Congregants, friends, former students and fellow preachers, mourners all, assembled at the Grace Avenue Church of Christ on the winter morning of February 9, 1946 to remember the life of their minister, mentor and friend, Henry Leo Boles.
Just a month earlier, Sunday January 6, he preached in the morning assembly at Grace Avenue what would be his last sermon. Boles and Grace Avenue enjoyed a thirty-year relationship wherein he would preach for them, when in town, the first Sunday of each month. The arrangement was typical for many churches of Christ in the days before each congregation employed a full-time “located minister.” When H. Leo Boles and the old Foster Street Church of Christ entered into their agreement he was President of the Nashville Bible School (later David Lipscomb College, now Lipscomb University).
Born, raised and educated in the Upper Cumberland area in East Tennessee, Boles was already an accomplished schoolteacher and preacher when he came to the Nashville Bible School as a student in 1904. By 1906 he was teaching classes and in 1913 was named its President with approval of the school’s founder, David Lipscomb. In addition to his teaching and service to the school as President (until 1920 and again from 1923-1932) and as a member of the Board of Trustees, he contributed to the life of the churches of Christ at large by writing regularly for, and editing from 1920-1923, the Gospel Advocate.
Holding an MA from Vanderbilt University in and serving on the Committee of Uniform Lessons of the International Council of Religious Education for nearly twenty years, he was well-qualified to author, develop and edit a series of graded Sunday School literature for churches of Christ. As an author Boles contributed commentaries on the gospels of Matthew and Luke, on Acts of Apostles, a major doctrinal treatise on the Holy Spirit, a volume of biographical-historical studies on noted Restoration preachers and co-edited a hymnal.
In addition to his steady literary output, he enjoined occasionally in religious debate and maintained an active schedule of preaching appointments. The great-grandson of noted early Restoration preacher “Raccoon” John Smith, it seemed preaching was in Boles’ blood. His last illness in the winter of 1946, in fact, compelled him for the first time in 42 years to cancel a preaching appointment. When the Grace Avenue congregation bade farewell to their beloved preacher that wintry morning, they also bade farewell to one of the more significant figures in Churches of Christ in his generation.