Walter L. Wilson: Beloved Physician of Kansas City

by Bernard R. DeRemer

Walter L. WilsonA certain principal opposed the Christian message, so no preacher had ever spoken at his school.

But Dr. Walter L. Wilson was invited to "lecture on animal and plant life." The students were eager for his "mystery story." Dr. Wilson withdrew his closed hand from a pocket and promised to reveal the hidden item, after which "no human eye will ever see it again." With that, he removed a peanut from its shell-and ate it!

The audience cheered wildly; they were now ready for a powerful message from nature, then the Bible. Afterward the principal declared, "I have been an atheist and evolutionist all these years, but I am going back to my desk saved by Jesus Christ." It was another trophy of grace for the "Beloved Physician of Kansas City."

Wilson was born in 1881 at Aurora, Indiana. By age 9, he wanted to become a doctor like his father and "began to collect bones of all sizes and shapes." In later years, he would sometimes describe graphically David, the little shepherd boy, practicing for hours with his slingshot while tending sheep. Then he would refer to the encounter with Goliath and point out that whatever talent we develop, God will use, sometime, somehow.

After an evangelistic meeting, he trusted Christ as Savior. Following study in various institutions, he received his M.D. from the University of Kansas, and began practice in Webb City, Missouri.

His charity cases provided ministry, but not enough means to pay the rent. Then he treated a 56-year old washerwoman (abandoned by four previous doctors) who became "a walking advertisement among her moneyed customers." The doctor's practice began to grow and prosper.

During medical school, Wilson had worked part-time in his future father-in-law's tentmaking firm. After becoming a doctor, he had no intention of returning to the business world. But his father-in-law's serious illness brought an urgent appeal. So, for a quarter century, Wilson was a "full-time tentmaker and part-time doctor," perhaps the "only staff physician in a tent factory in the U.S."

In 1920, he founded Central Bible Hall in Kansas City, which became Central Bible Church. He led the work until retirement in 1961, when he became pastor emeritus. Like H.A. Ironside and others, Wilson was never ordained, yet he handled many funerals and weddings.

Dr. Wilson was burdened for a college-level training school for young people called of God. In 1932, the Kansas City Bible Institute opened with 96 students. Dr. Wilson served for a time as both president and dean until others could be enlisted. Today the Kansas City College and Bible School in Overland Park, Kansas, carries on the tradition of its illustrious founder.

Dr. Wilson used to point out that "comfort" (Col. 4:11) is paregora, from which we get paregoric, something that takes away pain. Then he would quip, "Some folks give us a pain. But Paul here is commending those who relieved his."

The Romance of Doctor's Visits, probably his most widely read book, chronicled dozens of incidents, such as "The Preacher Found Christ," "The Worst Woman in the Church," and so on. All were told in his unique, folksy, heart-warming style. He wrote 26 other books; hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed and some were translated into foreign languages.

Each of Dr. Wilson's eight children "acknowledged his need of a Savior and each left the family nest aware of his duty before God and man."

As he approached the age of 88, the venerable servant of the Lord suffered a stroke. For years he had responded to comments on his healthy appearance: "Yes, I have been trying to get into heaven, but my friends keep praying me out." This time he made it-on May 24, 1969.

 The dynamic earthly ministry of one of the most colorful, faithful, and fruitful witnesses of the 20th century had ended. But multitudes he profoundly influenced for the Lord would always remember with great appreciation the Beloved Physician of Kansas City.

Reference: Walter L. Wilson, by Kenneth O. Gangle. 1970. Moody Bible Institute. Excerpts used by permission of Moody Press.

Bernard R. DeRemer, in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps, has chronicled
the lives of dozens of God's choice leaders across recent centuries.

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