Later that year Dr. Tribble told a reporter for the campus newspaper
that the part of his job he liked best was his association with students.
"I've been working with students ever since I graduated from college,"
he said, "and I enjoy dealing with them and seeing them come to grips
with problems and solving them. I only wish I could give more of my
time to the students here." In its final issue for that spring the
newspaper said in an editorial, "We salute a great leader and a great
man-a man of dignity and vision―a leader we are proud to know." It
was a salute to the president.
Very quickly that spring, however, Dr. Tribble's stock sank to a
new low with North Carolina Baptists because of two publications for
which he was not responsible. Early in the year The Education of
Jonathan Beam, a novel by Russell Brantley, hit the book stalls.
Brantley, college director of communications, had written a story
about the Wake Forest-Baptist State Convention hullabaloo over
dancing, thinly disguising Wake Forest as "Convention College."
The jacket blurb gave a synopsis: "A Carolina farm boy gets more
of an education than he expected when the Baptists battle over
dancing at Convention College." The book contained some mild
profanity and portrayed some of the state's Baptist leaders in a critical
light. It would have been controversial no matter who had written it,
but it was the more so because its author was an important member of
Dr. Tribble's staff.
Marse Grant, editor of the Biblical Recorder, sounded the opening
gun in the attack on the book. He wrote in the state's Baptist paper,
"The experience [of reading the book] makes Baptist blood pressure
rise, especially at the ridicule of Baptist preachers and ministerial
students. The smut passages are needlessly injected…. Publication of
the book is ill-timed…. Little good can come from the book, but
considerable harm and misunderstanding could result."
Thus prompted, the conservative element among the state's Baptist
populace took up the cudgels. The first letter to the Recorder was
from Rev. Wendell G. Davis, by then pastor of the Midwood Baptist
Church in Charlotte and a Wake Forest trustee. He said that he had
read Jonathan Beam with "mingled emotions of shame and sorrow.
Nothing good can come of it…. [It is] a most unfair takeoff on the
Christian ministry …[and] makes many unfair digs at Baptist parents
and students."
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