BETHANY, W.Va. - Dr. Lester G. McAllister, a former Bethany College professor and administrator, passed away Jan. 4 in Claremont, Calif. A noted author and historian who was the last founding member of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, he was 88.
A native of Little Rock, Ark., McAllister graduated with honors from Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. in 1941 and earned a B.D. degree from Lexington Theological Seminary in 1944. After being ordained a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at the First Christian Church of Little Rock in 1944, McAllister was appointed National Director of Youth Work for the United Christian Missionary Society. He spent the next six years working with youth in Canada, Jamaica and Cuba. In 1947, McAllister served as the United States’ representative to the Second World Conference of Christian Youth in Oslo, Norway.
McAllister entered the Pacific School of Religion at Berkeley, Calif. in 1950. Upon earning his Th.D degree in 1953, McAllister answered the call to serve as Professor of Religion at Bethany College. McAllister taught at Bethany from 1953-61. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, McAllister also served as the College’s Dean of Students and Provost of External Affairs at various times during his tenure. McAllister was elected President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia during his stay at Bethany.
McAllister left Bethany in the fall of 1961 when he was named Professor of Modern Church History at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind. He worked there until 1983, when he was named Professor Emeritus. McAllister also served as Distinguished Guest Professor at Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas before retiring and moving to California.
A prolific author, he wrote several books and numerous articles on a wide range of subjects. Dr. McAllister’s first major book, published in 1954 during his first full year at Bethany, was a biography of Thomas Campbell. Other books include An Alexander Campbell Reader; Alexander Campbell at Glasgow University, 1808-09; Arkansas Disciples: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arkansas; and the definitive history of Bethany College entitled Bethany: The First 150 Years. In 1974, McAllister teamed with William A. Tucker to produce Journey in Faith, a history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). More than three decades later, that book remains in use as a seminary text.