ALBUQUERQUE – Baptists from across New Mexico and parts of Texas gathered Wednesday night to bid a fond farewell to Dr. Claude Cone, retiring executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
Cone, wife Jeannie and daughter Cathy were guests of honor at a banquet on the campus of the University of New Mexico, held in conjunction with the New Mexico Evangelism Conference. About 500 guests – comprised of pastors and laypersons from throughout the state and some Texans from Cone’s former pastorates there – convened for the banquet, which celebrated Cone’s service and love for the Gospel message.
A program of special presentations, hymn singing and a slide show was punctuated by several segments of open microphone sharing times by audience members. Comments were heartfelt and appreciative, reflecting a great respect for the man who was heralded as a great preacher and a great leader.
“There’s been no greater Christian statesman in New Mexico than Claude Cone,” said David King, son of former New Mexico governor Bruce King.
“Above all, you’re a great Christian gentleman,” said Mac McCarthick of Lovington, N.M. “Thank you for being a good example.”
Betty Stovall, a member at First Baptist Church in Pampa while Cone served as pastor there, spoke of his heart for missions and leading the congregations in several overseas ventures.
“The most impressive thing to me about Claude is his humbleness,” Stovall said. “He’s been in some big churches and around some big people. But he’s never forgotten the small churches and would go there for revivals.”
Dr. Bill Hardage, representing a contingency of officials from Cone’s alma mater, Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, shared his appreciation on behalf of the school, for which Cone serves on the Board of Trustees.
“We want to thank Claude for all he’s done for Wayland and for Christian education, especially with our campuses in New Mexico,” said Hardage, executive vice president for WBU. “We just appreciate you and Jeannie for all you’ve done for our university.”
Sara Preston, with the New Mexico Baptist Foundation, spoke of Cone’s inspiration and encouragement to Baptists across the region.
“It isn’t just in your preaching or teaching. It’s in the life you’ve lived before us,” she said.
A native of Melrose, Cone graduated from Wayland Baptist in 1959 and earned graduate degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He began pastoring in the 1950s, serving Texas churches in Slide, Crandell, Howe and Dennison, Calvary Baptist in Lubbock and First Baptist in Pampa from 1972-85.
On March 1, 1985, he became executive director for the BCNM. He was honored by Wayland in 1990 with the Distinguished Alumni Award and received a similar award from Southwestern Seminary in 2004.
The New Mexico Baptist Foundation has established the Dr. Claude and Jeannie Cone Century Fund in the couple’s honor, to date collecting $57,000 to be used to support New Mexico students attending Wayland, Southwestern Seminary or Golden Gate Seminary and for greatest needs as determined by the Baptist Foundation’s board.