Hundreds gathered in the Alumni Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, June 28, to remember and honor Charles W. Draper, a professor of Boyce College and chair of the school’s department of biblical studies, who died from a heart attack during the early hours of Sunday, June 25. He was 70.
Draper was a highly accomplished scholar and teacher, particularly in the realm of biblical studies and textual criticism. But those who knew him best say he was in his element in private conversations with students, encouraging and challenging them to grow both inside and outside the classroom.
“Professor Charlie Draper was a cherished member of the Boyce College and Southern Seminary faculty, and he will be greatly missed,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. “He has taught an entire generation of students, and he was known in the classroom for his passion for the Bible and his love for students. Time after time, I would hear from Boyce students about the influence of Dr. Draper on their lives. His personal investment in them and in their ministries is a timeless gift.
“Charlie Draper was always an encourager to me, to students, and to all his colleagues on the faculty. To know him was to know his joy in Christ.”
For more than 50 years, Draper taught the Bible in numerous contexts — pastoring churches from Florida to Hawaii for more than 20 years, speaking in five different countries, and teaching at the college level. He was also the general editor of the bestselling Bible reference book, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
Draper was a founding professor of Boyce College in 1998, when the school relaunched as the fully accredited James P. Boyce College of the Bible, replacing the non degree-granting Boyce Bible School. From that time, Draper served as associate professor of biblical studies before becoming chair of the department of biblical studies in 2013.
“Only those who knew Dr. Draper as a professor or colleague can fully grasp the magnitude of his nearly two decades of service at Boyce College,” said Matthew Hall, the current dean of Boyce College. “His teaching ministry shaped an entire generation of alumni who are now spread out across the globe. And he was a kind and generous friend and mentor to virtually every member of our faculty, shaping so much of what makes Boyce College exceptional. We grieve the loss of a teacher, a colleague, and a friend.”
Before joining the faculty at Boyce College, Draper was assistant professor of religion at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina, and adjunct professor at several institutions, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler also emphasized the personal influence and friendship of Draper and his family.
“Charlie and [his wife] Retta Draper have been such an example of devoted marriage,” Mohler said. “We will be praying especially for Retta and the Draper family. Our hearts are grieving with them, even as we share their confidence in Christ.
“Mary and I have treasured Charlie and Retta as dear friends. Given Charlie’s background and family in SBC leadership, they understood some of the challenges we faced. I am so deeply thankful for Charlie’s devotion to Christ, his love for the church, and his commitment to our work together.”
Draper was born in Jacksonville, Texas, on May 25, 1947. His older brother, Jimmy, was a major figure in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980’s and 1990’s, serving as SBC president from 1982 to 1983 and then as president of LifeWay Christian Resources from 1991 to 2006. Charles Draper was ordained as a minister in Warren, Arkansas, in 1964, and took his first pastorate at age 17.
He completed a bachelor’s degree at Baylor University in 1968. Draper then went on to earn a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1971), a doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia (1981), and a doctor of philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (2000). For his Ph.D. dissertation, Draper collected and organized manuscripts of the Gospel of John in order to build a critical apparatus of the original text of John’s Gospel.
Draper leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Retta, who is also a long-time employee of Southern Seminary; his children, Shelly Hardin and David Draper; and his six grandchildren. He was a member of the East campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.