William R. Cromer Jr., longtime Southern Seminary professor, dies at 91
William R. Cromer Jr., a retired faculty member with the longest-serving tenure as a Christian education professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died on March 25 in his Louisville home at the age of 91.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1923, Cromer was committed to Christian education and the training of Southern Baptist teachers and ministers. During Cromer’s 41-year tenure, more than 10,000 students came through the seminary and more than 4,000 sat in his classroom, estimated R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, during Cromer’s private funeral service on March 28 in the school’s Alumni Memorial Chapel.
“The multiplied, countless half-lives of Dr. William Cromer’s influence are now being transmitted to generations of people who may never know his name in this life, but will know a minister who was taught by him in seminary,” Mohler said. “When we get to heaven we’re going to find out that Dr. Bill Cromer didn’t just teach 4,000 students, but those beyond number and limit, and he taught them faithfully.”
Cromer was buried in the seminary plot at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, an honor given to professors who retire from the seminary. His family also requested that expressions of sympathy be made to the seminary’s William R. Cromer Jr. Scholarship Fund.
He earned his B.A. from the University of Miami (Florida) and his master of divinity and doctor of education degrees from Southern Seminary, and was among the first graduates of the School of Religious Education, later made part of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. He was installed as the Gaines S. Dobbins Professor of Christian Education in 1993. After he retired from teaching in 1995, Cromer served as senior professor of Christian education and leadership for 10 years, and as retired professor until his death.
He was the business manager of the Review and Expositor, a former academic journal of Southern Seminary, intermittently for 17 years until 1989. He wrote three books on church leadership and published numerous articles and curriculum materials throughout his career. The scholarship fund in his name was established by the 1994 December graduating class. He taught for many years at the annual Rec Lab program at Lake Yale Baptist Assembly in Florida.
Cromer was a longtime member of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and often served as the minister of music or the minister of education in various churches over 30 years, including Third Avenue Baptist Church, Bethany Baptist Church, and Shawnee Baptist Church. He also served in U.S. Naval Intelligence during World War II.
He was predeceased by his wife of more than 50 years, Lois Spencer Cromer, and is survived by his three children, Bill (Mary), Dan (Lisa), and Brian (Laura); eight grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.