were Our Restoration Heritage (1986); Light From Above: The Life of Alexander Campbell (1988); The Bible Land: Walking Where Jesus Walked (1988); Archaeology and the Bible (1990); Like Fire In Dry Stubble: The Life of Barton W. Stone (1992) and The Seven Churches of Asia (1995). 

Humble also authored books including Campbell and Controversy: The Story of Alexander Campbell’s Great Debates With Skepticism, Catholicism and Presbyterianism (1952, 1986); The Story of the Restoration (1960, 2021); Like Fire in Dry Stubble: The Life of Barton W. Stone (1991); and The Seven Churches of Asia (2002, co-written with 1968 ACU alumnus and former College of Biblical Studies dean Dr. Ian Fair). 


Humble’s keynote address at ACU’s 1986 Bible Lectureship was delivered from behind a pulpit once used in Ireland by Thomas Campbell, father of Alexander Campbell.

Hoggatt and Humble also teamed on Challenges: The Restoration Movement In Texas (1985), ACU’s video contribution to the Texas Sesquicentennial. The duo received the Christian Media Award from The Christian Chronicle in 1997.

“Thanks to Bill and others who had his vision, we have the largest archives of Churches of Christ in the world, and one of ACU’s centers of excellence,” said Dr. James Wiser, dean of library services and educational technology. “None of that would have been the case had he not seen the need to preserve history for others to study and appreciate.” 

Humble teamed with R.L. Roberts (’47), assistant professor emeritus of library science, in growing the center in its early years. One of his early significant additions to the center was an historic wooden pulpit used in Ireland by Thomas Campbell, the father of Alexander Campbell, before their family emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1800s. The Campbells were patriarchs of the American Restoration Movement.

Dr. Carisse Berryhill, Brown Library’s special assistant to the dean for strategic initiatives, said Humble’s passion was to help the church connect with its roots. “By establishing the Center for Restoration Studies in partnership with our library, he collected, exhibited and interpreted historical sources,” she said. “The center’s development as a repository makes it possible for church members, students and researchers to explore our story. His enthusiasm for helping church people appreciate our shared history shed light from the past on the present.” 


Humble’s ancient oil lamp collection includes many rare pieces from Old and New Testament eras.

Humble was among ACU’s first professors to lead study abroad trips with students, including archaeological excavation work with students at Caesarea Philippi and extensive touring of other historical sites such as Capernaum, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Jericho, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

“He and his wife, Jerry, were ideal tour hosts, always engaging in lively conversation with the guests and making the biblical people and places seem to come to life again,” said Dr. Royce Money (’64), ACU president emeritus. “Personally, Bill was influential in my pursuing further graduate work in American church history.”

His Holy Lands tours in the 1980s and ’90s grew his love for archeology and he became an avid collector of antiquities, leading to the donation in 1991 of the Bill and Jerry Humble Collection of Ancient Oil Lamps. They are displayed in the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building’s Hall of Servants, where the exhibit features lamps from 2000 B.C. to 700 A.D., and pieces of Roman glass. 

Humble received the annual Christian Educator of the Year award in 1988 from 20th Century Christian and Power for Today, and was the ACU College of Biblical Studies’ Teacher of the Year in 1989.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Boyd and Cora Humble; Jerry, his wife of 64 years; a son, Eric Humble (’72); and a cousin, professor emeritus of education Dr. Orval Filbeck. Among survivors are his daughter, Rebecca (Humble ’74) Liles and husband Ted; daughter-in-law Jan Humble; four grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

— Ron Hadfield
   March 22, 2024

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