The numerous friends of Chancellor MelI throughout the South paid tender and beautiful tributes to his memory as soon as the news of his death became known. The funeral exercises, the articles and editorials in the religious and secular press, and the sympathetic letters addressed to the bereaved family, all gave striking evidence of the high esteem of his friends and the estimate placed on his work as an educator and minister by numerous acquaintances and admirers throughout the entire South. In this chapter, a few of these testimonials are given, to indicate how deeply his loss was regretted by the public generally, and how highly his life work was appreciated.
“To-day was a sad one for Athens. Everybody and everything seemed to realize the loss which the death of our beloved Chancellor has occasioned.
Mayor Hodgson ordered that the public schools be suspended, and the Lucy Cobb and Home School also suspended their exercises through respect to their deceased friend. The two literary societies met at 2:30 oclock and marched in procession to the Chancellors residence and thence back to the college chapel. Following the procession of students came the hearse, immediately followed by the members of the faculty and the trustees; then came the family and the friends of the deceased.
The corpse arrived at the chapel, in which the funeral services were held, at 3 oclock. The chapel was draped throughout. The coffin was placed at the foot of the rostrum, and just above it on the rostrum were three pillows of flowers, the first one with a green back ground, with the initials, P. H. M. in blue violets; the second with a white back ground of flowers, with S. A. E. in blue violets, and the third with a white background with the word “Rest” in blue violets. Just behind these pillows was a beautiful design, representing the “Gates Ajar.” Upon the coffin were beds of lovely flowers, and in them a pure white dove, all very expressive.
After those present were seated, the choir sang, “Come ye disconsolate,” after which Dr. Lipscomb read from the 12th chapter of Corinthians, beginning at the 21st verse. Then Mr. Davis, rector of the Episcopal Church, gave out the hymn, It is well with my soul, which was sung by the choir. Prayer was offered by Dr. Lane, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, and after the prayer Dr. C. D. Campbell, pastor of the Baptist Church, took the text, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, and preached an eloquent sermon, giving a short description of Dr. Mell’s life. The discourse on his mental and moral qualities, representing the greatness and goodness of our Chancellor, was in a manner satisfactory to all. When he had finished, Rev. Mr. Anderson, pastor of the First Methodist Church, gave out the hymn, Shall we meet beyond the river? which was sung by the choir as the crowd passed out.
The crowd was an immense one; the chapel was jammed and many had to stand outside. The remains were then taken to the cemetery, the procession marching to the order stated above. In the quiet burial ground which overlooks the waters of the Oconee river, our loved one was laid to rest. His life is finished, but the fruits of his labors will live forever.
As the remains left the chapel, the chapel bell began to toll, which was followed by the bells of every church in the city. At Antioch, a little town on the Georgia railroad, where Dr. Mell had preached for many years, the church was draped in mourning, and though twenty miles away, communication was made by telegraph, and at the same minute the bells began to toll in the city the church bell there rang out the same solemn peal.” (Macon Telegraph.)
The alumni of the University of Georgia, residing in Atlanta, held a meeting at the office of the Constitution, and after passing suitable resolutions a committee was appointed to attend the funeral obsequies.
Memorial services were held in Baptist churches in many places throughout the South, and touching and beautiful addresses were made. At the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1888, memorial services were held in honor of P. H. Mell, the late president, and speeches were delivered by distinguished ministers of the denomination in commemoration of the virtues of the man whose death they mourned.
The following resolutions were passed by the Convention:
“Resolved 1st, That the Convention has heard with profound regret the announcement of the death of Brother P. H. Mell, for so many years our beloved and honored President. . . .; but that we are, nevertheless, cheered by the abiding conviction that God still lives and rules, and will lead his people to ultimate victory.
Resolved 2nd, That the Secretaries be instructed to prepare a memorial page in our minutes, on which shall be inscribed the full name of this faithful servant of God, with the dates and places of his birth and death.”
In the report of the Foreign Mission Board, made to the Southern Baptist Convention at its session in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888, the following beautiful tribute is made to his memory:
PARTICK HUES MELL. D.D., LL.D.
“Born July 19th, 1814; Died January 26th, 1888.
“The late President of the Southern Baptist Convention will be long remembered. His erect figure, angular features, keen eye, concise speech, his incisive thoughts, cogent logic, unyielding orthodoxy, commanding address, all represented a type of manhood which impresses indelibly even as steel makes cuts into granite not to be worn away by the waves of time.
“The strength of his influences as a presiding officer was only surpassed by their variety and range. In the Chair of the Convention sat an educator and author whose teachings had influenced the mind and heart of many pupils and more readers; a soldier who had touched men whose elbows communicated the contact through armies; a man versed in human nature, whose words and acts were perhaps more thought of and more talked of than those of any Baptist of the United States; a preacher whose control of churches and congregations was so complete that the territory in which he preached was called Mell’s Kingdom; a master of assemblies who presided twenty-nine years over his District Association, twenty-five years over his State Convention, and fifteen years over the Southern Baptist Convention; who, as the prince of parliamentarians, had been gazed upon by hundreds of thousands of admiring eyes and had won for himself more than national reputation, and who, as President Mell, was looked up to by missionaries and mission churches all over our Sunny South and in the Queen of the Antilles, as well as in pictorial Mexico, tropical Brazil, equatorial Africa, classical Italy and antipodal China, as the worthy head of a body executive of the sublime and divine commission for the worlds evangelization.
“In these far-reaching influences was illustrated the principle that great rule is the reward of great service. Of the Southern Baptist Convention Dr. Mell was a friend whose faith in its necessity and destiny never wavered from its inception; a member whose interest in all departments of its works was sympathetic, profound and untiring, and a presiding officer who, by patience and painstaking, coupled with native quickness, sagacity, caution and courtesy. so handled the movements of the body as to give to delegates general satisfaction, to kindle popular enthusiasm, and to secure for the Convention itself the encomium of being a model for religious, deliberative and representative bodies in our country, and, indeed, in the Christianized world; therefore
“1. Be it resolved, That praise is due to Him who is the source and sustainer of life for the many days on earth which by the gifts of nature and the graces of the spirit this man of God used with a success far above the average success of his fellows for the advance of civilization, the establishment of denominational principles, and the progress of the Redeemers Kingdom in the world.
“2. Be it resolved, That in the grief at our great loss, more poignantly realized by the family of the deceased, felt also by his wide circle of devoted friends and the vast constituency of the Southern Baptist Convention, is comfort in the reflection that there is sincere condolence, by appreciative minds and sympathetic hearts, in every continent of our planet on which rests the lights and shadows of day and night.
“3. Be it resolved, That the man who so honored his race and his brethren should be duly honored by them; that the Southern Baptist Convention, representing not only its Caucasian patrons and laborers of North and South Americas, but a host of valiant men and noble womenmissionaries and mission churchesidentified with or belonging to Mongolian and African races, is the proper exponent of such world-wide honoring; and that it be recommended by this Board that an appropriate part of the forthcoming session of the Convention be set apart for the voicing of this universal sentiment in services memorial and funeral by large-hearted men, brother ministers and consecrated missionaries.
4. Be it resolved, That a page in the record book of this Board be appropriately inscribed to the memory of the deceased; that fitting mention be made of him in our report to the Convention; and that a copy of this paper, duly authenticated by the Recording Secretary, be sent to the widow and children of our departed friend and brother, the late Chancellor of the University of Georgia, and the incomparable President of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
TWO STRIKING FIGURES.
[CLIPPING FROM A GOEORGIA PAPER.)
When Hon. Jefferson Davis visited Macon last fall the city of Athens sent a delegation to invite him to Northeast Georgia. At the head of that delegation was Dr. P. H. Mell. The venerable Chancellor of the University found the ex-President lying upon a couch, too feeble to rise, but the two men who had so often heard of each other, had a long and delightful interview. Standing at the foot of Mr. Davis bed, the great scholar and divine appeared erect, lithe and full of purpose, while the prostrate chieftain, but little his senior, seemed barely able to stand the trip back to his Mississippi home. Dr. Mell had paid Mr. Davis the compliment of bearing to him an invitation to visit the home of Howell Cobb and the halls of the University of Georgia. The embodiment of public spirit and enthusiasm, the Chancellor, although himself an old man, had responded to the request of his people and marched with the alacrity of a boy in the ranks of Confederate veterans to the great warrior and statesman.
But his sudden illness and death reminds us that the elastic frame and buoyant step were nearer the end than the feeble President whom he tenderly addressed, and whom he besought with all the solicitude of a younger soldier, to consider his own comfort, and in no way to imperil his life. Both men were old-time heroes. The same strong will and unfailing courage and unfaltering integrity were the traits of each. Those who knew Dr. Mell do not doubt that he would have served a cause with as much fidelity and worn the shackles with as much patience. His life had worn away in more peaceful pursuits, but in every sense of moral and physical courage, of devotion to duty and granitic determination he was a hero and a chieftain.
One of these striking figures has gone to rest under the shade trees of the Oconee, and the other waits by the beautiful waters of Beauvoir, patiently and bravely.
On the silent shore
Of that vast ocean he most sail so soon.