Billy Sunday Dies in Chicago

Succumbs of Heart Attack During Visit
Evangelist Stricken in Home of Brother-in-Law, William J. Thompson
Death Mourned Here

The Rev. William A. (Billy) Sunday, world famed evangelist who deserted a professsional baseball career to "save sinners for the Lord," for many years a resident of Winona Lake here, died Wednesday night [Nov. 6, 1935] in the home of his brother-in-law, William J. Thompson, a Chicago florist.

Sunday had suffered a stroke of angina pectoris at 2:00 o'clock Tuesay morning. However, he apparently had recovered and was feeling active throughout the day, Mrs. Sunday said.

At 8:00 o'clock last night, after eating dinner and sitting for awhile with Mrs. Sunday and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, he went upstairs to rest, according to the widow. He had been upstairs only a short time when those in the lower room heard a sharp cry.

They found him suffering intensely and summoned a physician, but the noted evangelist died before medical aid arrived. The evangelist passed away at about 9:15 o'clock. The Sundays had been visiting with the Thompsons for several days. Rev. Sunday left his residence at Winona Lake for Chicago only four days ago, after a short rest period, at which time he remained in more-or-less solitude and greeting an occasional acquaintance.

Only a few hours prior to his departure he was active as ever in the affairs of Winona Lake, discussing at length with James Heaton, general assembly manager, prospects for next year's programs.

Only two weeks ago Sunday insisted that he preach funeral services for Robert Hunter, Winona Lake mail carrier and long-time friend of the evangelist.

Birthday This Month
Sunday, who would have been seventy-two years old Nov. 19, had been in poor health for several years. He was stricken with a heart attack in Chattanooga, Tenn., May 15, 1935, but said at the time that "I will have a thried strike left."

He was not able to be as active in recent years as was his custom because of poor health and he found it necessary to take long vacations between periods. But he always managed to find strength to come back for one more fight with the devil.

His pugnacious, acrobatic platform style, his colloquial, forceful delivery had been seen and heard by more than 80,000,000 persons in the 40 years he besought sinners to hit the sawdust trail. His delivery and sermons brought criticism from orthodox church circles, but it was estimated he preached to more people than any other person in the history of Christianity.

Nearly every adult resident of Kosciusko county has at one time or another heard the sermons of Billy Sunday.

He often pulled off his coat and vest during sermons. If he really warmed up, off came his tie and collar. He would straddle chairs and strike any grotesque pose which would help him get across a point.

He explained his pulpit vernacular as follows:
"I may be crude. I use slang. But I always make myself understood. The average man-the man in the street has only about 300 words in his vocabulary. He needs the message and I speak his language so he will understand."

He used to his baseball career to increase his popular appeal, and drew upon the slang of the game for many of the phrases he used so tellingly in his sermons.

Baseball Career
His stamina and determination which carried him through his many strenuous years on the platform came from the major league baseball fields. He joined the great "Cap" Anson's Chicago team in 1883 as an outfielder. The club won two championships in the five years he played with it. He was with Pittsburgh two years and concluded his baseball career in 1891 after playing with Philadelphia. Sunday, known for his speed on the diamond, was conceded one of the fastest men in baseball and once held a record for rounding the bases in the shortest time.

He quit baseball at the height of his career to accept an $85-a-month job at a Y.M.C.A. he was converted at the Pacific Garden mission in Chicago.

His first evangelical work was an assistant to Dr. J. Wilburn Chapman. When Dr. Chapman secured a pastorate, Billy conducted his first revival in a small Iowa town.

His style immediately made him famous and his rise was meteoric. He gathered together a large staff of assistants, singers and ushers and soon was in demand throughout the country. Huge tabernacles had to be built to hold the crowds that wanted to see and hear the new evangelist. Often thousands were turned away from his meetings. Nightly contributions ran into thousands of dollars.

New expressions and illustrations were frequently in his sermons, but his text almost always was the same. He preached repeatedly against "demon rum" and brought converts to the "sawdust trail" with forewarnings of "hell fire and brimstone." He preached the "old time religion."

"It never changes," Sunday said. "I read the newspapers. I keep up with what is going on in the world and I am constantly looking for new expressions and new illustrations. It's just like putting a new frame around an old picture-the picture is unchanged."

Sunday was ordained a Presbyterian minister by the Chicago Presbytery in 1903, but he wouldn't give up evangelism.

Never Saw Father
William Ashley Sunday wa born Nov. 19, 1863 in Ames, Ia., son of William and Mary Jane (Cory) Sunday. He was educated in the Nevada, Ia. high school, Northwestern university and Westminster college.

His father was with the Union army when Billy was born and died in service without seeing his child. The boy spent most of his early life with a grandfather at Ames and at the Soldiers' Orphans Home.

Later he went to work in Marshalltown, Ia., and there began to play baseball. He helped the town win the Iowa state baseball championship from Des Moines, scoring six runs. Anson scouted the game and offered Sunday a contract.

He married Helen T. Thompson, of Chicago, in 1888. He constantly referred to her as "Ma" Sunday. They had four children of whom George and Paul T. Sunday survive.

Mrs. Sunday communicated at once with the two sons, both of whom live in Los Angeles. They advised her they would come to Chicago by plane.

Carefully, but with obvious pride, Mrs. Sunday recalled that at her husbands last evangelical effort at Mishawaka, Ind., Oct. 27, he had brought "30 or 40" converts to the alter in one of his old time revivals.

Donated much to Winona
Billy Sunday for many years was the largest personal property taxpayer in Kosciusko County. And for just as many years and at frequent intervals he was a generous contributor of funds to further the interests of Winona Lake and the assembly. It is clearly estimated that the philanthropic evangelist had given from $5,000 to $10,000 to the institution yearly.

Frequently Sunday had been known to make personal platform appearances, the entire proceeds of which were turned over as a donation to further interests of Winona Institutions.

Not Surprised at Death
Billy Sunday's friends at Winona Lake, where the renowned evangelist lived for 30 years, last night expressed sadness but little surprise at his death.

Victor M. Hatfield, old-time resident of the town and publisher of tracts for religious organizations which form the backbone of the little community, said Sunday's health had grown steadily more precarious since his breakdown last spring.

"But he wouldn't give up," Hatfield said. "He was just as plucky as he ever was, and when friends asked hi to preach a few short sermons he couldn't refuse. But it wore him out."

Sunday he lived in a modest to-story bungalow on a small estate which he called "Mt Hood" after the mountain in Oregon, where he maintained a small farm for summer residence.

He had lived in Winona Lake for more than 30 years. He built his permanent residence there after living for ten years in a tiny summer home where he rested between tours.

After his illness last May, Hatfield recalled, Sunday he went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he was told that he would never preach again."Smashing the Devil"

A Sunday Axiom
"A church member that beats a coal bill is so low that when he dies he'll have to take a step ladder to get up into hell." -Opening sermon of campaign South Bend, summer 1913.

A typical drawing of Rev. William A. (Billy) Sunday, world-famous evangelist and resident of Winona Lake for the past 30 years, in a striking pose while in the prime of his career on the "saw dust trail." All of Kosciusko county mourn his death. He was a generous contributor to the Winona Institutions.

Warsaw Daily Times Thursday November 7, 1935

Back to YesterYear in Print