Buckner Fanning

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Buckner R. Fanning
Buckner fanning.jpg

Born March 1926
Houston, Texas, USA
Died February 14, 2016 (aged 89)
San Antonio, Texas
Spouse Martha Ann Howell Fanning

Michael Fanning
Steve Fanning
George Edward Fanning

Religion Southern Baptist megachurch pastor

Buckner R. Fanning (March 1926 – February 14, 2016) was a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor in San Antonio, Texas, and an ecumenical leader who frequently held joint services with Jewish rabbis and Roman Catholic priests. From the 1970s to the 1990s, he appeared in television commercials, filmed in locations about San Antonio, to promote his Christian beliefs of love and tolerance for others.[1][2]


Fanning was born in Houston; his father was an insurance agent; his mother, a Bible teacher.[3] The Fannings settled in Dallas, Texas, where Buckner was a young member of the First Baptist Church, one of the largest congregations in the world during the 1930s and 1940s and later known for its long-term pastor, W. A. Criswell. Fanning enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on his seventeenth birthday.[2] From 1943 to 1946, he was a sharpshooter in the 2nd Marine Division. In 1946, he was sent on patrol to Nagasaki, Japan, but never drew his weapon. Fanning said that he believed that American forces would have fought for four more years in Japan had not U.S. President Harry Truman used the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet, Fanning recalled the fifty thousand deaths and the wounds of the survivors. "It turned my spiritual life around," he said.[3]


Fanning subsequently graduated in 1949 from Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Texas,[4] and in 1952 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.[3] After spending most of the 1950s as a traveling evangelist,[2] Fanning in 1959 became the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.[5] He often associated in interfaith services with the Catholic archbishop, Patrick Flores of San Antonio. In 1989, he hosted the World Council of Churches' Congress on Missions and Evangelism.[2] By the time of his retirement in 2002, the church had ten thousand members. After leaving the pastorate, Fanning continued to work as an evangelist in guest preaching assignments and founded the Buckner Fanning Christian School on the North Side of San Antonio. The institution is now known as the School at Mission Springs.[6]

Fanning's evangelistic fervor was demonstrated in a 1950s crusade in Augusta, Georgia, which drew sixty thousand persons. He was frequently compared to his friend Billy Graham, whose San Antonio crusades he helped organize in 1968 and 1997. In 1957, Newsweek magazine even compared Fanning to Graham.[2] When John Paul II visited San Antonio in 1987, Fanning held an interfaith service at Trinity Baptist Church to pray for the success of the pope on his mission.[3] Fanning had been an early supporter of desegregation and civil rights for African Americans and was active in annual celebrations in January honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. His preaching was credited with having helped San Antonio to avoid the racial divisiveness that developed in other southern cities during the 1960s.[7] He urged Christians to support those with different sexual preferences: "What did Jesus do, anybody whosoever calls upon Him, He will help you and lift you up and give you peace."[7] Though he did not become specifically involved in partisan politics, which he considered outside the realm of the church, Fanning urged his congregation to vote. He was a critic of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, which began at the national convention in 1979 in Fanning's hometown of Houston.[3]

In his preaching and television spots, Fanning cautioned Christians to avoid judgmentalism. Many who proclaim faith spend their time and energy, he said, on judging others and fail to make sufficient effort to care for and love their fellow man.[2]


Fanning died on Valentine's Day 2016, several months after a debilitating stroke.[1] At the time of his passing, he had been residing at an assisted living facility. Fanning is survived by his wife, the former Martha Ann Howell (born September 17, 1929), a musician and vocalist; three children, Michael and Harriet Fanning, Steve and Cecily Fanning, and George Edward and Lisa Fanning Pilgrim, and five grandchildren.[8]Two identical memorial services were held for Fanning on February 28, 2016: at the Fellowship of San Antonio and Trinity Baptist Church.[9] Ever the innovator, the sermon at the funerals was presented on tape by Fanning himself.[10]


1.^ a b Elaine Ayala (August 25, 2015). "Buckner Fanning hospitalized with stroke". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
2.^ a b c d e f Randy Beamer (February 16, 2016). "Buckner Fanning's legacy more than TV spots & church". NBC News in San Antonio. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
3.^ a b c d e Elaine Ayala (July 30, 2015). "Buckner Fanning remains a San Antonio legend: Evangelist has been compared to Billy Graham". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
4.^ Jarboe, Jan (November 1991), "The War For Thee University", Texas Monthly: 184.
5.^ Martin, William (February 1981), "Shout If You Love Jesus", Texas Monthly: 142–146.
6.^ "The Buckner Fanning School at Mission Springs". tsams.org. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
7.^ a b Jim Forsyth (February 26, 2014). "Iconic Pastor Buckner Fanning: Discriminating Against Gays 'UnChristian'". WOAI-TV. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
8.^ "Buckner Fanning dies". Fox San Antonio. February 15, 2016. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
9.^ Randy Beamer (February 16, 2016). "Services set for longtime preacher Buckner Fanning". NBC News in San Antonio. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
10.^ Buckner Fanning - Love, Light and More. [1], February 16, 2017. Retrieved September 16, 2017.