Bishop Harper Hunter, a general in the army of the Lord, slipped the surly bonds of earth and took his flight to the Celestial City of God on Monday, June 6, 2011.

A resident of Cleveland, the Rev. Hunter was 89 years old and spent the last few weeks on this earth in the Life Care Center of Cleveland.

Harper Hunter Jr. was born Jan. 8, 1922, in rural Dickson County, Tenn, to Harper Herbert and Edith Hunter.

After graduation from high school, he attended George Peabody College for Teachers and Vanderbilt University in Nashville before launching his ministry in 1941.

With his guitar in hand, he soon became an evangelist-in-demand as he traveled the country holding revival services along with his brother-in-law and sister, Charles and Helen Batson. He and Charles were appointed as Church of God of Prophecy co-state overseers of Maine in 1943 by General Overseer A.J. Tomlinson, the last year Tomlinson moderated the General Assembly of the Church of God of Prophecy.

As of June 2011, Harper and Charles were the last living appointees of the A.J. Tomlinson era. He also held the distinction of serving as recording secretary of the events that led to the selection of M.A. Tomlinson as general overseer of the church upon the death of A.J. Tomlinson in 1943. The official account, written in his own handwriting, is archived at the church headquarters.

During a 1945 revival service in Akron, Ohio, he met Betty Lorene Williams, a pretty young lady and musician whom he deemed an outstanding candidate for a minister’s wife. Later that year they were married and thus began their life together for 66 years. To that union was born a son, Dr. Harold D. Hunter and a daughter, Deborah S. Hunter Jones.

In 1947 he was ordained a bishop and appointed state overseer of Wisconsin. As the years rolled by he was also appointed state overseer of Kentucky, Wyoming, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi. At the International Headquarters of the Church of God of Prophecy he served as World Evangelist, General Evangelist, Assembly Band Movement (ABM) Secretary and Field Secretary to the General Overseer (assistant general overseer).

In addition to his preaching, teaching and administrative duties, he was a popular singer in the church, recording various 78 rpm records and six LP albums and cassettes (as the technology changed) through the Church of God of Prophecy Broadcast Record Club on the Majestic Records label. The first of the LP albums was distributed in 1952. Throughout the years he wrote various books and many articles published at the White Wing Publishing House arm of the church. In 1987 a biography of Hunter’s life was written by Marie Back and published with the title “The HUNTER … Without A Gun.”

He traveled to many countries and all 50 states preaching, teaching, and ministering to church leaders on the field. He was loved by old and young alike. The youth of the church knew him as the state overseer who enjoyed being an integral part of the state youth camps — especially playing a good game of softball with the campers during the day and praying them through to deeper experiences with God at the evening altar services. When his state appointment transferred him to another state, one young man lamented, “We’ll never get anyone that will love us like he did … enough to wear his blue jeans and play ball with us.”

Most important of all, he was known as a man with an exemplary prayer life, carrying a burden for the souls of lost humanity. His praying started in the wee hours of the morning and continued throughout the day. Of all the titles bestowed on him, he wanted to be known simply as a singing evangelist, for he was a “lover of souls”.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Harper and Edith Hunter of Ashland City; mother and father-in-law, James and Sadie Williams of Akron, Ohio; and son-in-law, the Rev. Mikey Jones Jr. of Smyrna.

He is survived by his wife, Betty Hunter of Cleveland; his son, Dr. Harold D. Hunter and wife, Sondra, of Oklahoma City; his daughter, Deborah S. Hunter Jones of Smyrna; granddaughter, Heidi Jones Bradley and husband, Blake, of Nashville; grandson, Matthew Landon Jones of Nashville; great-grandchildren: Ceylon, Lennon and Jude Bradley of Nashville; sister, Helen Hunter Batson and husband, Charles, of Roseburg, Ore., and a host of nieces and nephews.

The family visitation will be from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, June 10, 2011, with the memorial service starting at 2 p.m. at the Peerless Road Church of God of Prophecy.

Historical items related to his ministry will be on display during family visitation.

Interment will follow at Sunset Memorial Gardens.

Officiating ministers will be Bishop R.E. Howard, general overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy, Bishop Adrian Varlack, Bishop E.C. McKinley, Bishop Steve Wilson and Bishop Ray C. Wynn.

The fire that once burned brightly in Harper Hunter remains in the hearts of countless folk with whom he shared the Light of All Ages.

We invite you to send a message of condolence and view the Hunter family guest book at www.ralphbuckner.com.

Ralph Buckner Funeral Home & Crematory is in charge of arrangements.

Read more: Cleveland Daily Banner – Harper Hunter