Dr. John Bridwell dedicated his life to the spiritual nurture of others. The son of a minister, he had no intention of following in his father’s career footsteps, but World War II changed that. On New Year’s Eve, 1945, just months before his college graduation, John found himself alone and struggling to find meaning in the wartime deaths of so many friends. That very night he canceled his plans to attend law school in Michigan and decided to enroll, instead, at Kentucky’s Lexington Theological Seminary, a graduate school affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He never looked back and experienced only joy and satisfaction during 43 years of active ministry.”
John was born March 27, 1922 in Bedford, Indiana to Harry T. Bridwell and Marie Brown Bridwell. He was educated in the public schools in Indiana until his family moved to Windsor, Ontario Canada in 1939 where his father became the minister of the Giles Blvd. Christian Church. It was there that he met his future wife Bette. After high school John attended Assumption College of the University of Western Ontario where he was Valedictorian and Class President. Upon graduation, he entered Lexington Theological Seminary where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree. In 1975 he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Texas Christian University. He was also the recipient of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge George Washington Honor Medal.
Dr. Bridwell served congregations in Wilmore, Kentucky; Ft. Thomas, Kentucky; Warren, Ohio; Falls Church, Virginia; and finally Amarillo, Texas. While in Ohio he led an evangelism effort that brought 16,000 new members into churches across the state in just one year.
Among his many services and contributions were President of the National Evangelistic Association, President of the National Evangelism Workshop, Amarillo Foundation for Pastoral Care, Amarillo Area Foundation, President of the Hi-Plains Area Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), President of the Potter-Randall County American Cancer Society, President of the Amarillo Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and founding President of the Samaritan Pastoral Counseling Center of Amarillo.
In addition he was a Trustee of Lexington Theological Seminary, Trustee of Lynchburg College, President of the Capital Area Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelism Chair of the Ohio Council of Churches, President of the Amarillo Ministerial Association, and a member of the Rotary Club of Amarillo of which he was a Paul Harris Fellow.
He was married to Bette Jean Webb Bridwell for 59 years until her death in 2005. He is survived by his brother Dr. Travis Bridwell and wife Laney of Lubbock, his son Timothy J. Bridwell and wife Mary Helen B. Forbes of California, his daughter Elizabeth Hermann and her husband Larry of Dallas, his three precious granddaughters Lane Rideout and husband Ben of Colorado, Carey Allen of Virginia, and Lauren Harlowe and husband Michael of Wisconsin, he also leaves four great grandchildren: Brewer Allen, Piper Rideout, Ayla and Annabelle Harlowe.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of John Bridwell will be held at First Christian Church at a later date. In lieu of flowers, should you wish to make a gift to the John Bridwell Endowed Scholarship at Brite Divinity School it would be most appreciated. Checks can be made out to First Christian Church and designated Bridwell Scholarship and mailed to 3001 Wolflin Ave. Amarillo, TX 79109.
John’s last Christmas letter contained these words: “Across the years many of my family and friends have departed this earthly realm, although they linger in my soul. But faith remains! God remains! When all else is lost God remains and He loves us. My counsel? KEEP IT SIMPLE. We do not have to understand, nor explain. Just appreciate. Rejoice!”