Many Southern Baptists considered Fish's name synonymous with "evangelism," a fitting remembrance for the man who served Southwestern for nearly 50 years and once occupied the L. R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism, considered "The Chair of Fire."
As Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson put it, "Dr. Roy Fish was at once a fabulous lecturer and the most consistent soul winner I know. He lit a fire under thousands of students.
"While we support his family in heart-felt prayer, and while he is irreplaceable for us, we rejoice with Dr. Fish and his entry to his Heavenly home," Patterson said. "God help us all to love lost people like he did."
As a Southwestern professor, Fish impacted the lives of thousands of students, many who credit him with instilling a fire for evangelism in their souls. Fish organized for many years the annual Spring Break Revival Practicum, now called Revive This Nation, as the seminary sent out hundreds of student preachers across the United States to preach revivals in local churches.
Fish held several prominent denominational positions, including second vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention and interim president of the North American Mission Board. NAMB president Kevin Ezell, who studied under Fish at Southwestern, described him as a personal soul-winner with a contagious passion for the Gospel.
"Dr. Fish left his imprint on thousands of students over the years and our convention is much better for it. I rejoice that he is now with the Savior he so loved, but I grieve for the loss his family and our entire convention is experiencing today," Ezell said. "NAMB is indebted to Dr. Fish for the year he served as interim president from 2006 to 2007. He lent his leadership and credibility at a time of uncertainty here at NAMB."
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, called Fish a hero.
"Having known him for over 30 years, I can truly say he is one of the greatest men I ever knew. Never did I see him or speak to him that he was not a positive encouragement to me," Page said. "I love him and cannot wait to see him in heaven."
Fish served as pastor or interim pastor at more than 20 churches, and spoke and preached at conventions, conferences and churches on every continent except Antarctica. He authored several books and numerous articles and essays on evangelism.
Fish received various awards, including the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Award in Evangelism from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Charles G. Finney Award for Evangelism in Theological Education, and an honorary doctorate from Southwest Baptist University. The SBTC established in 2006 the Roy Fish Evangelism Award.
Southwestern reorganized in 2005 its division of evangelism and missions in the School of Theology and named it the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. The seminary later designated Oct. 10, 2007, as "Roy Fish Day," honoring Fish during a special chapel service and reception.
Fish held a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas and both the Bachelor of Divinity (equivalent to the current M.Div.) and the Doctor of Theology from SWBTS.
Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said "one can't help but think of evangelism" when hearing Fish's name.
"He was a mentor, teacher and friend to thousands of Southern Baptist pastors, including me," Rainer said. "I first collaborated with Dr. Fish in 1986 while working on my Ph.D. in evangelism at Southern Seminary. He gave me great advice and guidance on my work. And as I, too, took to the seminary classroom teaching evangelism, the wisdom he shared with me proved to be invaluable.
"Over the years, our paths have crossed multiple times. He has been a great resource for many of the books I have written. We have shared speaking platforms together in dozens of venues. Dr. Fish was a great man of God and very influential to me in my understanding of the evangelistic impact of spiritual awakenings, a topic on which he had written extensively."
Fish is survived by his wife, Jean Holley Fish; their grown children Steve Fish (Marci), Holli Lancaster (Dan); Jeff Fish (Holly), and Jennifer Pastoor (Charles), and 15 grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements will be posted on Southwestern Seminary's website when complete.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler, with reporting by Benjamin Hawkins, senior news writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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