His Death Leaves A Void on Campus
by Mary Palmer
The Stampede, Milligan College Student Newspaper
September 25, 1997
The last time Mandee Radford saw Rich Mullins it was 3 a.m. in a rainy Waffle House parking lot after five hours of talking about life, faith and the music business.
"The coolest thing about Rich was that he was just real with you and just wanted to hang out and talk," said Radford, member of Alathea, a folk-rock band on the Milligan College campus.
Radford was expecting to see Mullins again at Milligan this fall, when he was scheduled to lead the college's spiritual renewal week, Nov. 3-7. In addition to working with his band, students were going to perform his recently written musical, Canticle on the Plains, the story of the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
But the author of classic songs such as, "Elijah," "Awesome God," "Step by Step" and 'Hold Me
Jesus," was killed on Sept. 19th, sometime before 10 p.m., in an automobile accident near Peoria, Ill.
While traveling on Interstate 39 in the north bound lane, he and friend, Marshall McVicker lost control of Mullins' jeep. Both men were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the vehicle to land 12 yards apart in the southbound lane. A tractor—trailor coming down the southbound lane attempted to avoid hitting the wrecked vehicle.
The tractor-trailer swerved and then struck Mullins, killing him instantly.
Mullins was on the Milligan campus this summer for three weeks, when he and his band performed and led worship for the Christ In Youth conferences. During this time, he became friends with Alathea. Radford said he spent hours with them playing and talking. This included three late nights at the Waffle House.
"He was smart and he quoted a lot of people, but I think more than anything he said it was what he did with us that made him so awesome," said Carrie Theobald, member of Alathea.
Bruce Montgomery, assistant professor of communications and campus minister, was the senior minister at Whitewater Christian Church in Richmond, Ind., where Mullins and his family were members in 1970. He fondly described Mullins as a young rebel.
The church, at one point, decided to redecorate the fellowship hall for the youth. Montgomery had tonsilitis and would not be at the church to oversee the project. Montgomery said he told Mullins what could and could not be done to the fellowship hall. Mullins decided to do the forbidden and painted pictures on the walls. "When I found out, I went up to the church and we both spent the rest of the evening cleaning the walls off," said Montgomery.
Mike Johnson, vice-president of enrollment management, also was a friend of Mullins. Johnson and Mullins traveled together to C.I. Y conferences.
did not get along with Rich because he was a musician, that's not why I was drawn to him, said Johnson. It was his sense of humor and his unique personality."
Mullins was also a challenging person. Whenever Mullins and Johnson would talk, their conversations began as casual chit chat. Johnson said that Mullins would then, "always turn the conversation to a deeper topic. "
Mullins did not put himself up on a pedestal, said Johnson. He never desired to attain fame, fortune or popularity. He saw himself as a sinner and nothing he could do, nomatter how good or bad it was, could earn him a spot in heaven.
'He was very aware of God's grace," said Johnson.
As for spiritual emphasis week, the campus ministers are leading efforts to find a replacement for Mullins. However, tonight in upper Seeger at 9 p.m., there will be a memorial service held in his honor. Sunday dress is requested.
In the wider world of Christian music, Mullins was known as an artist who cared more about content than sales charts. In a recent article posted on the Internet, producer Reed Arvin noted that Mullins' music voiced concerns that others avoided.
"He gives the silence a shape. Out of thin air, words come that touch us in places we have kept hidden, even from ourselves. For seven years and seven records Rich has been telling of us his secrets, fighting with God and his friends and the devil right out loud in the harsh light of day while we looked on, safe but mesmerized," said Arvin.
Mullins' death was tragic, but his music often spoke of going home to heaven.
On his album, The World As Best I Can Remember It, Volume Il, he sang, "... When my spirit clothed immortal wings it's flight through realms of day. This my song through endless ages, Jesus led me all the way."