The Banner of Love is one of the oldest continuing religious publications in the United States. The monthly newspaper has been published continuously since its establishment in late 1932. The following is a summary of its creation and continuous publication.
The Glad Tidings:
The Banner of Love had its roots in a publication known as The Glad Tidings. The Glad Tidings was a twice-monthly publication established in 1922 by Elder Phillip Wade Hampton ("W. H." or "Hamp") Richards. The primary purpose of the publication was, in the words of the late Elder Richards in the first edition, that it might "be a means of unifying the Lord’s people." It was printed in the interests of the Primitive Baptist Churches, primarily those located in Texas. Subscription was $1 per year.
The first issue of The Glad Tidings was published on May 1, 1922. Elder Hamp Richards, residing then in Rule, Texas, originated the publication and served as its Publisher and Editor. It was printed in Bonham, Texas. The title of The Glad Tidings was taken from the New Testament book of Luke 8:1.
The Glad Tidings was published continuously for more than five years, with many Texas Primitive Baptist ministers contributing doctrinal articles or serving as contributing editors. Included among the early contributors were Elders S. A. Paine, J. S. Newman, and Elder Hamp Richards’ son, Elder H. G. Richards. The publication of the newspaper ceased in the late 1920's -- an economic victim of the Great Depression.
The Banner of Love:
Elder Hardon Gideon ("Hard") Richards was one of three sons of Elder Hamp Richards who became Primitive Baptist ministers (the other two were Elder Charles Henry ("Charlie") Richards and Elder Stratford Hampton ("Strat") Richards). Hard Richards had been a regular writer and contributor to The Glad Tidings published by his father and shared the disappointment when the newspaper discontinued publication. He longed to start a religious publication that would provide good news to the members of the Primitive Baptist churches and help to unite church members throughout Texas. However, the Hard Richards family was in farming in Terry County in West Texas, barely eking out a living during the Depression, and lacked the training and financial resources to publish a newspaper.
In late 1932, a banker in Anton, Texas who was a family friend, was forced to foreclose on the community weekly newspaper in Anton. He contacted Elder Hard Richards and offered the Richards family the opportunity to get into the newspaper business with no down payment. Hard Richards accepted the offer and moved his family, including his wife (the former Dora Elizabeth Short) and his four children (twin sons Afton and Alton, Ima Dora, and Edwin) to Anton to become owners and publishers of the local community weekly newspaper -- The Anton News. With only a limited quantity of one-letter-at-a-time handset type and a single-page manual press, the Richards family trained themselves in the operation of the newspaper business. The ulterior motive of Hard Richards, however, was to establish a church newspaper for the Primitive Baptists of Texas. Simultaneous with the assumption ownership of the The Anton News came the birth of The Banner of Love.
The entire Richards family assisted in the newspaper operation -- setting type one letter at a time, redistributing type into divided type cases after publication, and operating the single-page ,manual press, followed by hand folding the newspaper and addressing it to subscribers. Hard’s wife, Dora, named the new religious publication. Following the scriptural references at Songs of Solomon 2:4 and Psalms 60:4 she encouraged Hard to name it The Banner of Love. Desiring to have a publication which promoted love and peace among the various churches and members, the Richards family began publishing the new church newspaper. Hard’s editorial in the first issue, made clear the primary purpose of the newspaper would be to promote peace and comfort in the Lord’s word, and provide articles of doctrinal and historical significance to its readers.
Elder Hard Richards served as the first publisher and editor of the new The Banner of Love. He continued to do so for two years. In 1934 the publisher and editor roles were turned over to Elder Richards’ son, Afton Richards, then 20 years old and recently married, who himself had recently started his own newspaper career.
Afton Richards then served as publisher of The Banner of Love for the next 50 years, overseeing substantial growth of the publication in subscriptions and readership, while strongly maintaining the newspaper’s founding principle of promoting peace and comfort.
Afton Richards was ordained a deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church in 1947 at the Primitive Baptist Church at Rule; and was ordained to the ministry in late 1962 by the Primitive Baptist Church at Munday, Texas (now consolidated with the church at Rule).
Elder Afton Richards saw the church newspaper through numerous economic crisis's, including World War II and the accompanying shortages of newsprint and ink, as well as personal crisis including the death of his first-born son in the mid 1930's, and the death of his wife, the former Mary Bass, who became acutely ill in late 1968. He married the former Opal Crawford in late 1969 who joined him in assisting with the continued publication of the newspaper through his death in June of 1984.
Following the death of Elder Afton Richards in 1984, Leon Watson, nephew of Elder Richards, and then a member of the Primitive Baptist Church at Muleshoe, Texas, assumed the publisher role and oversaw the publication for two years until late summer of 1986. At that time, Don R. Richards, middle son of Afton Richards assumed the publisher position of the newspaper and has remained as publisher since that time. He is assisted by Mrs. Afton (Opal) Richards who serves as managing editor and business manager.
Today, the publisher’s stated attempt is to assert the identical philosophy as when the publication was established in 1932 -- to provide a "banner of love" with encouraging news and articles of doctrinal interest to promote peace and provide comfort in accordance with teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
Elder W. H. Richards(pictured here with his great-grandson, Charles Richards)
Elder Phillip Wade Hampton Richards, known as "W. H." or "Hamp" was born on June 4, 1861 in Johnson County, Texas, the son of Stratford Wade Hampton Richards and Elender Caroline Cooper and the grandson of Charles Harrison Richards, a pioneer in Texas prior to its 1836 secession from Mexico, before the battle of the Alamo or the Texas victory over Mexico at San Jacinto, and the establishment of the Republic of Texas.
By his own account published in My Experience and Call to the Ministry he left his parents home (his father was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister) at age 16 to become a working cowboy, "as tough as the toughest of them." At age 19 he married Mattie Hewitt in 1880. After a moral struggle, he joined the Primitive Baptist Church at Providence in Erath County and was baptized by Elder R. A. Biggs in June 1897. He was ordained into the ministry in September 1900.
After a long illness his wife died in November 1923. They had nine children, five boys and four girls with the first girl lost to death at birth. On October 8, 1924 he married Rosa Cleveland Barnard and they had three children, one girl of whom died at birth. He died in 1948 and is buried at the cemetery at Rule, Texas.
During the course of his almost 50-year ministry he pastored numerous churches and baptized more than 1,000 people. He started and published a church newspaper The Glad Tidings , which was a forerunner to The Banner of Love and was a long time writer and contributor to The Banner of Love.
Elder H. G. Richards
Elder Hardon Gideon ("Hard") Richards was born March 5, 1890 in Erath County, Texas, the son of Elder W. H. And Mattie Richards. He was ordained into the ministry in 1915 at the Primitive Baptist Church at Rule, Texas and pastored numerous churches during his 35-year ministry. He married the former Dora Elizabeth Short on September 27, 1911 at Rule, Texas and the couple had five children: twin sons Afton and Alton, a girl Ima Dora, and a third son, Edwin. A fourth son William Hampton died at birth.
In 1932 he moved his family to Anton, Texas and assumed ownership of the weekly newspaper The Anton News. At the same time he started The Banner of Love, a church publication for the Primitive Baptist Churches in Texas. He was elected as the first mayor of Anton, and served as a justice of the peace for Hockley County, Texas. He was elected President of the South Plains Press Association.
He died August 23, 1951 and is buried at the Anton Cemetery.
Elder Afton E. Richards
Elder Afton Elwyn Richards was born May 12, 1914 near Rule, Texas in Haskell County, Texas, the son of Elder H. G. and Dora Richards. He first attended the Primitive Baptist Church at the age of nine days at the Rule church where his grandfather, Elder W. H. Richards was the pastor. He joined the church in August of 1932 at the West Texas Association meeting in Tahoka, Texas. He was a member of a pioneering West Texas newspaper family, beginning with the family’s ownership of The Anton News. After high school graduation, he began his own newspaper career and served for more than 50 years as publisher of several weekly community newspapers across West Texas.
In 1934 he took over as publisher of The Banner of Love and operated the publication continuously for more than 50 years. In 1932 he married the former Mary Bass, the youngest daughter of the 13 children of Henry Isom and Mary Bass. They had five children, the first son Billie Elwyn died at age one and a half. They had a daughter, Mary Beth, followed by three sons, Charles, Don and Larry.
He was ordained as a deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church at Rule, Texas in 1947. In December 1962 he was ordained into the ministry at the church at Munday, Texas (now consolidated with the Rule church). In late 1968 his wife Mary was diagnosed with inoperable intestinal cancer and died within the month. Elder Richards married the former Opal Crawford of Corpus Christi, but who was a native of Cisco, Texas where Elder Richards then served as pastor to her father. She joined him to assist in the community newspaper business, including the operation of The Banner of Love.
Elder Richards was active in his newspaper career as well as his ministry until his death in June 1984. In addition to having authored three books -- Why I am a Primitive Baptist, Salvation, and Bible Stories, he served his local community in numerous ways over his career including as justice of the peace, fire chief and on the city council. He pastored churches at Elk Creek, Oklahoma, Cisco, Texas, Munday, Texas, Muleshoe, Texas and at the time of his death was pastor of the Primitive Baptist Church at Lubbock, Texas.
Don R. Richards
Don R. Richards was born June 26, 1947 in Stonewall, County Texas, the son of the Elder Afton E. and Mary Richards. He joined the Primitive Baptist Church in 1967 at Munday, Texas and was baptized by his father. In September of 1969 he was ordained to the office of deacon at the Primitive Baptist Church in Rule, Texas. He married the former Melba Herron in August of 1972 in Gaines County, Texas.
Don Richards received a degree in journalism from Texas Tech University in 1972 and served as an editor and then publisher of community newspapers in West Texas and near the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. He and his wife then moved to Washington D.C. where both served on the staffs of members of the U.S. Congress. In 1984 both graduated from the Texas Tech School of Law. He currently is in private law practice in Lubbock, Texas where he specializes in utility law and media law.
Don and Melba Richards had two children: a son Reid Hampton born in 1988 and a daughter Raye Marie, born in 1991. In the spring of 2000 Melba was diagnosed with a rare form of "thymoma" cancer and "myasthenia gravis" and died on January 31, 2001 at the age of 53.
In the late summer of 1986 following the death of his father two years earlier, Don assumed the publisher role of The Banner of Love and has operated the church publication since that time. He writes a monthly column for The Banner of Love as well as a continuing series titled "Tour of the Bible" which summarizes significant historical and doctrinal events of the Old Testament.
Don R. Richards currently is a member of the Primitive Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas, where he serves in the capacity as a gospel minister.
(The Banner of Love, Volume 1, Number 1, 1933)
It is generally expected that those who start a paper offer some kind of an apology for doing so, but we have none to offer. We do not feel it necessary. However, we shall state briefly some of the reasons that have moved us, and the dear brethren who are associated with us, to put on foot a plan to publish a paper for our dear people, here in the South West.
First, it is a well know fact that our cause is suffering badly for a medium of correspondence. It is true, we have several Old Baptist papers circulating among us, but about all the news contained in them is general and mostly from distant states. We love all these papers and would not supplant them, if we could; nor are we starting The Banner of Love as a rival of them, but on the contrary we shall do our best to promote their circulation among our readers.
Again, we feel that a clean, peace-loving paper here in the South West, can do much towards bringing our people into closer touch with each other. As it has been, for about two years we seldom ever hear of the good meetings among our people. To hear of these good meetings encourages us. And at this time our people need all the encouragement that we can give them.
Therefore, we feel that The Banner of Love can be made a power for great good among us. Let us all pull together and build up the waste places. Let us comfort, console, and encourage the dear little lambs of the Master.
It is not necessary for us to state that we are not starting The Banner of Love as a money making scheme, for we shall have to put it out at a sacrifice for several months, at least.
We have selected the name, "The Banner of Love," because that name better describes the feeling we have for the dear Old Baptists. Yes, we love the Old Baptists; we love the doctrine, for which they so earnestly contend; we love the sweet songs they sing; we love their humility, and the simplicity of their worship. It would take too much space to follow this theme to any length.
Dear Brethren, will you help us to make this paper a symbol of that great love? Will you help us to fill its columns with good spiritual food? Will you go to the great fountain of Love in our behalf? Will you help us to keep out all hurtful things?
Our aim is to ultimately put this little paper in every Old Baptist home in Texas and adjoining states, and make it a means of showing others the truth. Wilt you join us in this?
We are not so egotistic as to think that we can accomplish this by ourselves, but if we all pull together, it can be very easily done.
We have had papers in the past that were originated as a result of internal warfare among us, but this little paper is being started, as a peaceable one. We do not mean to say that we will allow our brethren misrepresented and slandered to the hurt of the cause, nor, that we will suffer false doctrine or practice introduced among us to the confusion and distress of our people, and never raise our voice against it. But, we do mean that this paper shall not be used to promulgate strife and confusion among God's dear people. ....
Now, Elder Jack West has struck the Key Note: let us call it "Our" paper.
Will you look over us for good and not for evil?
With this little introductory, we send out the little paper, praying that God will bless it to the comfort of His people, and the up-building of the cause of Christ.
H. G. Richards, [Elder] Editor