In 1932, My grandfather, A.M. Overton, was a pastor of a church in Mississippi with a wife and three small children. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child but when it came time for delivery, there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the funeral service, the preacher officiating the service noticed my grandfather writing something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written which he titled, “He Maketh No Mistake”.
"He Maketh No Mistake"
My Father’s way may twist and turn
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
- A.M. Overton, 1932
Background Info(Written by my Dad, Dr. Bob Overton in response to an inquiry by a researcher Wiley Fulton)
Thanks for your interest in my dad, A.M. Overton. I am glad to give you some information about him.
He grew up in Toone, TN, the son of a farmer. He graduated from Union University in Jackson, TN, where he was a debate partner with J.D. Grey. He told the story that when they left college, J.D. said, "I am going to be president of the SBC," to which Dad replied, "I will probably be so far out in the boondocks that I won't hear about it." While a college student, I visited Dr. Grey at the FBC of New Orleans. He treated me royally and spoke most fondly of Dad. He also gave me some information about the poem. I knew something of the story but not as much as he told, which I will repeat to you.
First, Dad was pastor of the FBC of Baldwyn, MS, a small town in northeast Mississippi. While there his wife died in childbirth, the baby also dying. He was left with three children, two girls and a boy, ages about 8-12. During the funeral service, the pastor preaching the sermon noticed that Dad was writing. After the service he asked about it, and Dad gave him the words that are now familiar to many people around the world, "He Maketh No Mistake."
Shortly afterwards, he married a lady from Baldwyn and then became the pastor of the Fulton Baptist Church [now FBC], about forty miles from Baldwyn. Fulton is a county seat town just a few miles west of the Alabama state line, about fifty miles south of the Tennessee state line. He pastored that church until his death of colon cancer in 1952, at the age of 52. I was the oldest of four children born to that marriage in Fulton, followed by two daughters and another son. His preaching ministry was that of expository preacher. He almost always preached through books of the Bible, one on Sunday morning, another on Sunday night, and another on Wednesday night. [Sometimes I think that both Sunday sermons were from the same book.]
His activities were many. He began a radio program around 1945, a Saturday morning "Radio Bible Class." This grew into a network of several stations in several states nearby; then later he added some large "clear channel" stations in Texas and Mexico that covered a large part of the nation. He once received a letter of H.S. Ironside of Moody Church, Chicago, very well-known at that time, commending him for his good work. It was during that time that I played the piano as introduction and conclusion to his programs, traveling with him every Saturday to Tupelo, MS, where the broadcast originated, and once a month for a whole afternoon while he recorded four or five messages for use in the larger stations further away. I had no idea at the time that those experiences were making an enormous impact on me. When I arrived at Mississippi College, by his arrangement, shortly after his death, having just surrendered to preach, it dawned on me after two or three years there that I was miles ahead of my fellow ministerial students in knowledge of the Bible. The reason, of course, was that I had been under my father's strong Bible preaching three times every week all my life through high school, plus the untold numbers of radio messages. I must admit that I wasn't really "trying" to learn the Bible all that time, but much of it rubbed off on me anyway. A tribute, of course, to the grace of the Lord to me.
You will appreciate this little side note, especially given your name. He received mail from all over the country in response to his radio programs. He never, ever asked for money, but it came unsolicited and was the entire financial provision for the programs. His address was simply, A.M. Overton, Fulton, MS. He once received a letter addressed to A.M. Fulton, Overton, MS. Somehow, he got it! By the way, the Lord's provision of finances for the radio ministry was a story in itself. Countless times he came to the absolute last day that bills had to be paid, without sufficient funds to pay them, but the last mail delivery on the last day would always have the needed amount, often almost to the dollar!
As far back as I can remember, Dad published a monthly paper called "The Clarion" which went to hundreds of homes all those years. The radio ministry expanded the reach of it and it was sent to most of the states plus a few foreign countries. He published numerous gospel tracts on various subjects and these were sent all over the world. He published several books of the radio sermons and also, as you thought, a book of poems. But the book of poems was not promoted and never went very far. "He Maketh No Mistake" was in that book, entitled "Chimes of Dawn."
Perhaps a crowning achievement of his life was the beginning of a school for preachers which was housed in the church in Fulton. He was Dean and Teacher, and some pastor friends of his composed the teaching faculty. This lasted only a few years because it ended at his death, but for those years there were 20-30 students every semester. In our house we had two upstairs bedrooms and four of the students would live there, eating their meals at our table. I don't know how my mother managed this, but it just seemed like the way life was supposed to be for us kids. Table conversations were most interesting. Again, part of my legacy. These were the years I was in upper elementary school through high school, so mid-40s to early 50s.
His life was cut short, or so it seemed to us, by colon cancer that began in 1951. He had surgery at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, TN, and later returned to the pulpit for a while, but after a few months the cancer resumed it relentless march through his body. He suffered much pain for several months before his death in July of 1952.
Looking back, it's hard to see how he could accomplish so much in so short a period of time. He was a tireless worker who never really took any time off. The church built for him a garage with adjoining office in the back yard of our house, which he enjoyed for many years. Part of his radio ministry became the sale of religious books which he stocked in that office. So I grew up with a ready-made "library" of Christian devotional books and Christian fiction for teenagers. Another part of my legacy.
Surely you have recognized by now that I have enjoyed writing these lines to you. I have never had occasion to do this before, so I thank you for the inquiry that set it into motion, and for my son's internet search concerning the poem that precipitated your inquiry. Apparently you are something of a "history buff" so maybe you have enjoyed this little trip down memory lane just half as much as I have.
Perhaps you would like to know that I was a Baptist pastor for 47 years, the last church being the Rice Temple Baptist Church in Houston, TX, where I served for 31 years. I began teaching for Southwestern Seminary's Houston campus in 1983 as an ad junct professor, then retired from the church and began work fulltime with the seminary in 2001. I greatly enjoy my work as Dean and Professor because it is an opportunity to make an investment in the lives of men and women who will be serving the Lord all over the world for many years. I continue to preach regularly, serving as Interim Pastor for churches most of the time.
WHAT A TRIBUTE!!! Thanks for sharing the poem and story of your grandfather and dad, Rob. You have such a legacy. May I have permission to use the poem (with appropriate acknowledgment of its source) at occasions that I know it will minister to folks listening?
Posted by Wayne on 01/28/2011 10:12:25
I am glad that you liked it, Wayne. Feel free to use it as you see fit. Over the years, the family has enjoyed seeing all of the places that the poem has turned up. Even when it is listed as anonymous. I feel blessed by the legacy.
Posted by Rob Overton on 01/28/2011 10:49:05
I have known this poem for years ever since Lila Trotman, wife of Dawson Trotman, founder of THE Navigators Christian organization quoted it at Dawsons funeral in the 50's. It was very interesting to read its history as we have a son who is pastor of Lawndale Presbyterian church in Tupelo and sure he would enjoy knowing these things. Though i had not read it in years it came to me recently all but one verse en route to a Psalms Study i teach in a retirement home here in Anderson, SC. I quoted it to them and it was a blessing. Tomorrow i plan to have it all printed for them on card stock. Blessings on you and your family. As Wm Cowper says "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform"
Posted by corinne bradford on 05/10/2011 11:06:30
To whom it may concern,
I am compiling a devotional book for adoptive mothers and A.M. Overton's poem "He Maketh No MIstake" has been submitted for possible printing. It is a beautiful poem and portrays the "adoption journey" very well. I am wondering who I can contact that would give me copyright info or permission to reprint it in our book, A Child To Call My Own. Thank-you and God bless you, Marilyn Wiens
Posted by Marilyn on 10/14/2011 17:02:30
Please feel free to use my grandfather's poem in your book. All our family asks is that you give him credit. I find great comfort in knowing that God truly makes no mistakes. I have also learned that God does not waste any of mine!
I pray that your book will be a source of reassurance and comfort for your readers.
Posted by Rob Overton on 10/25/2011 21:09:34
Pastor Lon Solomon of McLean Bible Church in Vienna VA just today (11-27-11)quoted your Grandfather's amazing poem in his sermon to our Church family (which numbers 10,000). I HAD to search for it online. THANK YOU for posting it .. and for sharing your family history! You are truly blessed .. & have blessed us by sharing. To God be the glory!
Posted by Jessica Byington on 11/27/2011 09:30:42
My friend who live in korea really loves the poem and he wants to have your father's book "chimes of dawn". I tried to find it in several bookstore but i couldn't. If know where i can get it for my friend, e-mal me please:)
Posted by yujin on 02/03/2012 22:27:58
i was searching for that scripture that says, He maketh his angels winds and his ministers flames of fire. but before i could get to do that,"He Maketh No Mistake" was in my face, compelling me to read it. then i got something which is answer to a lot of what holds me back from advancing the work of God. but today I learnt that God provided every time on time for your dad's projects.that's a lot of encouragement for me.
Posted by Cokisa on 02/23/2012 04:27:48
What a beautiful poem & legacy. I just read it for the first time in my daily devotion "Trusting God" by Sharon Jaynes (Girlfriends in God). Followed the link to you web site. I enjoyed the history almost as much as the poem. Thank you for sharing. I will be using the poem & history behind it for years to come. It reminds me of the history behind the penning of the song "It is Well". Blessings!
Posted by Verlene Fults on 03/20/2012 06:34:04
I really don't know where I first found the poem. I found it in a file on my computer titled "God Thoughts". Obviously I had put it there sometime in the past. When I found the poem again, it really spoke to my heart! I worked with the font and size and fit it onto a 3x5 card, printed several of them on card stock and gave to my friends. Today a friend asked me if I wrote it, and that's when I went online to see if I could find where it came from. I'am thrilled to read the story and will give credit to A.M. Overton. Thank You and God Bless all of us who Trust Him.
Posted by Neva Bradford on 03/25/2012 23:50:12
This poem was read by a minister and old friend of the family at my daughters funeral. She only lived for 12 minutes. From time to time I pull out the piece of paper that my minister wrote the poem on an handed to me after her funeral. It touched me and reinforced that HE maketh no mistake. I am in debt to your grandfather that wrote this. It is truly moving and pieces back my broken heart. Twelve years later, I had a healthy baby girl.
Posted by Tiffany on 04/17/2012 21:04:11
I am grateful for your response to Marilyn as I also am writing a book on the modern day application of Psalm 23. It is called "Peace Under Pressure-Surviving the Storms." I saw your Dad's poem on a Caring Bridge entry for a young lady going through brain cancer treatment. It fit so well in my chapter of "I will not fear, for Thou art with me." Thank you for the generous spirit of allowing people to share your Dad's heart long after his passing to a better life. God bless.
Posted by Carolyn Outland on 06/04/2012 08:14:16
Anderson Marsh Overton was my grandfather (Rob is my brother; Bob my father). I am truly blessed by the legacy of my family and am so very proud to be an Overton!
Someone asked about his book of poems. Hopefully soon, the book will be copied and made into an E-book. I hope my father will add some of his own material... but that may just be wishful thinking.
Thanks to everyone who commented, has been touched by the poem and become invested in the story of my grandfather. And not least, thanks to my brother, Rob, who prepared this blog to give glory to the Lord and (at the same time) honor the legacy of my family.