Richard Gene Puckett, the only child of the late William L. and Ann V. Puckett, was born September 22, 1932 in Greensburg, KY, and died May 12, 2013 in Raleigh, NC.
Reared primarily in Louisville, KY, he attended elementary and secondary schools there. He graduated Campbellsville College (now University), Western KY University, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Among the many honors that came to his professional career were Alumnus of the Year at Southern Seminary (1989) and an honorary doctorate from Wake Forest University (1990). Campbellsville University gave him Alumnus of the Year Award in 1981 and in 2013 honored him with the University’s Leadership Award for “…his spirit of servant leadership, distinguished career as a Baptist journalist, and numerous contributions to the Baptist movement in America.”
He was inducted into the “Mainstream Baptist Hall of Fame,” listed as one of the 20 most influential Baptists in North Carolina in the 20th century, and was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Associated Baptist Press. He served as national president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni in 1981. The Raleigh News & Observer named him “Tar Heel of the Week” and Governor James Hunt awarded him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. In his native state, the Governor made him a Kentucky Colonel. He served in a multitude of Baptist leadership positions; therefore, they cannot be listed here.
He married Robbie Lynn Lake, December 18, 1955. To this union two daughters were born: Janet Puckett Wade and Jeanne Puckett Fishwick.
He was ordained to the ministry in July, 1952. He was named editor of the Ohio Baptist Messenger in 1958, making him the youngest editor of a state Baptist paper in the United States. He served as an editor of state Baptist papers longer than any man in the 20th century: Editor in Ohio, associate editor in Kentucky, editor in Maryland and North Carolina. He also volunteered as managing editor of The New England Baptist and The Penn-Jersey Baptist. No person in Baptist history served as many different state Baptist papers. His last project, Write the Vision, an in-depth history, of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder will be published posthumously.
Deeply devoted to Southern Baptist life during the first 30 years of his ministry, he staunchly opposed the takeover of the SBC by Fundamentalists during the 1980’s and 1990’s. He was known as a man of courage and integrity, and an authentic Baptist.
He served as pastor of six different Baptist churches in three different states, and approximately 25 churches in four different states as “Pastor in the Interim.” Always grateful for all that Baptist higher education had done for him, he strongly supported Baptist colleges, universities, and seminaries.
He was part of the founding faculty at Campbell University Divinity in 1996-97, and a visiting professor at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity. He strongly advocated the creation of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and served for approximately 10 years on the Board of Visitors when the school was launched.
A strong believer in religious liberty and the separation of church and state, he was trustee and chairman of the Board at the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, D.C. He served as president, vice-president, and secretary/treasurer of the Southern Baptist Press Association. He was a founding director and chairman of the Board of Associated Baptist Press.
He is survived by Robbie, his devoted wife of 57 years, daughter Janet and her husband, H. Landis Wade, Jr. of Charlotte, daughter Jeanne and her husband John P. Fishwick, Jr., of Roanoke, VA., and four beloved grandchildren Jordan Leary and Hamlin L. Wade III and Richard Henry and John (Jack) Albert Fishwick, brothers-in-law, Connie Lake and wife Freddie, Ricky Lake and wife Elaine, and five nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Jeffery Crane and the medical team at Rex Hospital Cancer Center for the excellent professional care and the compassionate concern demonstrated during his valiant battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was a member of First Baptist Church, Raleigh for 31 years where he served as deacon, chair of the Finance and Personnel Committees, a trustee and a Sunday School teacher. A memorial service will be held in the sanctuary of First Baptist, 99 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh at 2:00 pm on Saturday, May 18, 2013. Visitation will follow the service in the fellowship hall of the Church. A private entombment will be held in Raleigh Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts to the Thomas Meredith Scholarship Fund at Wake Forest University Divinity School, 1834 Wake Forest Drive, Winston-Salem, NC, 27106, or Associated Baptist Press, P.O. Box 23769, Jacksonville, FL 32241-3769.
Condolences and fond memories can be shared at www.brownwynne.com. Brown Wynne Funeral Home- St. Mary’s Street.