By Gene Wigginton
Marshall Leggett will be remembered by all who knew him as a man whose ambition in life was to be a faithful minister in God’s service. That ambition was never compromised. As a preacher and Christian college administrator, he honored God and touched countless lives with the truth of God’s Word.
Marshall Leggett died March 2, 2020, at age 90.
Faithful in the Churches He Served
I had the privilege of meeting Marshall in the early years of his ministry. While traveling on behalf of a Christian college, I visited Marshall and his wife, Jean, in their Lynn, Indiana, home. The church in Lynn was Marshall’s first ministry after his graduation from college. Their warm and gracious hospitality made me feel as if we had been friends forever.
At that time, First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio, was the largest Christian church in the United States. The church asked Marshall to join their ministry team. Marshall saw it as an opportunity for personal growth. He took a three-year leave of absence from Lynn and joined the Canton staff. P.H. Welshimer, FCC’s senior minister, was known as a tireless worker and a leader with exceptionally high expectations of those who served on his staff. Marshall said Welshimer would hand him a new assignment every time he saw him. So, Marshall said with a twinkle in his eyes, he occasionally would hide under the organ when he saw Welshimer coming.
After completing his three years in Canton, Marshall returned to his ministry in Lynn.
I remember when Marshall became senior minister of the historic Broadway Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. He was concerned the massive pulpit made it difficult for him to engage the congregation as he preached. An adjustment was made to accommodate his smallish stature. Marshall was much happier preaching to an audience that could see him and that he could see.
Marshall was a serious student of Restoration history. The influence of Restoration principles was always present in his sermons and writings. He even brought the Restoration fathers to life through dramatic presentations. He spent considerable time donning the appropriate costume and makeup before portraying Barton Stone, John Smith, or Alexander Campbell. His portrayals were both unique and effective. Churches and conventions sought him out to provide face-to-face introductions to the Restoration fathers.
Faithful in Christian Education
Christian colleges faced serious challenges in the 1970s and ’80s. Student enrollment was declining and budgets were strained. Colleges were aggressively competing for students and donations. During this time, Marshall was called to be president of Milligan College.
Marshall was uniquely qualified for this new role in kingdom service. He was an alumnus of Milligan, which was an important stimulus to alumni support. His commitment to Restoration ideals resulted in confident support from the churches. He articulated the biblical principle of the priesthood of all believers with the assurance that students, regardless of academic majors, would see their careers as ministry opportunities. Marshall had a personal conviction for the value of a Christian education. His motto was, “Christian education: the hope of the world.”
Leading up to Marshall’s arrival, I served Milligan as interim administrator. He strongly desired a seamless transition, and so he asked me to work with him as executive vice president. I made a one-year commitment to that request, which provided Marshall and Jean the opportunity to travel extensively on behalf of the college. They personally visited churches, alumni, and individual donors. Their mission was to assure each one that the college was true to its historic values and deserving of their support. This face-to-face approach generated confidence.
I should note, Jean was not only Marshall’s wife but also his partner in ministry. Marshall’s Christian character, commitment to Restoration ideals, and skill resulted in a successful tenure as college president.
After my one-year commitment to Marshall, I was prepared to leave Milligan to assume my new ministry with Standard Publishing. Once again, I was the recipient of my friend Marshall’s warm and gracious hospitality. He hosted an appreciation banquet and personally honored me with kind and thoughtful accolades.
All of us who love the church and the Restoration Movement are grateful for the life and faithful ministry of God’s servant, Marshall Leggett.
Gene Wigginton is the retired president of Standard Publishing. He has also served as senior minister of churches in Louisville, Kentucky, and East Point, Georgia, and served as executive vice president of Milligan College.