NTNBC Grows Rapidly, Exerts influence in Churches of Christ


Eighth in a Series Exploring the History of Freed-Hardeman University
National Teachers’ Normal and Business flourished in its early years. In fact, during the first half of the 1910s, NTNBC was the largest of the schools administered by members of the churches of Christ. Students came from as many as 15 states and attendance averaged more than 600. By contrast, Nashville Bible College, which became David Lipscomb University, enrolled 215 students in 1914-15. Abilene Christian College enrolled 207 students in 1912.
The influence of NTNBC over churches of Christ was also significant. Bible courses were offered but not required, and Bible was a relatively small part of the curriculum. However, drawn by the reputations of Freed and Hardeman as preachers and debaters, many young men who wanted to be preachers chose to come to Henderson. Hardeman taught Bible survey courses and Freed, as his schedule permitted, taught homiletics. During the 1930’s and 40’s, Gospel Advocate out of Nashville and Firm Foundation, published in Texas, ran articles featuring up-and-coming preachers. A substantial number of those highlighted had attended NTNBC during those years.
The school’s influence was not restricted to the pulpit. True to its name, it also prepared teachers and businessmen for successful careers. The normal school, Freed had observed two decades earlier, prepared students for useful lives. In fact, NTNBC founders said, “NTNBC had more students in life ‘making good’ than any other school of the brotherhood.”
But, the times are changing. Public schools are being opened and will become a threat to NTNBC’s primary, intermediate and high school departments. The nation’s economy is on shaky ground, and a world war is in the offing. Freed and Hardeman disagree over the nature of the school. Freed is a product of and an advocate for normal schools; Hardeman sees the future in a standardized curriculum and accreditation. Can the school survive? Will the partnership remain intact?
Information and quoted material are drawn from Dr. Greg Massey’s forthcoming book, “By the Grace of God: The Story of Freed-Hardeman University,” which will be published and available for purchase from the university in Spring 2020.