RIDGELAND, Miss.—Grady Cothen, who served as president of the Baptist Sunday School Board from 1975 to 1984, died May 19 in Ridgeland, Miss. He was 96.
Before his time at the Sunday School Board—now LifeWay Christian Resources—he was president of Oklahoma Baptist University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1961, he was elected first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. At the time, he was executive secretary-treasurer of the California Southern Baptist Convention.
He was nominated as SBC president in 1984, but he placed second in a three-way race won by Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley.
Cothen, who championed the so-called moderate cause during a contentious time in Southern Baptist life, wrote two books about it—What Happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? and The New SBC: A Moderate Looks at Fundamentalism.
Cothen was born in 1920 in Poplarville, Miss. He earned an undergraduate degree from Mississippi College and a master of Christian training degree from New Orleans Seminary.
He served as a Navy chaplain in the Pacific during World War II and was a pastor 15 years, leading churches in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Birmingham, Ala. He held multiple honorary doctorates.
His wife of 63 years, Martha “Bettye” Cothen, preceded him in death in 2005.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Colmer Cothen; brother, Joe H. Cothen of Jackson, Miss.; three children, Carole Shields Westbrook of Miami, Fla, Grady Cothen Jr. of Cheverly, Md., and Mary Thompson of Schertz; along with grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild.