My friend Bill Reynolds, known as “Mr. Bible,” has passed away. In his career as a Bible salesman he sold over one million copies! He was one of the first sales reps to ever sell to me when I first started in the industry as a bookseller with The Berean Christian Stores. He was always cheerful and took a sincere interest in my life and development as a Christian, a father, and a bookseller. I will always treasure our friendship.
After reading of his passing, a number of memories flooded back.
He would call on our store for Broadman & Holman and present the new book titles and the new Bibles. After the presentation he would go inventory the Holman Bibles we had on our shelves. But then he would hang around and literally work as a store clerk helping customers who walked into that department. And he wouldn’t just sell them Holman products. He patiently guided the customer to the right Bible for their needs. Once the customer made their choice, he would select a nice tassled bookmark from a rack and give it to the customer as a thank you. After the customer left he went to our cashier and paid for the bookmark! I told him he didn’t have to do that. But he insisted.
I remember one morning he came to our store for his sales call. I went out to his car to help him lug in his sample cases. Earlier that week, the TV show “20/20” had done a feature on Bible sales and followed him making his rounds somewhere in California. Bill wore a distinctive gray beret on his head and as we were walking in a customer stopped us and said, “Are you Mr. Bible? I just saw you on TV!” Bill was startled but said something like, “Yes, ma’am that’s me. And I consider it a privilege to be a part of the distribution of God’s Word.”
When each of our three daughters was born, Bill sent a “Baby’s First New Testament” to each of them.
Bill received a purple heart with the Marines in WWII in the Pacific. He said he dropped a cannister of ammo on his foot while under attack. Said he was embarrassed to have the award pinned to his pillow in the hospital.
At lunch together in a Chinese restaurant Bill made the mistake of pouring the dish of hot mustard over his salad. He took a big bite and we thought he was having a heart attack when he grabbed his chest and throat and made gurgling sounds. Bill thought the mustard was salad dressing. The waiter just laughed and said, “Eat bread mister! You’ll be okay!”
He jokingly called himself a “Baptipalion” – He’d go to the Baptist church for the preaching and to the Episcopal church for the Liturgy. And for “flavor” he’d attend Jack Hayford’s church whenever he could.
When I posted the news of his passing on Facebook a number of industry folks added their comments. I quote a few of them below:
Julie Wood: “I remember Bill being in the store many times. Now he is with the Author of all those bibles he put on folks hands.” [Julie worked for me as a store supervisor, then management trainee, and eventually grew to become the a District Manager for Berean.]
Bill Jensen: “A truly wonderful Christian man.”
Jack Cavanaugh: “One of a kind. Met him at my first writers conference. Whenever he was in San Diego he’d stop by and take my family out to dinner or for ice cream. He was a constant encouragement to me in my early career of writing. Have nothing but fond thoughts. Heaven has welcomed one of their own.”
Stan Jantz: “Nice tribute, Steve. Bill was the first CBA salesman I ever met (I was 8 years old the time). Not only did he sell a million Bibles, but he inspired and taught countless Christian Bookstore sales associates to sell millions more.”
Winston Maddox: “Bill was one of those rare individuals who loved his work so much that it was contagious and in this way he inspired more than a generation. He was the epitome of what the industry would have ever hoped to achieve.”
Steve Hutson: “He worked at a store near my home, and I received my very first professional critique from him. He’s the one who suggested I attend writers’ conferences and join a writer’s group.”
Here is the official press release with his career details:
Known as “Mr. Bible,” industry veteran William “Bill” Reynolds died May 18 at his home in Northridge, Calif. He was 87.
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Reynolds began his career selling books in 1951 at Whittemore’s in Boston. During the ensuing decades, Reynolds sold Bibles for J.B. Lippincott, Holman Bible Publishers and Broadman-Holman.
On retiring from Broadman-Holman, Reynolds worked part-time as a volunteer in the Bible department of Valley Book and Bible Stores in Van Nuys, Calif., according to Gospel Light Marketing Manager David Wilke, whose family owned the stores from 1952-2009.
After some health issues, Reynolds left the store, but worked as a chaplain at his church visiting shut-ins, led Bible studies in Los Angeles County jails and distributed Gideon Bibles. Reynolds “never said no to any request to serve the Lord,” Wilke told Christian Retailing. “He was the most positive person I have ever met. He prayed with everyone he sold a Bible to.”
CBA Executive Director Curtis Riskey added: “He took his work as a Christian retailer as a holy calling, and he found great joy in connecting people to God’s Word. His ministry work outside of the store transformed many lives, and his personal concern and prayers for CBA and people serving in the industry were always insightful, encouraging and much welcomed.”
Reynolds is survived by his wife, Dorothy, two sons, a daughter-in-law, two grandchildren and a brother.