Charles Ezra Daniel Memorial Chapel
Richard Furman –
- clergyman, educator and patriot - was considered the most important Baptist leader before the Civil War. He helped to organize the South Carolina Baptist Convention to support missions and education, which led to the founding of Furman University in 1826. The university is named in his honor.
Converted in 1771 by the revivalistic Separate Baptists, Furman began preaching at the age of 16. He served as pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina from 1774 to 1784 and of First Baptist Church in Charleston, the most prominent Baptist church in the South, from 1787 until his death in 1825. Widely known for his eloquence, Furman traveled throughout the state for 38 years, preaching the gospel and assisting in the formation of many churches.
A prominent denominational statesman, Furman was the first president of the Triennial Convention, the first national body of Baptists in America. He was the first president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the moderator of the Charleston Baptist Association for more than 25 years. The Southern Baptist Convention, founded in 1845 after his death, was organized according to his concept of a centralized convention.
An ardent propagandist during the Revolutionary War, he won many South Carolinians to the Colonial cause. When Charleston surrendered to the British, General Cornwallis placed a price of 1000 British Pounds on Furman's head, forcing him to flee from the state and not return until after the war.
Although Furman had little formal schooling, he acquired a broad knowledge of history, theology, metaphysics, mathematics, languages, literature and medicine. A strong advocate of education among Baptists, he persuaded the organizers of the Triennial Convention to include education in the denomination's program of work. His plan calling for a central theological institution in Washington, D.C., and preparatory institutions in the separate states was adopted by the convention and led to the founding of Columbian College (now George Washington University); Furman University; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which grew out of the theological department of Furman; Mercer University; and other schools.
Richard Furman's son, James Clement Furman, served as the first president of Furman University, and many of his descendants have played an important role in the life of this institution.