This Week in AG History — June 13, 1931
By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 11 June 2020
William Jethro Walthall (1858-1931) was an early Pentecostal pioneer who later joined the Assemblies of God. Born in Nevada County, Arkansas, Walthall grew up in southwest Arkansas and attended Methodist and Baptist revivals in his youth. He felt called into full-time ministry and was always seeking more of God. He was ordained by the Missionary Baptist Church in 1887, but he was later expelled because of his strong belief in the Holy Spirit baptism, Bible holiness, and divine healing.
Walthall testified that he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1879, which was more than 20 years before the outpouring at Topeka, Kansas. He received the gift of speaking in tongues at about this time, although it is unclear whether it was in 1879 or shortly afterward. Earlier instances of tongues-speaking have been reported among the Shakers, the Holiness movement, the Advent Christian Church in New England (known as the “Gift People”), and others. However, among those who became Assemblies of God pioneers, it is possible that Walthall was the earliest to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues.
Walthall continued preaching on his own for a while, and then ended up organizing a group of churches that became known as the Holiness Baptist Churches of Southwestern Arkansas. This group affirmed the contemporary practice of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Soon after the Assemblies of God was organized in 1914 at Hot Springs, Arkansas, Walthall began having dialogue with the Assemblies of God leadership. In 1917 he brought 36 churches from his Baptist group into the Assemblies of God. He also served two stints as superintendent of the Arkansas District of the Assemblies of God (1918-1926 and 1928-1929).
Walthall passed away on May 24, 1931, in Bearden, Arkansas. Afterwards, several tributes to him appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel. Only a few days before his death, Walthall contributed an article giving an account of some of his experiences with divine healing and courageous faith.
He reported that early in his ministry, a man had a cancer on his cheek that had troubled him for seven years. He had taken treatments, but they had not helped. One half of his face became consumed with the cancer. Walthall felt directed to call the family to prayer in a “life-and-death struggle for victory.” A few days later, when the man’s wife changed the dressing on his face, new skin had covered the affected part and it looked almost healed. Walthall said, “In a few days’ time the healing was complete.” The man lived eight more years without any trace of cancer.
Walthall reported other cases of healing that he had witnessed including a woman with a cancer on her mouth that he prayed for, and she was still cancer-free 20 years later. He also reported on a woman who was healed of “acute rheumatism.” He told of a man who had been confined to a bed for six weeks and six physicians had pronounced him incurable, saying that he had a growth on the brain. After Walthall prayed with him, the man got out of bed and went out to work on his farm. After more than 20 years, Walthall had seen no sign of that affliction returning.
Walthall shared other examples when he prayed for days for spiritual oppression to leave. After prayer and fasting, he reported deliverance from an angry mob in one instance as well as further physical healings that he witnessed.
Walthall’s last sermon text, just a week before he died, was 2 Timothy 4:6-8, which emphasized “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” After his passing, this seemed like a final benediction to his congregation.
Read “A Ministry of the Miraculous,” on page 8 of the June 13, 1931, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Joy of the Lord,” by Donald Gee
• “Letter From the Tibetan Border,” by W. W. Simpson
• “How I Received the Baptism,” by George A. Jeffrey
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.
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