Tribute To A Friend, Brother And Preacher

J. D. Conley

On April 17th, after spending a picture-perfect Saturday with family and friends, it was soon forgotten when a call came in from Union, South Carolina, shortly after 10:00 p.m. The caller informed Denise and me of the sudden passing of our dear friend, Richard Carlson; he was only fifty-two. We were stunned. “Not Richard, no, not Richard,” was our initial and mutual reaction.

I first met Richard on the campus of Freed-Hardeman University (then college) in August of 1978. He and I quickly became the best of friends. Although Richard was two years older than I and an upper classman, that never interfered with our friendship. We found common ground as Bible majors and burgeoning Gospel preachers.

As a Friend, Richard was “true blue.” What our Lord said about Nathaniel, I can say about Richard. He was one “... in whom there was no guile” (Jn. 1:47). Richard embodied all the qualities a friend should have. He was loyal. In the years I was sick, he called faithfully to check on me. He was unselfish. There is no telling how many tanks of gasoline he burned hauling people from Henderson to Jackson on Friday nights in his pickup truck. He was honest. If he told you something, it was the truth. He was pure in speech. I never heard him say anything remotely off color or ugly about anyone. He was thoughtful. Brother Curtis Cates remarked to someone at the funeral, “Richard was one of the kindest and gentlest people I ever knew.” Being in his company was enjoyable. He possessed a unique brand of humor. He always had “at the ready” a funny story or homespun quip. With his guitar he would regal you with his rendition of “Daddy’s Girl,” or “Rocky Top.” He was always quick with a smile and had an infectious laugh. He brought joy into the lives of all that knew him. Because Richard was my friend, I am a better person. We last saw one another at the Freed-Hardeman Lectureship in February.

As a Brother, he was an encourager like Barnabas. We spoke often about spiritual and eternal matters. Very often, we would exchange sermon outlines and ideas, telling each other what we were planning to preach on that coming Lord’s Day. In 2001, Richard held a Gospel Meeting in Elkins, WV. What a wonderful week that was to have him in our home and pulpit. I regret we did not have more opportunities like that to enjoy. 

As a Preacher, he was blessed with both the ability and the backbone the job requires. I told him often that he had the perfect “preacher’s voice.” For thirty years, he used that God-given voice in preaching the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph.3:8). Preaching was a charge Richard took seriously. Like John, he was not “a reed shaken with the wind” (Mt. l1:7). Because of his unwavering stand for truth, Richard found himself, “in perils among false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26). During the service, brother Jimmy Young recanted the disappointments Richard dealt with as a preacher saying, “He bore a lot of scars.” Yet, this did not deter Richard from preaching, nor did it sour him on encouraging others to preach. His son, Adam, plans to preach.

On April 23rd, at his hometown congregation in Ramer, Tennessee, many filed by to pay their respects to this fallen soldier of the cross. Among the number who attended the viewing and funeral service were several gospel preachers, including Robert R. Taylor Jr., Earl Edwards, Curtis Cates, Wesley Simons, Keith Mosher, Glenn Colley, Roy Sharp, Jimmy Young, and others. This representation attests to the sterling character of this godly man. Rarely is the earth privileged to have such a one tread her surface. How blessed I was to be his friend, brother in Christ, and fellow Gospel preacher. I look forward to seeing Richard again on the golden shores of eternity.

If anyone would like to send condolences to Richard’s family, send them to: Carla Carlson, 710 North Duncan Bypass, Union, S.C. 29379. -102 Laramie Road, Marietta, OH 45750. E-mail:

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