Oscar Burke Culpepper D. Div.

Male, #34307, (8 Apr 1880 - 24 Aug 1948)
Father*John Butler Culpepper D. Div. (1 Aug 1849 - 19 Jan 1937)
Mother*Melvina Harper (22 Nov 1857 - 20 Jun 1937)
Birth*8 Apr 1880 Oscar was born at Fort Valley, Houston Co., Georgia, on 8 Apr 1880. 
1880 Census1 Jun 1880 Marvin and Oscar was listed as a son in John Butler Culpepper D. Div.'s household on the 1880 Census at Bibb Co., Georgia.1 
Marriage*15 May 1900 He married Katherine Reginold at Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee, on 15 May 1900 at age 20.
Burke and Kate (Reginold) Culpepper
1900 Census*1 Jun 1900 Oscar was listed as the head of a family on the 1900 Census at Stillwater, Payne Co., Oklahoma.2 
Birth of Son8 Apr 1901 His son Oscar Burke Culpepper Jr., O.D. was born on 8 Apr 1901 at Missouri.3 
Photographed*circa 1905 He was photographed circa 1905 at Mississippi.4
Rev. Burke Culpepper
Birth of Son6 Sep 1906 His son Rev. James Marion Culpepper was born on 6 Sep 1906 at Iuka, Tishomingo Co., Mississippi.5 
1910 Census*15 Apr 1910 Oscar was listed as the head of a family on the 1910 Census at Lowndes Co., Georgia.6 
Biography13 Jun 1916 A Victorious Battle in Van Buren, or 18 Days of Rattling the Teeth of the Devil:
A Brief Synopsis of the Dr. Oscar Burke Culpepper Revival in Van Buren, Arkansas
June 13-30th, 1916

By Rev. Charles Smith, Jr.

A biographer always has two problems that are the Sine qua non of his success. They must adequately interpret their subject to the reader and they must synthesize the details of their subject's life so that they present a memorable pattern. It is difficult to compress Mr. Culpepper's experience into a fine tune pattern when he came to the River Valley, but it can be certain he came with the right motives in mind.
     It was noon on June 13, 1916, when the short and stocky Burke, along with his family, arrived in Van Buren to conduct a series of meetings in a large tent on Broadway and 8th streets. When Burke came to Van Buren he was 36 years old and had been preaching for 27 years. He began preaching at the young age of eight under the watchful eye of his father, Rev. John B. Culpepper. John was also a Methodist preacher and was very well known in his circuit in Georgia. John also worked occasionally with the Methodist evangelist, Rev. Samuel (Sam) Porter Jones. Burke had a deep admiration for Mr. Jones and his father and enjoyed the times he had spent going along with his father to hear the two preachers preach.
     It is evident that Burke's father made a deep impression upon his young son and began taking him on his circuits to sing the hymns and to preach. It was in these earlier times that it was the intent of most preachers to pass their "mantle" onto their children. This was certainly the case with other contemporaries of Burke's day, Mordecai Ham, Sam P. Jones, and "Gipsy" Rodney Smith. Eventually Burke was licensed to preach at the age of 19, in 1899, by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was after the death of Rev. Sam P. Jones in 1906 that many newspaper journalists began to call Burke the "Sam Jones of today" after 1912 he was termed the "Billy Sunday of the South".
     Assailing sin and worldly wealth with volley upon volley of vituperation, Burke Culpepper, would race up and down the platform and even into the aisles of the churches he visited, while he exhorted, fighting sin to the point of "rattling the very teeth of the devil himself." As like other evangelists of his day, he had his own song leader which was John U Robinson. Burke came to Van Buren after he had successfully held several revivals in Conway, Arkansas (Jan-Feb. 1916), Jonesboro and other cities. Unlike preaching in the new sanctuary of the First Methodist Church in Conway, Burke came to the large revival tent that was pitched on Broadway and Eighth Street.
     On the first night of the services the local newspaper, the Van Buren Press-Argus made mention that, "His (Burke) text for the evening hour was from the Scripture, " I am the Vine and you are the branches," for about thirty minutes Rev. Culpepper drew lessons for his hearers as rapidly as the noted cartoonists on the movie screen. He is true to Christianity in action as across the length of the platform he paces and at times runs, firing truths at the congregation like a rapid fire coast defense gun, mingling the slang of today with flights of real eloquence."
     It also made mention that he plows with a deep plow and is said to have brought his plow with him to Van Buren. "He at all times holds the complete attention of the audience." He was able to do this because he refused to use notes or manuscripts of any type and yet he had a repertoire of over 1,000 sermons.
     It was noted on the third night that Burke announced that he was "to skin a tom cat on the platform" and this he metaphorically did. "In his earnestness, he left the platform and walked up and down the aisles, thundering truths at the listeners." It was notated that he would shout, "Hear me, sin will get your tag, brother, no matter who you are, no matter what position you occupy, sin will get your tag. Kill your big dog sin and you have conquered all the little vices of hell that bark at your heels."
     It was by the fourth service that the headlines read, "Deep Interest Being Manifested", one journalist made mention that "the attendance from Fort Smith increases each night and many remained in their automobiles during the service." As the attendance increased every evening, it was the same at the afternoon meetings, as well. Every afternoon for one hour (3-4 PM) Burke would speak a special message at different areas of Van Buren to draw more people to the evening service. By June 19th the crowds were reaching between 1500 and 2,000. The next day, the 20th, Burke was to address the business men, but was moved to the 21st to "give every business man in the city an opportunity to attend this meeting." And "that much good will result and promises to be a greater interest shown in those things that make for a better city, a cleaner city, and for a happier community."
     The newspaper even listed the names of the men and their businesses that would close for the Culpepper meetings from 3 to 4 PM. Following this, the sermon topic that night was the funeral sermon of Hatchett and Hammer, which was one of Burke's most powerful messages on civic righteousness and was preached especially to the Chamber of Commerce and the business men of the River Valley. It was on the 23rd that Burke offered his first call to converts, preaching primarily to the railroad men and their families. He preached on the subject of "The Cannonball to Heaven and the Cannonball to Hell". As he gave the invitation, between 25 and 30 responded.
     When June the 26th rolled around the headlines stated, "Culpepper Meeting Continues with Interest". It made mention that "Fort Smith, Ozark, and other nearby towns and the surrounding country sent delegations to the night service. The streets about the tabernacle were crowded with vehicles, and every available seat, in and near the tent was occupied, with many standing."
     It was also on this day that 42 went forward for prayer when the call was given. On the 27th more large numbers went forward for prayer and by the 28th there were 50 conversions. The headlines from the Thursday night edition of the Van Buren Press-Argus stated, "Closing Most Successful Revival Here", and under Burke's picture it made mention that, "Rev. Burke Culpepper will close a remarkable 18 days revival at the tabernacle, corner of 8th and Broadway tonight and will leave at once for Helena, where he will begin a revival next Sunday. Rev. Culpepper has probably addressed a larger number of people each day he has been in the city than any evangelist that ever held a meeting here. Interest has never waned, but increased from day to day and many conversions have resulted. The Evangelist has had the cooperation of our business men, all of whom have closed their stores for an hour each afternoon in order that their employees might attend. The discourses of the evangelist touched every phase of life. He devoted much time to municipal shortcomings in Van Buren. He told some very unpleasant truths and pointed out many faults existing here that were having a retarding effect upon the physical growth and development of the city and were dwarfing the spiritual growth of our citizens and his visit here will no doubt result in much good. During the revival Rev. Culpepper was very materially assisted by Mr. John U. Robinson, choir director, by the organization of a strong choir immediately upon his arrival here, together with his many solos, made the song service each day a most helpful and inspiring aid to the evangelist. It is understood that Rev. Culpepper and Mr. Robinson expects to visit Fort Smith next season."
     With the closing of the services, Friday's edition of the Van Buren Press-Argus, made mention that Rev. Culpepper… "will not hold a meeting under a contract for a certain sum of money…his method of receiving remuneration is to pass out envelopes in which those who so desire may place a free-will offering". After the envelopes were taken up the amount was known to be $722.10, they had notated as well that 300 conversions were the result of this mission. As Burke and his family were to leave it was made mention that he and his songster, Mr. Robinson was to have their next mission at Helena, Arkansas on July 2, 1916. In their efforts Burke and Robinson saw another revival refresh the people and revitalize their faith.7

1920 Census*1 Jan 1920 Oscar was listed as the head of a family on the 1920 Census at Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee.8 
Photographedsay 1925 He was photographed say 1925 at Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee.9
Dr. Burke Culpepper
Photographedsay 1930 He was photographed say 1930 at Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee.10
Rev. Burke Culpepper -- Fighter of Sin
Death of Father19 Jan 1937 His father John Butler Culpepper D. Div. died on 19 Jan 1937 at Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee.11 
Death of Mother20 Jun 1937 His mother Melvina Harper died on 20 Jun 1937 at Monroe, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana
Photographedcirca 1946 He was photographed circa 1946 at Harris Memorial Church, Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee,
Left to right: Katherine (Day) Skinner and Mr. Skinner, Richard C. Skinner, and the Rev. Oscar Burke Culpepper, Christening his first great grandson.12
Richard Skinner Christening
Death*24 Aug 1948 He died at Bowling Green, Warren Co., Kentucky, on 24 Aug 1948 at age 68.13 
Burial*circa 27 Aug 1948 His body was interred circa 27 Aug 1948 at Forest Hills Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee
Biography* Mrs. John (Dorothy Culpepper) Wingfield preserved a 25 page typed manuscript "ONE FAMILY - CULPEPPER" written by her grandfather, Rev. George Bright Culpepper, who noted: In the year 1879, in Fort Valley, Georgia, a third child was born to John Butler Culpepper and his wife, Melvina, who was given the name of Oscar Burke. He became a Methodist preacher, and at the present time (September 26, 1942) is one of the general evangelists of the Methodist Church, and lives in Memphis, Tennessee. His wife is Catherine Reginol Culpepper. They have several children and one of their sons is an eye, ear,nose and throat specialist in Birmingham, I think he bears the name of Oscar Burke, Jr. Another son, James, is a preacher.
     Charles Ross Culpepper wrote, 12 Nov 1977, that "Burke Culpepper was a brilliant evangelist. I was with him two years.... As a pastor I had Uncle Burke with me on five occasions and since Dad [Marvin M. Culpepper] died in 1927, he [Oscar Burke Culpepper, Sr.] was like a second father." Mrs. Robert Joseph Culpepper wrote in a June 1977 letter that Rev. Burke Culpepper had written a book Put God First in which he mentioned his father John B. Culpepper, D.D. and his mother, Melvina.
     A booklet Getting Acquainted With Father was found among personal papers of Ida W. and Edgar C. Culpepper of Lone Oak, GA and was preserved by a niece, Eleanor Culpepper Willingham. The booklet had the following dedication: Sacredly dedicated to the honor of ONE LIVING BURKE CULPEPPER, whose service to Corsicana has been of inestimable value to the religious live of her citizenship, this story from his convert, W. O. Saunders, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, is reproduced in pamphlet form from the February, 1923, issue of the American Magazine.
     The following is from the INTRODUCTION of the same booklet: WITH the hope that every man or woman, boy or girl who reads this story will be more thoughtful concerning his or her father, more attentive to his happiness, and more appreciative of him, more than twenty Corsicana people have joined Hastings Harrison, General Secretary, and W. S. Goode, Boys Work Secretary, of the Y. M. C. A. in defraying the expense of printing this pamphlet. This story is taken from the February, 1923, issue of the American Magazine, and is given you in pamphlet form free of charge. W. O. Saunders is editor and publisher of the Independent Newspaper of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The Independent has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the United States in proportion to population. In the June, 1922, issue of the American Magazine is Mr. Saunder's life's history, written by himself, entitled "The Autobiography of a Crank." As a writer he called a spade a spade, and stood out for what he believed was right, regardless of public opinion. His relationship to the people of his community was unpleasant. He was the victim of many fistic encounters, threats of violence, and was way laid many times. His trouble led finally to a gun battle between himself and some irate Church people, whom he had written about in an issue of the Independent. The most of the community turned against him, and he was recognized as an infidel. The following taken from his autobiography in the 1922 June issue of the American gives an account of his conversion, and because of its local interest is herein reproduced: "Half of the reading citizens of the town didn't speak to me. I was a social outcast. 'The Independent' was taboo in many of the so-called respectable homes. I could get almost no local advertising. "Then came to town one Burke Culpepper, an evangelist of Memphis, Tenn. A tent was pitched for him, and he began a series of union revival services, backed by all the churches. I stayed away from his meetings until it was necessary for me to attend at least one service to write about it intelligently. The evangelist captured me. He was different from the common run. The fellow was pleading with the church people to take Christ into their lives. He said a man who professed to be a Christian and who wasn't on speaking terms with every man in his town ought to get right with God or get out of the church. That sounded like honest-to-God religion to me. I went to hear Burke Culpepper again. "My second appearance at the tent was the signal for a determined and united effort upon the part of the active brethren and sisters to save my soul. It was an embarrassing situation to me, and I might have quit the meeting but for an invitation from the evangelist for anyone to testify as to any benefit derived from the meetings. I came to my feet. I told the evangelist and his audience of possibly two thousand that I was delighted with the message he had brought to the people, that nowhere in any of my writings against preachers and churchianity [sic] would they find one word in conflict with the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. I told them that if there was any great divergence in our views it was that I believed the teachings of Jesus were practicable, and the church didn't. I was sure the church did not believe in the practical application of the teachings of the Master; because, while stressing its creeds and dogmas, it had utterly refrained from frankly facing the economic obstacles to a literal acceptance of Christ's teachings. "There was an embarrassing silence following my qualified confession of faith and expression of doubt. And then the evangelist stepped to the very front of his platform, and leaning far out, told the congregation not to worry about the salvation of W. O. Saunders. 'I behold in him a man who is seeking God for himself, a man capable of thinking for himself. He will find God.' "That evangelist from Memphis, Tenn., knew how to handle a crank. "Before he finished his campaign in Elizabeth City he had persuaded the church people themselves to bury their differences. He went into the very courthouse, where court was in session. Two lawyers in that court had been implacable enemies for years, and one had carried murder in his heart for the other. Before Burke Culpepper got through with them they had their arms around each other's neck, and everybody in the court room was shaking hands with everybody else. "Suddenly I discovered that I, the crank, the monster, the assassin of character, had become popular. People who had never spoken to me before remembered that I had done a lot of good for the town! There was less graft than in former years. The streets were paved. Then sanitary condition of the town had improved. The town had forged ahead in every way. A year later, I was unanimously elected to represent the county in the General Assembly. "I am often told that The Independent is the best looking, best edited country newspaper in America. The Independent has succeeded only as it served its people. I have worked almost sixteen hours a day for almost thirteen years, putting my best and my worst into this country newspaper. I have given much punishment, and in turn, have been punished much for my crankiness. Out of it all I have learned a few lessons that may be epigrammatically stated: "I have learned that the American people have a lively passion for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about everything and everybody--except themselves and their family connections. "I have learned that the people prefer entertainment to reformation. Even the medicine faker could not have sold his wares without his bag of tricks. "I have learned that there are few heads for facts and figures, but that everybody has a heart. "I have learned that I am not at all like other men, and that other men are not at all unlike me; all of us have our ideas, our ideals, our whims, our idiosyncrasies--call them what you will-- and that a graveyard no larger than a county will eventually hold us all."
     The following is from the same booklet: Governor Neff Commends Rev. Burke Culpepper Hon. Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, on January 29, wrote Rev. Burke Culpepper as follows: "Just before I left Waco, my home town, to come to Austin to assume the duties of Governor you held a series of meetings there, covering several weeks. The atmosphere created by you in those meetings helped me to solve several questions pertaining to my duties as Governor. "You have been preaching for three weeks in Austin at the beginning of my second administration. Your sermons have been helpful in fostering and promoting among our citizenship an appreciation of the worth-while things of life. As you leave this morning for other fields of labor, I want you to know that you carry with you my personal commendation of the work that you are doing and my sincere appreciation of the friendship that has grown up between us for the past few years. I just want you to know as you go that your services have been helpful here in the Capitol of the State, and that I am for the gospel you preach."
     The following obituary came from p. 1 of the Memphis Commercial Appeal of 25 Aug 1948: Dr. O. Burke Culpepper Dies; Preached From Age Of 8 To 68 Dr. Oscar Burke Culpepper, a Methodist evangelist who preached his first sermon at the age of eight and his last early this week, died yesterday afternoon at 4:15 in Bowling Green, KY. The 68-year-old Memphian was in Bowling Green to conduct one of the revivals for which he was famed throughout the South. A heart ailment which he had periodically ignored to carry on his work was the cause of his death. Dr. Culpepper was one of a widely known family of general evangelists and ministers. His father, the Rev. John B. Culpepper, was the fountain head of 25 men of God, representing three Culpepper generations, at the time of his death in Memphis in 1937. Called Himself "Prayer Baby" Dr. Culpepper was one of the general evangelists of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was fond of referring to himself as a "prayer baby." Like Hannah of Biblical times, he used to say, his mother prayed that he might become a preacher even before he was born. As a child he felt the call. He began to accompany his pioneering father on evangelistic trips. Then, after 12 to 15 years of apprenticeship, he struck out on his own. He was one of the first to become a member of the Evangelistic Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The association placed him on the Board of Control and made him secretary-treasurer. It is said he led hundreds of thousands to a better way of life. Making his headquarters at his home at 536 LeMaster, he took to the road every two weeks, or so, for many years. One Son Is Pastor Dr. Culpepper, who was educated at Macon, GA, and Asbury College, Wilmore, KY, moved to Memphis 35 years ago. One of his two sons, the Rev. James Culpepper of St. Clair, MO, is a Methodist pastor. The other son, Dr. Oscar Burke Culpepper, Jr., is a Birmingham optometrist. He also leaves his wife, Mrs. Kate Culpepper, and a daughter, Mrs. John Day, of Memphis. The body will be returned to Memphis this afternoon. National Funeral Home will be in charge. Publication: Put God First by Rev. Burke Culpepper, D.D; A series of evangelistic sermons delivered through the south and west. Louisville, KY, Pentecostal Publishing Co. [c1925] 168 p. 19 1/2 cm. Library of Congress BV3797.C85 NC 0828 917 also Duke University Durham. 
Research note*27 Apr 2012 So, I talked to my dad about Oscar Burke D. Div. (our "prince") and his brother Marvin Myers. Dad said Marvin was a good fighter and that if it wasn't for his bad heart he would have tried to go pro. So Burke would take him around with him and Marvin would be there if they got into trouble. He didn't elaborate but it sounds like the two were as willing to throw a punch as they were sing a hymn.

Once Marvin was helping Burke in one of these tussles and the other guy tried to stick him thumb in Marvin or Burke's eye. Who ever was on the receiving end, bit it off. ( I will have to confirm if it was Marvin who did the biting or if it was Burke). In either case, later in life that guy saw the biter at a revival and when he went to get saved he held up his hand and said give me back my thumb you pious s.o.b. or something like that. So, princely perhaps but not gentle.14 


Katherine Reginold (circa 1882 - )
Marriage*15 May 1900 He married Katherine Reginold at Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee, on 15 May 1900 at age 20.
Burke and Kate (Reginold) Culpepper
ChartsJohn Culpepper of Randolph Co, AL: Descendant Chart
Last Edited16 Nov 2017


  1. 1880 Federal Census, United States.
    ED 11, Page 102B, Family 190, District 481, Bibb Co., GA
    John B. Culpepper, Self, M, M, W, 30, Itenerant Preacher, GA/GA/GA
    Melvina Culpepper, Wife, F, M, W, 22, Keeps House, GA/GA/GA
    S. Valtonia Culpepper, Dau, F, S, W, 4, --- , GA/GA/GA
    Marvin M. Culpepper, Son, M, S, W, 3, --- , GA/GA/GA
    Oscar B. Culpepper, Son, M, S, W, 1, --- , GA/GA/GA
    John Harmon, Other, M, S, W, 16, Sells Wood, GA/GA/GA.
  2. 1900 Federal Census, United States.
    ED 190, Sheet 29B, Pg 214A, Gen.com Im-6, 3 Ward, Stillwater, Payne Co., OK
    Oscar B. Culpepper, Head, M, Apr-1879, 21, md-0 yrs, GA GA GA, Evangelist
    Kattie B. Culpepper, Wife, F, Mar-1882, 18, md-0 yrs, Ch 0/0, TN TN TN.
  3. U.S. Social Security Administration, compiler, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Online database at Ancestry.com.
  4. John Butler Culpepper, Happy Home, Louisville, Kentucky: Pickett Publishing Company, 1905.
  5. Who's Who in Methodism-1952, .
    p 167.
  6. 1930 Federal Census, United States.
    ED 121, Page 10B, Valdosta District, Lowndes Co., GA
    Burke Culpepper, Head, M, 31, Md 10, GA/GA/GA, Preacher
    Kate Culpepper, Wife, F, 28, Md 10, Ch 3/3, TN/TN/TN
    Oscar Culpepper, Son, M, 9, S, MO/GA/TN
    Katherine Culpepper, Dau, F, 6, S, MS/GA/TN
    James Culpepper, Son, M, 3, S, MS/GA/TN.
  7. A Victorious Battle in Van Buren, or 18 Days of Rattling the Teeth of the Devil: A Brief Synopsis of the Dr. Oscar Burke Culpepper Revival in Van Buren, Arkansas, June 13-30th, 1916, article written by Rev. Charles Smith Jr., 2211 Quarry Drive, Van Buren, Arkansas 72956, e-mail address and submitted to Warren Culpepper, 16 Aug 2010.
  8. 1920 Federal Census, United States.
    Memphis Ward 16, Shelby, Tennessee; Roll: T625_1764; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 158; Image: 347.

    Name Age
    Burke Culpepper 40
    Kate Culpepper 37
    Oscar Culpepper 18
    Katharine Culpepper 16
    James Culpepper 13
    Fred Reginnold 72
    Kate Reginnold 65
    Claudie Johnson 25.
  9. James Marion Culpepper, Burke Culpepper Prince of Evangelists, Louisville, KY: The Herald Press, 1952.
    opposite Title Page, courtesy of Richard C. Kearney, Ph. D.

    Caption on page: Dr. Burke Culpepper.
  10. James Marion Culpepper, Burke Culpepper Prince of Evangelists, Louisville, KY: The Herald Press, 1952.
    Page 69, courtesy of Richard C. Kearney, Ph. D.

    Caption on page is "Fighter of Sin."
  11. George Bright Culpepper, One Family - Culpepper, James Marion Culpepper family, 25 page, typed manuscript, unpub., 8 Oct 1942.
    p 3; Esther Culpepper Shannon 'Papa died in Memphis, at Burkes.'
  12. James Marion Culpepper, Burke Culpepper Prince of Evangelists, Louisville, KY: The Herald Press, 1952.
    Page 129, courtesy of Richard C. Kearney, Ph. D.
  13. Commonwealth of Kentucky / Health Data Branch, compiler, Kentucky Death Index, 1911-2000, Online database at Ancestry.com.
    O. B. Culpepper, 24 Aug 1948 at age 68, Warren Co., KY, Residence: Tennessee, 48, 19625.
  14. E-mail written Jan 2008 to Culpepper Connections from John Butler Culpepper (#28948), Altadena, CA, e-mail address (Oct 2011).