Dr. Lee Hemphill
Pastor, HSU Vice President, BA 1929
Lee Hemphill was born on November 2, 1907, in Coleman County, Texas, to a pioneer ranching and banking family. He was reared in the city of Coleman, attended public schools there, and was honored as valedictorian of his Coleman High School graduating class.
Lee enrolled at Simmons University in 1925, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1929. Lee met the former Lunelle Nix while they were students at HSU. Lee and Lunelle continued their acquaintance after both graduated in 1929, and they were married in 1935.
While a student at Simmons, Lee so strongly felt a calling to preach, that he diligently worked for years to overcome a speech impediment that had resulted from a palate defect, which was worsened by a bout with typhoid fever as a child. At the age of 13, Lee had to learn to talk again. When he expressed to his father his desire to preach, he was met with a realistic discouragement. But, despite all odds, and with extensive help from Lunelle, Lee became a distinctive, precise speaker.
Following graduation from Simmons, Lee taught school in Coleman County and Sweetwater before attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a master of theology degree in 1936. After completing seminary, Lee pastored both full-time and part-time in several Texas churches including: Silver Valley Baptist Church, Novice Baptist Church, Plainview Baptist Church of Colorado City, and First Baptist Church of Dayton. In 1943, he was called to pastor First Baptist Church of Littlefield, Texas, where he served for 16 years.
Lee returned to his alma mater in 1959 to become the University’s first vice president for development, and from 1968 to 1975, was vice president for deferred giving. During his 16-year career at Hardin-Simmons, Lee was a pioneer in institutional development, laying the foundations for many of the largest gifts HSU has received. This man of God was known for his professional skill, influence, integrity, and his helpful counsel to all. He was referred to as a trailblazer among development officers and was credited with leading HSU as it became the first Baptist institution to organize a full development department.
Lee played a major role in the establishment of the HSU Board of Development, the Board of Young Associates, the Academic Foundation, and the School of Music Foundation. In 1968 he participated in the creation of the Cowboy Band Foundation and encouraged the former band members to build the Cowboy Band Hall in 1972. In 1968, he and HSU president, Dr. Elwin Skiles, founded the HSU Presidents Club.
Lee served Texas Baptists in many capacities. He was a member of the executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the HSU Board of Development, and was second vice president of the BGCT. He was vice chairman of the Texas Baptist Children’s Home at Round Rock, president of Baptist District 9, the Plains Baptist Assembly, and the Texas Baptist Development Officers Association, and served as a trustee at both Wayland and Howard Payne universities.
Lee received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard Payne University in 1952 and Hardin-Simmons University in 1958. At HSU, he was the 1968 recipient of the Keeter Award, the highest honor the Alumni Association conveys, and a lifetime (and founding) member of the Presidents Club.
Lee and Lunelle, developed and managed wide business interests, using their assets for the advancement of HSU. One of the first buildings to materialize from this generosity was the men’s dorm, Nix Hall. Then in 1966, “The Cornerstone Series” Bible lectures were endowed by Lee and Lunelle in honor of his parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Hemphill. In 1986, the Hemphills furnished the Business Reading Room on the third floor of the Richardson Library. Lee and Lunelle instilled their sense of Christian generosity in their two children, Hilton Hemphill and Rosa Lee Hemphill Prichard, who have maintained the Hemphill legacy of service to HSU.
Following Lunelle’s death in 1987, an endowment was established by the Hemphill family to honor her and to provide an opportunity for students to be involved in mission outreach projects.
In 1989, Lee married Koreen Willcox Logsdon, whose husband, Charles, passed away in 1981. The wedding was the first to be conducted in the newly constructed Logsdon School of Theology Chapel. It was performed by then-HSU president, Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher, now president emeritus.
He and Koreen continued a pattern of generosity to HSU in many areas of need. They made the major naming gift for the Lee Hemphill Music Building which adjoins the Caldwell Music Building and Woodward-Dellis Recital Hall.
Lee often commented that music prepares the congregation’s heart to receive God’s Word, and in 1990, the HSU School of Music Foundation was established through the generosity and participation of Lee and Koreen to promote the growth and excellence of the School of Music. In 1998 both became “Members for Life” of the HSU School of Music Foundation.
Lee’s love and generosity has stretched even beyond the grave, as Hardin-Simmons recently received funds from annuities that he had arranged to benefit his beloved HSU after his death.
Following Lee’s death on October 7, 2006, Dr. William Pinson, former executive director and CEO of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said of him, “Dr. Lee Hemphill’s contribution to the advancement of the cause of Christ and to the effectiveness of the Baptist family of Christians has been immense. Personally he made an impact for good by his gracious Christian character, his quiet but persistent pursuit of the goals he believed God had set for him, and his wisdom and integrity. He also benefited a multitude through his family, endowing them with a deep commitment to Christian values and causes. Dr. Hemphill through his long-time significant roles in Hardin-Simmons University and the Baptist General Convention of Texas enabled a host of persons to become effective leaders in churches, associations of churches, convention entities, and on mission fields throughout the nation and the world. Blessed with great insight, a host of friends, and long life he has left a wonderful, positive mark on the world in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Lee’s life’s motto is worthy counsel, “Work as though it all depended on me. Pray, realizing it all depends upon the Lord.” Dr. Hemphill is deeply missed, but his legacy remains vibrant, alive, and with us every day. Hemphill is a name indelibly ingrained in the very presence of Hardin-Simmons University.
It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Dr. Lee Hemphill into the HSU Hall of Leaders.