Life and Ministry

Fred Brenning Craddock was born in 1928 in rural Humboldt, Tennessee. As a small boy he worked on the family farm where his father raised fruits and vegetables. His mother worked for the Brown Shoe Company where she placed Buster Brown stickers on the heels of shoes.

As an infant, Brenning (as he was called then) contracted a severe case of diphtheria which nearly took his life. When his mother could no longer bear to listen to him gasping for air, she retreated to the barn and prayed, “Dear God, if you will let him live, I will pray every day that he will serve you as a minister.” She did not tell her son about the prayer until he, while in high school, decided on his own to pursue ministry.

When Brenning was nine years old, the family lost their farm and moved into town. He helped the family by mowing yards and delivering newspapers. His mother took him to church and taught him the ways of Jesus. His father—not one to attend church—often gathered the family in the evenings to tell stories; through his example he taught young Brenning the power of narrative. “My mother taught me the Word”; Dr. Craddock often said, “My father taught me the words.”

In 1946, Fred (as he would soon be called) Craddock boarded a bus that took him across the state of Tennessee, from Humboldt to Knoxville. Another bus brought him to Kimberlin Heights. He walked from the bus stop, past the barn, up the hill over the French Broad River to Johnson Bible College now Johnson University. Before he entered the main building to register, he stopped to read the words etched into the entrance, “Open day and night to the poor young man who desires above every other desire to preach the Gospel of Christ.” A poor young man himself with a burning desire to preach, Fred Craddock felt at home.

Upon graduation from Johnson, he married the former Nettie Dungan and then attended graduate school at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma. Following seminary, he returned to Johnson to teach from 1953-1957. He subsequently began doctoral work at Vanderbilt University. After completing studies at Vanderbilt, he taught at Phillips University from 1961-1979 and at Candler School of Theology at Emory University from 1979-1993.

During his days as student and teacher, he also ministered with churches in Rockwood and Columbia, Tennessee, and in Enid, Oklahoma. Upon retirement from Candler, Dr. Craddock founded and preached for the Cherry Log Christian Church in the north Georgia mountains and has provided training for rural Appalachian preachers. He helped create the Craddock Center in 2001 to continue ministry and education among the people of southern Appalachia. Dr. Fred B. Craddock passed away on March 6, 2015, and at the time of his death he was pastor emeritus of the Cherry Log Christian Church.