by J. Prescott Johnson
In the fall of 1949, I moved with my family from Carl Junction, Missouri, where I was the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, to assume my duties at Bethany-Peniel College as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. In addition to courses in philosophy, I taught classes in second year New Testament Greek and, occasionally, classes in psychology.
That same fall Dr. King came
to the college to teach in the Department of Religion. The circumstance
that both of us were new members of the college faculty was a factor in
bringing us close together. At that time, I learned that while in
California he had taken considerable work in philosophy, including study
under B. A. G. Fuller, whose book in the history of philosophy was currently
an important college text in philosophy. We therefore shared theological
and philosophical interests.
Very often we had Dr. King
in our home for supper. We knew that he enjoyed this opportunity
to have a home-cooked meal. He was always so kind and considerate.
Our children responded to him and received him in their hearts as a good
and respected friend. One of the games that we played as a family
was caroms. Dr. King enjoyed playing this game. I can still
see him studiously aligning for a shot, striking the carom with his finger
and thumping the target in the pocket--all of which was usually accompanied
with a disquisition on the science of ballistics.
In the spring of 1950, I decided to begin my work toward a doctorate in philosophy. At that time, the University of Oklahoma offered only the M. A. in philosophy. But I decided to take some graduate courses, which would transfer at another university toward the Ph. D. I continued taking courses over the next two years. The courses were usually seminars that met in the evenings. Dr. King quite regularly went with me. We would have supper together in a Norman restaurant, and he would either work in the university library or, quite frequently, sit in on the seminars as a guest. He came to know the philosophy faculty at the university.
During the spring of 1950, I had made application to the Ph. D. programs in philosophy at two universities: the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. My preference was Northwestern, since I wished to do my minor work at Garrett Theological Seminary in the philosophy of religion. I was admitted to Illinois. But I had not heard as yet from Northwestern. However, I decided to come to Evanston on the hope that I would be admitted at Northwestern. The day I left by bus for Chicago, my admittance to Northwestern came in the mail. But it was not until I had met the chairman of the department that I found that I was to be included in the doctoral program at that institution. Thus began what turned out to be a thoroughly fruitful relation with the department and the university. And I began my work there with Dr. King's little portable typewriter that he loaned me, in exchange for my upright machine.
After I had completed some summer work at Northwestern, I would on occasion be invited to present a paper, or give a lecture, to the philosophy club at Oklahoma. Dr. King always accompanied me.
I took graduate courses at Northwestern during the summers of 1950 and 1951. My family and I were, of course, separated during those summers. For the summer of 1952, I had arranged to come with my family. We had secured an apartment near the university. One afternoon, a few days before we were to leave for Evanston, I received a telegram (we had no home phone in those days) from the department chairman, inquiring if I would be able to accept a teaching fellowship and fulfill my residence requirements for the degree. I went over to Dr. King's apartment with the news. His immediate reply was, "You must take it, even if you have to relinquish your position here at the college. It is your opportunity of a life-time." So he and I immediately piled into my little, by then well-worn, 1938 Oldsmobile club coupe, and drove into Oklahoma City, where I telegraphed my affirmative reply. Over the next few days, I made arrangements with the Bethany administration to take a leave of absence. The administration was very helpful and cooperative in the matter.
My 1952-53 residence year at Northwestern was in all respects a wonderful year. Our children were in one of the fine Evanston schools, and my wife had a fine position at a local insurance company. With some help from Bethany and the stipend from the university, we made it through the year. I had earlier passed my examination in classical Greek, given by the university's classical languages department. During this academic year, I completed my residency requirements, passed the German examination, and passed the departmental preliminary examinations, taken over five days. During the year, I corresponded regularly with Dr. King. He was always interested in my work at the university.
In late August of 1953, we
left Evanston and returned to Bethany. I continued my teaching while
working on my dissertation. One of the pleasures of returning to
Bethany was the opportunity to resume my relation with Dr. King.
His office was next to mine. Very often, after supper, I would go
to my office and work on my dissertation. Dr. King was always in
his office, pounding something out, via two index fingers furiously traversing
space, on his typewriter. At that time, as I recall, he was in the
middle of Pope's theology, in connection with his lectures in advanced
theology. There were many evenings during which our work was laid
aside, and we spent the time in intellectual conversation. He was
prominent among those at Bethany with whom one could engage in profitable
and stimulating conversation.
A few members of the faculty
had a small "conversation society," which met in our homes. Dr. King
was a member, of course. He often contributed to the sessions, either
reading a paper or discussing some topic in which we were interested.
Texts may be freely used for personal or scholarly
purposes, provided they remain unaltered, Dr. King is given full credit,
and this website is referenced.