Joshua Levering (1845-1935)
Joshua Levering’s greatest contribution to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was similar to Annie Armstrong’s. He united SBC men for missions as she had organized for women. From Maryland came the original leadership and staging area for what became the Southern Baptist Convention’s Brotherhood Commission.
Levering was born in Baltimore, on September 12, 1845. One of twelve children, he was born into one of the truly historic Baptist families in America. He, and his twin brother, Eugene, grew up with their mother’s sister’s child, Annie Armstrong. His father, Eugene Sr., made sure his boys understood their Christian responsibility in regard to their favored status.
Joshua was baptized at the age of 12 by Richard Fuller into Seventh Baptist Church. He attended private schools until the spring of 1861, and then at twenty-one, went into business with his father in the coffee importing business. He was a liberal philanthropist made wealthy by the coffee importing business.
Joshua was a faithful member of Eutaw Place Baptist Church for most of his adult life. He became a charter member of University Baptist Church, Baltimore, at age seventy-two. The charter members at University included many of the wealthiest and most progressive businessmen from Eutaw Place, located in the path of expanding ethnic neighborhoods.
He was also a leader among Baptists at the state level. He was the Maryland Baptist Union Association (MBUA) commissioner for the 1919 SBC Seventy-five Mission campaign; a member of the MBUA State Mission Board for sixty-five years, and president of the MBUA eighteen times. He was one of the MBUA’s three representatives to the first Baptist World Alliance in 1905.
His greatest contributions to Baptists came at the national level. He worked with Baptists on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. He was vice president of the American Baptist Publication Society, though he is better known for his service to the SBC. Sixty-seven years later he was still holding office at the national level. He was on the Foreign Mission Board forty-eighty years. He was a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminar for fifty-four years, forty as president of the board.
He served as president of the Maryland School for Boys for thirty years and president of the Baltimore YMCA for seventeen, but his favorite cause outside the denomination was prohibition. He believed alcohol was a societal evil that birthed poverty and economic slavery. He became the presidential candidate of the Prohibition Party in the election of 1896, mounting one of the most successful minor party campaigns in American history, and taking an astonishing 132,007 of the votes. One of the major platforms in the Prohibition Party was women’s suffrage. Levering was committed to women’s leadership.
Levering was one of the charter founders of the American Baptist Educational Society in 1888, and served as Treasurer for decades. He also held the position of Vice President of the SBC. He was a Trustee of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Levering died October 5, 1935.
Material used in this biography was taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen
Vassar University archives at www.projects.vassar.edu/1896/prohibition.html
The Sacred Trust, by Emir and Ergun Caner