Ben Haden, longtime beloved pastor of First Presbyterian Church and a worldwide broadcaster of the claims of Jesus Christ, died on Thursday, October 24, 2013, at his home. He was 88.
Mr. Haden was the speaker on the Chattanooga-based “Changed Lives’’ ministry, which he founded in 1968. His Christian messages have been heard on radio and television and later on the Internet for 47 years. From 1966 to 1968 he was speaker on the Bible Study Hour, headquartered in Philadelphia.
He spoke in “street language’’ to encourage believers in Christ and to confront unbelievers with compassion and love. The programs were heard by multiplied millions – across the nation and around the world on the Armed Forces radio and television network.
He was considered a Christian statesman, a conscientious churchman, an insightful and uncompromising teacher of God’s Word, and a strong supporter of world missions. Many loved him for his personal touch in funerals and in hospital visitation.
When President Nixon was inviting noted preachers for Sunday services in the White House, Mr. Haden spoke on September 12, 1971. Evangelist Billy Graham’s mother was being honored and she requested Mr. Haden to speak.
In 1970, a sermon he preached following the Kent State massacre won a Freedoms Foundation Award. The message was printed in the Chattanooga News-Free Press and later was inserted in the Congressional Record. “Biopsy or Autopsy’’ dealt with a Christian’s duty to his government in the time of turmoil.
In his public ministry, among countless speaking engagements, Mr. Haden spoke to a Washington for Jesus rally; at a Congressional Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.; at a Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Nashville; and twice to local Armed Forces Week Prayer Breakfasts.
Among the honors he received were the prestigious Love of Chattanooga Award and the Sertomans’ National Heritage Award.
Mr. Haden was the author of four books: PRAY! Don’t Settle for a Two-Bit Prayer Life, Rebel to Rebel, I See Their Faces and Kingsport – An American City.
Mr. Haden was born in Fincastle, Va. His father was a lawyer and judge. He attended Woodberry Forest School. In later youth he lived in Houston and attended Lamar High School. He matriculated at the University of Texas, where he was a campus leader, worked for The Daily Texan, booked bands and was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity.
He continued his education at Washington and Lee, graduating from law school there. But he went into the gas distribution business as owner and president of Long Oil Co. Subsequently, in the Korean War era, he was a security operative with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Haden met his future wife, Charlyne Edwards, at a wedding in Kingsport, Tn. The third time they saw each other they were engaged. The sixth time they saw each other they were married, on July 22, 1950. The Hadens had one daughter, Dallas, born in Kingsport.
Mr. Haden loved newspapers and advertising. Following a mentoring process, he became vice president and general manager of the Kingsport Times-News. He was head of several civic organizations in Kingsport.
While in Kingsport, Mr. Haden accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He began teaching Sunday school and “sharing Christ’’ in various speaking engagements. By 1960, he felt called to preach and enrolled at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He was president of his class and graduated magna cum laude with honors.
He was first called as pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church near Miami, where he served for four years. He gave his testimony at several Billy Graham crusades.
Chattanooga’s First Presbyterian Church called Mr. Haden in 1967 and he began his work there that Oct. 15, following the lengthy pastorate of Dr. James L. Fowle. It was not long afterward that he founded “Changed Lives,’’ providing “a clear word about a clear Christ.’’
He served the congregation for 31 and a half years to capacity audiences. He stepped down from the pastorate in 1999 and devoted his energies to “Changed Lives,’’ which is located in the Four Squares Business Center.
Not long after coming to Chattanooga, Mr. Haden received an honorary doctorate from King College in Bristol, Tenn. His style, however, was not to use either “Dr.’’ or “Rev.’’ before his name, preferring simply to be known as Ben.
Mr. Haden was a member of the Chattanooga Rotary Club and had been an avid tennis player.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Charlyne Gay Edwards Haden; parents, Judge Benjamin Haden and Anne Spiller Haden; and a sister, Lynn Haden Harvey.
He is survived by his daughter, Dallas Haden Gibbons; son-in-law, Arthur Gibbons; and granddaughter, Haden Gibbons, all of Lookout Mountain.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at First Presbyterian Church in the sanctuary with John Queen and Reverend Tim Tinsley officiating. After the service, the family will receive friends in the Fellowship Hall of the church.
Honorary pallbearers will be Arthur Gibbons, Sam H. Anderson, Dr. Paul Ritch, Scott Probasco, Ramon Perdue, James F Steffner, Jr., Peter McNally, Glenn Morris, Jr., Dr. Glenn Draper, Philip Luckey, Mike Fullam, Irwin Pressman, T. Farrar Martin, Mark Fullam, Wayne Peters, Gary Fullam; elders, deacons and all officers and staff who served during Ben Haden’s pastorate; and all Changed Lives volunteers over 45 years.
Contributions may be made to First Presbyterian Church and Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation.
Visit www.heritagefh.com to share words of comfort.
Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home, East Brainerd Road.