William Rinehart Barbour,Jr. is 93 today! The sparkle in his eye is as welcoming as ever. His love for his family and friends radiates from a face that lights up when you enter his room, glowing more than 93 birthday candles ever could.. He has enviable silver white hair and a ready wit. He’s a man to be admired, always has been, and always will be.
WRB, as he’s often called, is a man of many talents and for most of us, it’s hard to even imagine walking in his shoes. Some of you may recognize his name as the man who picked up the gauntlet set down by his father and his uncle to find a way to make Christian books available to everyone. His uncle, Fleming H. Revell,Sr., His father, William R. Barbour, Sr. set the groundwork for WRB to continue to develop a publishing legacy. He was an innovator and when he became president of Revell in 1968 he wanted to make sure that great preachers, and Christian entertainers, businessmen and laymen and women all had an opportunity to get their work into the marketplace. He pioneered the things we take for granted today…getting Christian books into secular stores, creating books about family and ways to live life more honorably. He published women like Marabel Morgan, whose “Total Woman” was one of the top selling books of the 70’s. He published Corrie TenBoom’s, “The Hiding Place”, and Dale Rogers, “Angel Unaware.” He was a publisher who was always connected to his readers and humbled by their messages. He began every editorial meeting with a letter from someone who wrote to share how their life had changed because they read one of the books he published. “This is why we do what we do,” he beamed. He was intent on publishing books that matter.
That’s not the whole story though. Yes, he is a brilliant publisher, but even more he’s a man with a capacity to love and forgive and bless the lives of others in every way he can. He’s a man who loves his brother Hugh in ways that are reminiscent of the kind of brotherly love Jesus talked about. He’s a man who blessed his children, Bruce, Betsy, and Alan with gifts and talents beyond measure and hearts like his that are as big as all outdoors. He’s a man who honors his wife of 64 years, Mary, and understands the gift that she has been to him for many years. William Rinehart Barbour,Jr. is a man with big shoes and most of us will spend years trying to find ways to walk in the path he creates. As his family and his friends, we shout with love and joy, “Happy Birthday, WRB!” “Happy Birthday, incredible, remarkable and wonderful man!
Sometimes we wonder if we make a difference. Sometimes we look in the mirror and try to imagine what it would be like if the work we did in the world, and the love we shared with others, could be so amazing that it would last forever, long after our days on earth. All I know is that it’s a great blessing to me to be part of this family and I’m humbled as a daughter-in-law, as an author of Christian books, and as a friend of this man to realize all he’s done to make my path a bit easier, long before he knew I’d ever be in his life. I want to be like that. I want to walk in Bill’s shoes!