The Rev. F. Bland Tucker, Pastor and Hymn Writer

Episcopal News Service. January 19, 1984 [84006]

SAVANNAH, Ga. (DPS, Jan. 19) -- The Rev. Francis Bland Tucker died at his home after a long illness. He would have celebrated his 89th birthday Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

A Bible scholar, hymnologist, poet, musician and theologian, he was the only churchman to serve on the two commissions, forty-two years apart, that revised hymnals of the Episcopal Church. He had held numerous positions of leadership in the Diocese of Georgia, and filled roles of humanitarian concern and civic responsibility in Savannah after coming to Christ Church in 1945.

"Dr. Tucker's interest in and contributions to the new liturgy and hymnody of the Episcopal Church showed a flexibility and intellectual vitality truly remarkable in a man his age," Bishop Paul Reeves of the Diocese of Georgia, said. "It may sound trite, but I regard his death as the passing of an era. He was a cultivated Christian and Virginia gentleman in the best sense of all those words, and I speak as a Virginian. We shall miss him."

Tucker came to Savannah after serving 20 years at St. John's Church in Washington, D.C. and five years at St. Andrew's Church in Lawrenceville, Va. He had established a reputation as a hymnologist by his work on the commission that produced the Hymnal, 1940.

In that 1940 revision, he was the translator or author of six hymns, and since then his works have been included in contemporary English-language hymnals of other Christian denominations. For the hymnal revision that was completed last year, he served on the text committee.

At the 1982 Convention which overwhelmingly approved the revised Hymnal (a revision that retained all of Tucker's contributions) he was warmly received by both Houses and honored by a testimonial that read in part: "His distinguished career in the parish ministry would have been enough for most people, but Bland Tucker, through his hymns, has served as a pastor to his national Church and to Christians throughout the world... Merely to catalog his contributions to the Hymnal, 1940 is to demonstrate how greatly we would be impoverished without them."

Those contributions include: "Alone thou goest forth, O Lord"; "Father, we thank thee who hast planted"; "The great Creator of the worlds"; "Master of eager youth"; "All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine" and "Our Father, by whose name all fatherhood is known."

He was also a theological advisor to the commission that produced the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

A collateral descendant of George Washington, Tucker was a son of the late Bishop Beverly Dandridge Tucker and Maria Washington Tucker. His mother was the last baby to be born at Mount Vernon, now a national shrine as the home of the first President of the United States.

He was educated at the University of Viriginia and Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained to the ministry as a deacon in 1918, donning clerical vestments over the World War I Army uniform he would wear to France with the American Expeditionary Force. He was ordained priest in 1920 after returning from overseas and completing his third year in Virginia Seminary. In 1944, the seminary conferred on him the Doctor of Divinity degree.

Besides his father, two of his brothers became bishops. One, Henry St. George Tucker, was presiding bishop from 1938 to 1946. A third Tucker brother became a priest and two other brothers served as missionaries. Seven of his nephews and grand-nephews are priests.

In 1945, the Diocese of Western North Carolina elected Tucker a bishop, but he declined the position, declaring that his ministry here had not been completed. He remained at Christ Church until his retirement in 1967, at which time he was designated rector-emeritus and given lifetime ownership of the rectory at 211 E. York St.

The "family of clergy" label assigned to the Tuckers of Virginia gained further amplification when Tucker married Mary Goldsborough "Polly" Laird, whose sister was the wife of the Rev. W. Cosby Bell, dean of Virginia Theological Seminary and one of the recognized scholars of the Episcopal Church. Mrs. Tucker died in Savannah in 1972.